By Rich Bond
Last week, when a panel of corporate treasurers talked at the Wharton Club of New York CFO Speaker Series, they dug into the challenges they face in contributing strategically to their company and in gaining appreciation from their CFO. As one panelist said, “A lot of CFOs don’t want to know what treasury is doing, as long as there are no problems.” The panelists agreed that the treasury team can find itself boxed in by everyday reporting. “You have to push beyond that if you want to bring value,” another panelist noted.
The group all nodded when one of them said, “If you’re doing a good job, no one knows about it. It’s like IT. People only notice you when something goes wrong, when there’s a crisis.”
The panel included (left to right): Rich Bond (I was Moderator), owner of Bond and Company financial recruiter; Jim Tarangelo, Vice President & Treasurer, Aramark; Joanna Colaneri Rodriguez, Former Treasurer, & currently Financial Consultant to a Home Care agency; and Sam Pallotta, SVP, Chief Risk Officer & Treasurer, Rockefeller Group.
As a group, these treasurers emphasized that in order to keep things running smoothly and add value, they need to form relationships with – and gain an understanding of – the operating groups in their companies. But this sort of action is something most treasurers find uncomfortable to do. And in today’s siloed corporate environments, it’s very hard for the operating groups to accept.
Yet, as one panelist pointed out, “You need to be pulling information from across departments. There’s no excuse if you don’t get it.” Another said, “You need to break down walls by immersing yourself in project teams. But you can still get forgotten and not invited to meetings. You have to speak up and promote yourself to the CFO.”
One panelist said that his background in operations and also in finance has helped him to bring even more value and has helped him in understanding possible challenges and also in speaking the same language. When you get involved with operating groups, you can look at stuff that hasn’t been looked at in 10 years. “You can get into the weeds.” Sometimes, that’s where value can be unlocked that contributes to the bottom line.
Another example came from Sam Pallotta, who said that in real estate development and transactions, the treasurer has to be involved in all parts of the development process including financing, insurance, risk analysis, and investment analysis. In fact, treasury’s role is crucial because, “if the company can’t find financing, the project cannot be done.”
He also explained that in a large, complex enterprise, when you understand the capital structure and the flows of money through parents and subsidiaries, you can find synergies between the internal entities. That helps treasury with funding for strategic growth, acquisitions, or spin-offs.
In essence, treasury can be an effective strategic partner to the CFO and other senior executives by being collaborative and proactive and understanding the operations within the enterprise.