Insights and advice from a tax professional who left her comfort zone to become treasurer.
A “steep learning curve” is how one member of NeuGroup’s Treasurers’ Group of Thirty (T30) who has extensive experience in tax described what she encountered in taking on the added responsibility of treasury at her company at a recent meeting sponsored by Standard Chartered.
- She is one of several members in the group who previously led tax teams and are relatively new to leading treasury. Below is a Q&A the treasurer had with NeuGroup Insights following the meeting, edited for space and clarity.
Q: What has made taking over treasury a tall order for someone with a deep background in tax?
A: While both are financial disciplines, a different language can be spoken and there can be different norms for various interactions, aside from the difference in general education for the roles.
- I remind myself that I didn’t earn the treasurer role based on my finance background, but rather my ability to build and motivate teams, learn quickly and distill complex topics into understandable language for stakeholders—along with strong communication and leadership qualities.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced moving to treasury from tax?
A: Being entirely out of my comfort zone. When presenting to our board on tax matters, I know I’m the expert in the room, which allows a certain confidence.
- With treasury topics, I’m not the expert and have realized I second-guess myself, which can impact confidence in leading the discussion.
- And given that I took on treasury in January 2020, Covid was a huge challenge in March/April/May and continues to require ongoing focus.
Q: How have you scaled the learning curve to get a grip on treasury—peers, colleagues, other sources of information?
A: I was extremely clear with my CFO when agreeing to take on treasury that it was not my wheelhouse and his support and expertise would be critical.
- He and I work closely together and I also have a very bright and steady assistant treasurer with a finance background. Our styles mesh well and his background is complementary to mine.
- T30 has been helpful to meet others in similar roles; I’ve sought advice from others which has been very helpful. Our banking group has provided valuable insight and support, too.
Q: How has your tax background aided your transition to running treasury? How do the two areas complement each other?
A: In tax, I learned to be comfortable making decisions with partial (but best available!) information; avoiding analysis paralysis. This arises extremely often in treasury as well, be it cash management, insurance renewals, debt.
- I work to keep things simple in both areas; if I can’t explain it to the CFO and others clearly and concisely, we need to simplify.
Q: Is there an example of something you’re working on now that allows you to leverage your knowledge of both tax and treasury?
A: Consolidated cash planning/forecasting and cash repatriation. I have a new appreciation of bank account complexity and KYC queries that can arise and have been able to share additional insight from a tax perspective with the treasury team regarding specific structures and nuances.
Q: What advice do you have for other treasurers who have a tax background; and what advice for treasury folks who find themselves running tax? Which is the harder transition in your view?
A:I don’t think one is harder than the other, both have a steep learning curve! A lot of treasurers may have had exposure to tax concepts through cash repatriation work, intercompany loan documentation or structuring external debt.
- My advice for both sides of the coin: Ask questions—there is no such thing as a stupid question. Your team and advisors are paid to answer your questions, so leverage their expertise!
- I’ve found a lot of the questions I have are similar to what others want to ask as well.
- My other piece of advice is around each team—build and maintain a strong team that meshes and communicates well. I rebuilt the tax team and it was critical to eliminate some bad apples; the treasury team I joined works very well together and we recently added an analyst, too.