Treasurers are moving to familiarize their teams with computer programming, some by enlisting members in coding boot camps.
A growing number of treasurers are pushing their teams to learn computer programing skills as they seek to improve metrics like forecasting accuracy, gain access to more powerful processing and minimize their dependence on IT teams and third-party solutions.
- At a recent meeting of NeuGroup for Foreign Exchange 2, members discussed their approaches, from large-scale internal classes to sending team members to online boot camps.
- The external classes they recommended include a two-week course offered by Google and one from Udemy.
Faster processing with Python. When one treasurer’s BI dashboard for cash flow forecasting began running slowly, her team started using the open-source programming language Python to do the calculations.
- The team’s BI tools and spreadsheets were “not an option anymore, they can’t handle huge calculations,” she said. “I know we’re dealing with massive amounts of data nowadays, and where they would bog down Excel, Python is really great for that.”
- One member added that the tools can work together, with BI showing the end result in a user-friendly dashboard.
- “Python allows you to take [the data] out of there, do all that work, and put it back into BI,” he said. “All BI is now doing is the reporting on top without having to do the calculations. It runs very fast, it’s a much smoother way to consolidate the data.”
- The only problem: Where BI tools are relatively simple, user-friendly visual systems, one treasurer said learning computer programming is “like learning a new language.”
Learning the nitty gritty. To learn that language, some teams are turning to online courses. “We had somebody do a Google two-week class, which cost $99. He became A-minus grade level in Python, but it was an intensive course outside of the 40-hour-a-week job,” one member said. “You have to be really interested in getting down into the nitty gritty.”
- One member said he has found that exposing his team to different, small-scale coding projects helped him identify who on staff “gravitates toward that side of the work.” Then, he said the key is to “nurture” this skill by connecting them to online coding courses.
- “What you need to do is free up their time to leverage that interest,” he said. “Plug them into Coding 202 instead of 101, then you start getting them really engaged. That’s how we’ve managed it and it’s worked really well so far.”
- Another member had an employee in FX who taught himself programming, so treasury created a role for him on its digitization team. “You have to like that type of work,” the member said. “It’s not core treasury work, not something your trader who’s really savvy is typically going to want to do.”
DIY with others. Other members said their departments are learning programming together, in a group. That allows managers to identify people with the skills and interests to take on projects while everyone on the team learns about the possibilities and power of programming languages, what they can request and a sense of how much work it all takes.
- After one member’s senior director in risk management went through a six-week online program to learn coding, he started a training course for all employees who report to him. The FX team met for an hour a day nearly every day for six months, with the director leading tutorials and assigning homework.
- “And then it was on us from there to either think of projects we wanted to utilize or to practice on our own time,” the member said. “You have to really sit down and practice on your own time or you’re never going to learn it.”
- One FX head connected an employee “working up the coding curve” with the IT team, “tapping into this network of other people at the company” who have programming skills.
- “We’ve found it really helpful to have a real project in front of him, so we find a problem, and that forces him to work through all that stuff,” he said.