Why corporate treasury is the recruitment niche for me

| 13-1-2019 | by Pieter de Kiewit |

My father was an engineer, he built roads and bridges around the world. One of his three kids following in his footsteps was a silent wish we knew about. Regretfully for him we all went in other directions, my sister and me at least landed engineering degrees. One of my first business management professors did teach me about building bridges but between functional areas. That is what I have been doing as a recruiter for the last 25 years and having a blast. 10 years ago I decided to only recruit in corporate treasury. Let me tell you why.

In a very simple way I always describe corporate treasury to laymen mentioning three tasks:

  1. Cash management and treasury operations: opening and closing bank accounts, payments, predict what payments will land and leave.
  2. FX and interest risk management: what will € and $ do? Zero % on our savings account, what shall we do?
  3. Financing: with what money will we fund our current and new activities?

With this description I do not have to be afraid for sudden new competition, do I? But do know that during the crisis treasurers found solutions for the survival of their employers. They found funding to pay salaries, helped sales with creative financing solutions, making complex transactions reality. They helped companies not going bankrupt due to currency exposures and forced banks to offer better solutions at an acceptable rate.

Treasurers manage large sums and report directly to the CFO. They are involved in mergers & acquisitions, reorganisations and international expansion. They act in small numbers but have a huge impact. Corporate treasury changes continuously and creates new treasury bridges to better connect with traditional job types like accounting, tax and sales. Corporate treasury is currently automated quicker than many similar functional areas. The academic world is showing increasing interest. In the Netherlands the post graduate education at the Vrije Universiteit is becoming more prominent in the treasury community. Corporate treasurer is an exciting position, the secret is out!

What I am passionate about is helping CFOs, HR, internal recruitment and group treasurers with their staffing questions. Treasury teams are almost always small, building treasury recruitment expertise is not worthwile for corporate managers. That is why my colleagues and I can add value. An HR manager knows about assessments, we know about treasurer assessments. A CFO knows about equity deals, we know about treasurers having funding expertise in his specific industry. A group treasurer knows about treasury tasks, we know how these tasks are executed in other companies so he can compare. That is why we can deliver and have impact. That makes me enjoy my job so much.

This is why recruitment in corporate treasury is my niche and there is still builder of bridges in the family.

Pieter de Kiewit
Owner Treasurer Search

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My Currency Fundamentals for SMEs

| 24-12-2019 | by Pieter de Kiewit |

My Very Practical Currency Fundamentals for SMEs

In 2016 I informed you about my baby steps in dealing with foreign exchange exposure in a “baby steps article” on this platform. I was about to receive Euros from Switzerland and had to pay in GBP (British pounds) into the UK. Two things I learned about the fees of big banks if you transfer internationally into another currency:

  1. There is a transaction fee if you transfer money into another currency, in most cases a flat fee;
  2. The bank takes a percentage from the total amount to make GBP out of Euro.

My solution at the time was to open a GBP account to avoid both these costs. There is a monthly fee for this bank account and some simple math showed that was the way to go. Currently GBP is relatively strong and I do not expect any UK assignments shortly, so I have decided to close down the account. Time to dig in again. I have struggled with three major considerations.

Transferring GBP into Euro: struggling with the spread

If you go onto the internet to find out what the current exchange rate between two currencies is, you get a number like 1 GBP equals 1.20 Euro. So far so good. Banks and other financial services providers work with a so-called spread. They deserve a reward for their services so the price they pay for your GBP is lower than the price you pay them if  you buy a pound from them. The spread is the percentage over and under the number you will find on the internet.

I am not here to endorse any businesses but I can tell you that the percentages can differ substantially. One provider asked 0.7%, the second 0.3%. The second provider does not charge a transaction fee, the first one does. If the amounts are substantial and your margins are thin, this difference can be substantially!

The hassle

When I choose for the second provider, I have to open a new account, remember new passwords, hand in documentation and think about if I can trust them. In short: a hassle.

With my first provider I have relationship of decades. I decided to ask them if there would be a chance that they would lower their prices. As I am a small business owner, I do not have a contact person anymore. I sent three emails to three different mail addresses. The first was not answered, the second was answered with “I cannot help you” and upon mail number three I received a call. The service agent mentioned she could not help me but I should call a colleague at 3:30 pm and then I would be put in the waiting line. Call me old-fashioned but that is not how I want to work. So that is what I told her. I noticed she really wanted to help but at the end of the day I got the message that my transaction was not in the millions so I would not receive an answer and there was no price-lowering. Ok.

I am not a fan of bank bashing and think they do important work. And we do not want to pick up every recruitment assignment. It is not in our interest but also not in the interest of the potential client. I would have appreciated a better line of communication.

The Market

As you might have noticed, I do like my cost savings but let’s be practical. This year the conversion rate GBP – Euro has been at its’ lowest at 1.06 and at its’ highest at 1.20. So there is  a difference of 0.14. The difference in the conversion rate has been 0.4%. I now chose to invest time in how to do the conversion and with which provider. Market study, good timing and luck are much better ways to optimize your returns.

Final remarks

If you, as an entrepreneur, have to deal with foreign exchange rates it is good to know how the cost structures of banks are. Also it is good to know there are alternative service providers like XE, Ebury, NBWM and Global Reach Group. If your time is limited and the number of transactions low, dig in once and decide what works for you. If you have regular and/or substantial transactions, it makes sense to keep the topic on the agenda. In that case it might be useful to gather further information and consider risk mitigating strategies and learn more about hedging, derivatives, spots, forwards, et cetera. If you want to, I can open my network for you.

Good luck and I would like to read about your experiences,

Pieter de Kiewit
Owner Treasurer Search

 

Our banks are not like theirs (if they even have one)

| 08-10-2019 | by Pieter de Kiewit |

Recently Bloomberg reported about the authorities in Indonesia closing down 826 Fintech startups. My first assumption was this has to do with tax evasion and a very controlling government. Indonesia is most definitely not my field of expertise. Reading the article it struck me that my mindset concerning banking is quite limited and restricted to western standards. And over time I have noticed that I am not the only one. Reason to browse the internet, tell you about my findings and issues this concerning.

Even European banks are not all the same
In The Netherlands the retail banking standard was: banking services are for free and you get a decent percentage on your savings. Furthermore cheques were left in the previous millennium and even my grandmother uses on-line banking. Italian retail banking already came with an invoice long ago and cheques were and still are a standard in Germany. As many Europeans have no regular access to the (mobile) internet, banking on their computer or phone is not an option. One can also take this from the average number of banking offices to be seen in the streets of Amsterdam versus the ones in Bucharest.

Banking differences in the rest of the world
I did not do a comprehensive study but do know that for many of us Europeans a personal credit rating does not very sound familiar. When I lived in Canada I learned that you need a personal credit to get a cheque book. You get your credit rating by having an account where a regular income lands and improve it by leasing a car and pay your credit card bills in time. Without a credit rating no mortgage, a better credit rating results in a lower interest rate.
In some African countries telephone landlines were never installed and the first regular telephone was a cell phone. In parallel, bank accounts were skipped and cash is replaced by credit on this same cell phone. I think all these systems are doing a more or less proper job. Only if you want to cross the border you will need to help.

Problems with inadequate banking services
EY reports that over 200 million SMEs do not have access to banking services putting them in an offside position in the global economy. All this because the regular big banks want to deal with them as if they are a Western company. The Bloomberg article describes a situation where 90% of the Indonesian population has no credit card or access to banking services. Of course this is a facilitator for the black market economy. But also, there are examples where Fintech and loansharking are being combined with all related criminal behaviour and excessive interest rates. And, in a society without banks, what can you do with your savings? I think these are real issues.

Having browsed and learned I don’t think we should aim for a worldwide standard in banking. I hope we can learn from each other and that the banking landscape will be more honest, enabling a fair global economy. With this in mind I think I will have another look at cryptocurrencies introduced by Facebook and other new kids on the block. That is for another blog and by now I think I understand the Indonesian government better.

What are your thoughts and which interesting examples do you see around the world?

Pieter de Kiewit
Owner Treasurer Search