It was an internship with the Nestlé Regional Treasury Center in Singapore, as part of their FX and Risk Department, that first introduced Shawn Xu, CTP, to the world of corporate treasury. “The team was very forthcoming and gave me a good overview of the role a corporate treasury department plays in an organization,” said Xu.
Although he was primarily working with the FX and Risk team, Xu had the opportunity to learn about other responsibilities that fall under the scope of corporate treasury including cash management and middle-office functions. “The whole experience gave me a perfect introduction to treasury,” he said.
From there, Xu landed a role at Frasers Property Limited as part of their Group Treasury Department. There, Xu was part of the Middle Office Team where he assisted in the hedge accounting and bank account management for the group. He was also part of the project team in the implementation of the company’s new TMS. All of this great experience led Xu to the next step in his career at General Electric (GE).
Plugging in to the treasury team at GE
In Xu’s current position as treasury specialist with GE – Singapore, his day-to-day activities are split into two main categories: operations and projects. “As part of the cash team in GE’s regional treasury center, I manage the daily liquidity positions of my assigned countries in the APAC region with the goal of maximizing usage of funds,” said Xu. He added that AR/AP forecast accuracy is paramount to ensuring the funds are available for daily payments and to meeting cash-level targets.
In terms of project work, GE is currently undergoing a major restructuring where two of its divisions are being spun off. From a cash perspective, Xu and his team have to plan the restructuring of the existing cash pool structures, which are currently applied to the group as a whole and build new structures for the new companies.
The best way to add value as a treasury professional, especially from a regional management perspective, added Xu, is to ensure you have a solid understanding of the regulatory peculiarities of the countries under your portfolio. “I’ve been very fortunate during my foundational years in treasury to be part of matured teams that have expertise and controls in place,” he said. “This has provided me with a very structured learning approach; for example, we have internally developed resources such as country playbooks, which are very useful learning tools.”
“Treasury is such a broad and diverse function,” said Xu. In his four years working in corporate treasury, Xu has gained experience in multiple functions across corporate treasury. He’s also had the opportunity to witness how different companies structure their treasury functions, providing him with a wide perspective.
Right now, it’s all about the cash
The primary goal of the regional cash team is cash concentration and repatriation to GE’s U.S. headquarters. They also have a target cash level of how much should be kept on a daily basis, at a country and regional level. Local regulations pose difficulties in terms of extracting cash out of countries with strict capital controls and finding ways to maximize cash extraction is critical.
Cash visibility is a key issue for corporates. “Being able to have a snapshot readily available to the cash manager to show the outstanding cash balance at any given time on a country, regional, currency, and bank level is an important component of effective cash management,” said Xu. Having the right platforms in place, such as a suitable TMS system that is able to compile the bank statements from multiple bank sources and present them in a readable fashion, is also very important.
When the team is working on a cross-border level with local businesses in different countries, it is important to stress to the respective businesses the importance of timely and accurate cash flow forecasting. This extends to working with different departments within the organization. Educating others on treasury’s perspective and helping them to understand the importance of it goes a long way.
Healthy banking relationships are also pivotal in treasury management. “We work very closely with our banking partners and heavily rely on them to provide the necessary platforms for us to perform our functions,” said Xu. To help nurture those relationships, they have periodic catchups with their banking partners to gain further insights on new industry developments and express any concerns.
Technological and soft skills are key to future growth
The treasury profession is heavily reliant on technology systems such as TMS and SWIFT. Given that, and the fact that it’s increasing every day, Xu plans to deepen his understanding of what goes on in the background by learning more about IT infrastructure and coding as it relates to treasury.
With aspirations to move up to the managerial level, Xu also feels that gaining soft skills, such as people management and being able to effectively delegate, would help him excel as a leader. “I’d like to sharpen these skills in the next few years as the next goal in my career is to take on a managerial position,” he said.
The certification tailor-made for treasury professionalsXu wanted to gain more knowledge about corporate treasury than what he was able to learn on the job. So, he went for AFP’s Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) certificate. “The CTP provided me with a good education, as well as the recognition of being a CTP certified professional,” he said. “It’s tailor-made for a treasury professional.”
Has Xu experienced any career changes since earning his CTP? “I’ve been getting quite a number of messages from recruiters about job opportunities, more than I did before being certified,” he said.
It was important to Xu that he be able to practice the knowledge he gained from the CTP, which he says he’s been able to do. Additionally, “As a CTP-holder, there is an added responsibility of carrying the title and being able to demonstrate the value-add from obtaining the certification,” he said.
Xu would recommend to any treasury professional that they pursue getting certified. The course provides a good overview of the full breadth of functions of corporate treasury, which both validated what he already knew and expanded his knowledge. Most importantly, “It provides the tools needed to solve problems in the real world,” he said.
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