AFP recently met with a group of treasury professionals in the APAC region to see how things are progressing for the treasury profession there, if there is a skills gap, and if so, how it’s being addressed. The following is a compilation of their thoughts and insights.The importance of treasury within Asia corporates is still evolving. There are different regions, conditions and guidelines here, and the skills gaps are immense in comparison.
Most corporate treasury offices are based in the United States or Europe, which leads many in the Asia-Pacific region to feel like more of an outsourcing center. If it's a subsidiary of a larger MMC headquartered outside of Asia, then the role of the treasury team in Asia tends to be more around managing liquidity, cash management, funds, flow, executing trades and settlements, etc.
There’s a lack of support for trainingTreasuries are still seen as a big cost center, and the training around that is not considered key. One professional described his Asia-based team as the relay of the company’s treasury department. Because of this relegation, it's not a priority to train them because the core of the expertise is at headquarters.
Support for professional development opportunities, whether from HR or their direct supervisor, doesn’t really seem to be there, with reports of struggles to get training approved. One professional said they’re even asked to pay for their own training.
They said the local banks are reluctant to push certain products to certain companies because they know the skill level of each company’s treasury. They will ask people to check with their CFO, and if they have the appetite and the budget to approve it, then the bank will spend time discussing training.
Workarounds to keep staff engaged and learningSo, if HQ isn't supportive of training, how do you bridge that gap to keep staff engaged and learning? You get creative with some workarounds, which include asking your local partners for trainings, learning new technology alongside your junior staff, creating an internal knowledge bank of courses — and changing jobs. One professional justified the latter by arguing that a new company may do things in a different or better way than you’ve seen before, which makes it a good opportunity to see and learn new things.
Others said their team has an internally curated platform of courses. Colleagues have certain skills they can share, so they create and record a training session that is then available on the platform for anyone to use. Building and making these transfers of knowledge accessible is a great way to keep staff interested and engaged, and many report seeing an uptick in overall performance as a result.
Recruiting and skills requirements
There are so many specificities around cash management, treasury and regulation in Asia that make recruiting really difficult. Because teams are lean, they need people who can tackle every topic, which is challenging to say the least.
The treasury professionals said finding someone with skills in analysis is not an issue, but finding people with the skills to take a 360-approach is quite difficult.
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