Five years ago, after 16 years in banking, Jessie Toh made the switch to buy-side treasury. As the Global Treasurer for Coda Payments, a FinTech company headquartered in Singapore, she and her team manage the company’s FX, cash, banking relationships and credit.
In this interview with AFP, Jessie discusses her career path to treasury, trends she is watching, and how she keeps her skills sharp by learning from her peers on AFP’s Asia-Pacific Treasury Advisory Council.
Can you give an overview of your career path?
I was a banker for 16 years before becoming a corporate treasurer. I started my banking career rotating in various departments within corporate banking and eventually settled into financial markets on the trading floor. I love the FX markets; there is always something happening, and it is never a dull day.
My focus in financial markets was FX derivatives and risk management, and I spent many years advising large corporate clients on managing their FX and interest rate risk. I was always very intrigued with corporate treasury — whilst operational, with the risk tools and mindset, treasury can be a strategic advantage to any organization, contributing significantly to the bottom line. I knew that at some point if given the chance, I would want to move to the corporate treasury role.
That opportunity to move came in 2018 through a treasury role to oversee FX and cash at a sovereign wealth fund in Singapore. Then in 2019, another opportunity came around for me to join Coda Payments, a FinTech company, to build and run its global treasury function and that’s where I am today.
What do you do in your current role?
I’m a Global Treasurer and we are a very lean team based out of Singapore. The team is split into four verticals: FX, cash, financial counterparts and credit. FX is a crucial part of the business as the company I work for operates in 65 countries, many of them in emerging markets, hence we have to monitor and manage the currency risks. Treasury also ensures we optimize the returns on our multi-currency cash pool; this is especially important now given rising interest rates.
We also manage all the banking and financial counterparty relationships and oversee counterparty credit risk — from assessment to limiting setting and monitoring.
Are there any trends you’re keeping an eye on?
There are two trends that I’m watching. The first is U.S. dollar liquidity in emerging markets. With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, rising rates, high inflation, high energy prices, natural disasters and potential recession looming ahead, there has been so much volatility in the FX markets. Many emerging market countries have been having difficulties procuring U.S. dollars which impacts how we move money globally.
The next trend (which every treasurer will say) is rising interest rates. For us, it’s a good thing since we can get higher returns on our cash now versus the past; however, this also means we need to be super focused to ensure we don’t miss out on the yield opportunities.
That will definitely keep you busy, wondering what the U.S. Fed is going to do with interest rates.
Yes, apart from yield, decision on interest rates will have a knock-on effect on other market movements – for example, it has a huge impact on FX movements. I talked about the low U.S. dollar liquidity in emerging markets; well, rising U.S. rates are a big catalyst to low USD reserves in these countries. With all the rate hikes in the U.S., investors have moved their funds back into the U.S. causing big drainage of USD liquidity from emerging markets. Uncertainty is common in the financial markets, so we always need to be prepared.
As the profession continues to evolve, what do you do to keep your skills current and sharp?
It’s important to network with your peers to keep your skills current and sharp. Businesses and markets are constantly evolving, and you need to evolve with them, as there are always new trends or new developments. It’s always great that I can go to a peer and ask, “Did you face these issues as well? How did you solve it?”
The wonderful thing about being part of AFP’s Asia-Pacific Treasury Advisory Council is having a group of people to talk to. During Council meetings, when someone brings up a topic — and straight away, you can see five or six heads nodding — you know that others have the same issue, so there is comfort in numbers.
I’ve also reached out to some of the Council members to talk one-on-one and ask them questions related to something they said during the Council meeting. During these one-on-one calls, I was able to ask how they resolved their challenges and gained a lot of nuggets of information.
Similarly, I’ve had another Council member reach out to me and ask for advice related to something I said during a Council meeting. That’s the beauty of having the Council, that you have a group you can reach out to if you have any issues, and they’re more than willing to share. We have a very strong community spirit because we need each other to go far.
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