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Square’s Tim Murphy Talks About Building a Treasury Function

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 4/11/2016
chsMobile payments giant Square is both young and fast-growing, which has an impact on its treasury infrastructure and leadership approach. Just ask Tim Murphy, treasurer for the payments processor. “We are very collaborative, dynamic and transparent,” he said. “The challenge for the company is to adopt public-company procedures like SOX without losing its creativity.”

Murphy started his career in a junior treasury role at a payroll processing company, which had an overnight investment portfolio in the billions. From there, he moved on to Amazon, where he was charged with overseeing the finance intern candidates who were chosen to work within treasury. His experience was primarily working with raw talent and training them up. With the younger talent, the key was to define the personality type that Amazon’s treasury team wanted and then train them in the right skills.

From there, Murphy moved on to Getty Images, where he had a chance to work with more senior staff of about eight, with deeper experience. “It taught me to be patient and first take time to understand others’ skillset and figure out how to best fit them into my vision for the treasury organization,” he said. “Over time I realized that people had complimentary sets of skills. Rather than wedge them into a job descriptions, you can build around them and let them do what they can do best. The more you do that, the better you can lead them, help them outperform, develop within the organization and empower them to seek opportunities within and outside the company.”

His diverse experiences got Square interested. He joined the company before it went public in 2015. As the volume of financial transactions Square was processing ballooned, management wanted to create a strong treasury function, with core functionalities like FX, insurance, cash management and investment. “While there were great cash management processes in place, we wanted ensure we have a lot more robust function,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s previous involvement with treasury groups that were being created or revamped was instrumental in preparing him for his current role. “I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t and what steady state is,” he said. “As a result I have a clearer vision of what it should look like.”

Murphy’s experiences with his own managers taught him a lot as well. He had the chance to work with very technically capable managers that helped him learn what the treasury group needs to accomplish, and how to handle himself within the organization. He refers to Amazon’s treasurer, Kurt Zumwalt, as a particularly influential mentor. He’s also worked with a number of CFOs, some of whom took a more hands-off or hands-on approach. He preferred the ones that kept a certain distance and “let go and put some trust in me and let me learn and run projects the way I wanted to,” he said. “Other CFOs had a very specific and rigid style of communication. That’s where you learn how not to do things.”

The biggest challenge Murphy faces today is establishing the new treasury group’s credibility and educating everyone on the value it can add to the core business. “Fast moving, Silicon Valley firms lend themselves to the product people who often don’t take into consideration the back office,” he said. Thus, along with his CFO, his mission is to educate Square about how far the organization can go by giving treasury a seat at the table, and shifting its role from that of a wire-transfer support department to a strategic ally, with conversations about cost of capital and successful financial outcomes.
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