Treasury professionals have been told for years that the keys to career success are to know the business, to embrace technology, and to master so-called soft, or people, skills. But an entire new set of skills has been added to the must-have list, all centered on data management, data analytics and software automation.
“Every organization is in the data business. In many instances, it’s the one competitive advantage that an organization might have,” explained Tom Hunt, director of treasury services for the Association for Financial Professionals. “What matters most is not the data itself, but how we can think better with that data to make better business decisions to help grow the business.”
Hunt’s observations were part of the AFP’s webinar, “Be Better at the Job You Have; Prepare for the Future You Want.” Joining Hunt were Jim Kaitz, president and CEO of the AFP; Lee-Ann Perkins, assistant treasurer at Ion Geophysical Corporation; Barbara Quiroga, managing director and assistant treasurer at Delta Air Lines; Mack Makode, vice president and treasurer at Under Armour; and Tony Masone, treasurer at Amazon.
The goal of the webinar, Kaitz explained, was to gain insights on how each of the participating organizations are using “technology solutions, how they’re thinking about the future of technology and how it impacts treasury, and the critical skills that treasury is going to need, not just for today, but into the future.”
Many organizations were already putting greater focus on data and digital assets in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic placed new emphasis on using data to better engage customers, increase productivity and efficiency, and reduce operating costs.
Quiroga described how, in 2014, Delta began “a complete turnaround of our systems in treasury.” The goal was to be more nimble, more data-driven and analytic. Then, due to the pandemic, the firm lost 20% of its workforce, and it turned to robotics and automation to boost efficiency. “I don’t know that we would have survived if we didn’t have all those enhancements already in the works,” she said.
At Under Armour, the company is looking to automate as many business functions as possible on the operations and tactical side. “First, we standardize them. Then we automate them. The whole idea is to digitalize everything.” In the highly competitive retail space, this is key for gaining competitive advantage.
For Amazon, digital investments are all about the customer experience, said Masone. The firm has invested heavily into machine learning and automation in order to better understand customer demographics, habits and desires.
Investments in artificial intelligence (AI) proved to be a godsend for Ion Geophysical Corporation, Perkins said. The small oil and gas company was hit hard by COVID-19, and AI technology enabled it to forecast faster and to have dramatically updated bank account balances globally.
Hunt stressed that “the new skillset evolution will require unlearning traditional skills and doing things the way they have always been done. New technology will require self-service learning and new applications for the treasury professional to become agile, data-minded and intimate with software.”
In addition to the traditional skills that treasury professionals need, Hunt provided the following checklist of critical skills they must develop:
- Technical skills: data modeling and forecasting, analytics, data science, advanced data visualization and automation.
- People skills: strategic thinking, decision-making, clear communicating, anticipation and adaptation, ability to influence others, storytelling and innovative thinking.
Only those treasury professionals and teams who focus on obtaining these critical skills will remain competitive going forward, Kaitz stressed.
Missed out on the live webinar? Click here to watch the full recorded webinar "Be Better at the Job You Have. Prepare for the Future You Want." For the latest Treasury news, visit AFP's Treasury Ideas and Inspiration page.