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Project Management: A Crucial Skill for Treasury and Finance

  • By Peter Biglin, CTP, and Steven Phillips, CTP, FP&A
  • Published: 9/24/2014
Due to increasingly constrained resources, treasury and finance professionals are being asked to step out of their traditional roles and serve as project managers. At the upcoming 2014 AFP Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., Peter Biglin, CTP, president of Treasury Management Solutions, and Steven Phillips, CTP, FP&A, director/assistant treasurer for Cash America International Inc., will be hosting a pre-conference session on project management. In this exclusive preview, Biglin and Phillips reflect on what their knowledge of project management has done for their careers, and how it can further the careers of other treasury and finance professionals.

The new differentiator in the financial job market  

By Steven Phillips

About 10 years ago, I was working in the treasury and accounting departments at a telecom startup in Texas. I was brought into many development projects based on my experience in structuring back office organizations. Two things became obvious as these projects progressed: there was very little knowledge in establishing and managing projects efficiently, and with little leadership, projects often wallowed in overruns and poor deliverables. I decided then to strengthen my project management (PM) skills so I could be a driving force for ensuring a project’s success.  

A few years later I found myself working at an engineering and architectural firm as a regional controller and quickly leveraged my PM skills to help coach and develop the project managers working on complex construction projects. I later sat for and passed the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam.

Why is this knowledge so important? The hiring managers for last two positions where I received offers used my PM background as the specific differentiator on why they wanted to hire me. They stressed that they were looking for someone with deeper systems and projects experience, not just skilled in treasury, accounting and finance.

In my current position as assistant treasurer at Cash America International Inc., I leverage my PM skills daily in everything from systems implementation to acquisitions to development of new financial models. The importance of understanding the optimal process of completing a successful project is what can set you apart from highly skilled financial technicians and allow you to get the visibility and little victories that you need when demonstrating your value to the company and to your group.

A nonfinancial skill for financial professionals

By Peter Biglin

Clearly, treasury and finance professionals, and those who aspire working in the treasury and finance marketplace, must possess a high level of industry acumen and dexterity to discharge their daily responsibilities. The reason an individual is working in treasury and finance is the suitability of the role to that individual’s professional interests and personal capabilities.  After all, if you choose a profession you are interested in and enjoy, it is not a job; it is a pleasure (so said my Dad). Nowadays, corporate entities are challenged to do “more” with less and also to accomplish that “more” even faster. As a result, the likelihood of being asked by your employer to become involved in a range of tasks traditionally beyond the purview of a financial professional is highly likely; for example, involvement in a project.

When I mention the word project, some of us may quake but, the reality is that we all work in a project-oriented industry. From raising capital, to optimization of liquidity, to acquisitions and divestitures, we all have worked on projects. However, because we self-identify as treasury or finance professionals, the world of projects and project management seems alien to us and quickens the pulse. As a result, we are ready to throw in the towel before the bell rings for the first round of the project initiative we’ve been assigned.

This doesn’t have to be your or your organization’s reality. As is the case in the corporate world today, financial professionals are being asked to step out of their traditional roles to undertake additional responsibilities, such as to serve as project managers. In my own career, I found that through the acquisition of project management knowledge, experience and expertise, what would have been a daunting assignment earlier in my career became an assignment for which I had the requisite knowledge and adroitness of skills to accomplish with confidence and success.  

Realizing that employers want and need multi-dimensional staff members who can accomplish the ever-increasing multidimensional tasks in a more efficient workplace, acquiring project management skills is an essential ingredient to one’s future role and growth in the treasury and finance marketplace.    

Register for the 2014 AFP Annual Conference here.

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