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Q&A: Overcoming Challenges of a New Treasury Position

  • By Staff Writers
  • Published: 11/18/2015

Jahnel2At the 2015 AFP Annual Conference in Denver, AFP spoke with Ferdinand Jahnel, CTP, vice president, treasurer for Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., and a member of AFP’s Board of Directors, about his new treasury position and the current challenges he’s facing.

AFP: You've been in your new job for six months. What's the biggest challenge that you've discovered?

Ferdinand Jahnel:
Well, Marsh & McLennan is a much larger company than my previous employer Henry Schein. Henry Schein is in about 30 countries around the globe; Marsh & McLennan is around 130 countries, so that adds a lot of complexity to the responsibility of the treasurer. I have a much larger team of about 25 people in New York and about 25 people in London overseeing our global treasury activities and operations.  

As for additional responsibilities that I did not have before, I am also overseeing all global pension liabilities and assets, which are very significant and that’s certainly a new challenge for me.    

AFP: So you’re taking on these new challenges—how do you go about learning or figuring out how to do them and do them well to your boss’ satisfaction?

Jahnel:
It was basically in the first weeks and months it was really taking water from a firehouse to understand this very complex organization, meeting a lot of people that are running the various operating businesses domestically and overseas. Meeting my entire team and trying to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are and find opportunities to improve the treasury organization. So, a lot of communication, a lot of dialogue, and certainly also traveling to London where I've been several times now and I will continue to spend time there just because we manage a lot of responsibilities over there.

That’s an ongoing process and in the meantime we have done a few transactions that are I think very meaningful for the company. We issued a $600 million bond just after Labor Day very successfully in the market. We’re working on a few other things around the capital structure of the company and just getting more and more involved in the operations for the day-to-day cash management, investment of corporate and fiduciary funds that we manage, foreign exchanges, and ultimately understanding the business needs, whether they are on the risk insurance side with our businesses Marsh and Guy Carpenter or on the consulting side with our businesses Mercer and Oliver Wyman. So far it’s been a very intense but a great dialogue with all the constituents and I’ll continue to work closely with everybody who needs help from corporate treasury.

AFP: What is your boss looking for you most—what’s his biggest demand from you?

Jahnel:
When I came into this position there had been actually a void for about a year or so because the previous treasurer was actually promoted into a CFO role of one of our businesses and so first and foremost I think I had to give the CFO comfort that I could oversee that complex machinery of corporate treasury in these two locations. I think it was important for me to have an ongoing dialogue with him to understand what his expectations and objectives and concerns are. And ultimately delivering on them in the timeframe that we agreed they need to be dealt with and executed on, and that process continues.  You know, I’m still in a relatively early phase of the process but I think together we have developed a good working relationship of trust and open dialogue and we will continue to do that going forward.

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