As if you needed reminding, there have been some momentous socio-political events from all corners of the globe in the last 12 months; Brexit and the subsequent reaction from the EU, the election of President Trump and the rise of the populist-Right on the continent continue to mould the zeitgeist.
Gauging the impact of these events on the world of business and finance is, to say the least, tricky. Some corporates might be able to cite hard facts of the impact from these geopolitical events. Others perhaps remain tight-lipped and refrain from drawing conclusions until more time has passed and the dust has settled. In either case, it’s hard to deny that there has been a change in mood and sentiment in the financial sector, which inevitably affects an organisation’s business strategy.
The consequences of these changes on careers in the UK financial sector are significant. Indeed, Deloitte’s CFO survey for Q1 raised some interesting statistics; 60% of corporate respondents expect worsening economic conditions as a result of Brexit and 30% therefore assume this will cause a reduction of hiring. While this latter figure has fallen from 66% last year in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, it leaves individuals kicking off their career in the sector, as well as those considering a job change, in a state of unease.
The macro issues are certainly hard to control, but at a micro level, individuals have more power to ensure they are on top of career trends. The ACT caught up with Martha Pierce, Senior Consultant at Hays, recruitment experts in treasury, at the ACT Annual Conference 2017 to get some intel on what is trending in the recruitment world and pointers on how to stay up to speed with the wider changes.
What are employers looking for in the treasury space at the moment?
Within treasury, there has been a focus on hiring individuals with risk management experience, and there is a growing emphasis on hiring people to focus on working capital. Additionally, there is a demand for those with strategy experience as companies look to recruit for treasury professionals who can think beyond day to day operations and provide advice and improvements for the wider business.
I should add that this isn’t the case for all, but there is noticeably more requirements for strategic thinking, even in junior treasury positions.
Technological advances (artificial intelligence, in particular) and its impact on the job market is a big talking point at the moment. Do you anticipate it affecting roles in treasury and finance and how can people future-proof their skill set?
Technology within treasury has become a big focus for many treasury functions, with the result being a reduction of administrative tasks within the area. As a result, the treasury assistant position has evolved in many businesses to make sure companies develop their pipeline of talent.
Treasury assistants traditionally begin their treasury career on reconciliation, uploading bank statements. However, this process has become more and more automated or been assisted by technology, which has meant that an assistant is not always required. On the plus side, this does mean that people coming into treasury roles are able to get involved in projects and improvements much sooner as the increased technological support with the day-to-day operations means some of the more menial tasks aren’t a concern anymore.
In order to future proof their skills, treasury professionals need to ensure they are up to date with the latest treasury technological advances whilst also focusing on how they can develop their strategic experience and outlook when approaching their treasury role.
What advice would you give to treasury and finance candidates to progress their career?
To make progress in your career, you need to be qualified, get involved in projects, process improvements and gain exposure to business-wide projects and the strategic side of treasury.
When looking at qualifications, consider where you want to be in the long run. To make real progress in treasury, the AMCT is a good benchmark, however an increasing number of individuals are also looking to become dual-qualified by gaining an accountancy qualification alongside their treasury credentials. This enables a better understanding what you are asking of the rest of the finance function.
When looking at how to progress your career, focus on developing your treasury knowledge across the various areas of treasury. If you are in a large team, focus on working within different teams in the treasury function; if you are in a smaller one then focus on shadowing your line manager so you can gain exposure to new areas.