An Interview with a Treasury Analyst
What is your background?
I studied Commerce at Sauder School of Business, with a specialization in marketing and sustainability. I did not do co-op; however, I did do a banking PCM (Payments and Cash Management) internship. My first job coming out of school was a leasing analyst.
How did you get into treasury?
I heard about the leasing analyst job through my network. I was hired on a contract and the intention was to have me bridge the gap until they found someone to fill the role permanently. My role started out as more administrative; however, I took the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as I could. I worked longer hours and put my hand up for as many projects as I could to continue to build my experience. The company kept on extending my contract and eventually I was hired on full-time. There was quite a bit of departmental cross-over between my group and the treasury operations group. I formally stepped in to the treasury role through my involvement with the company cash flow forecast project.
What is the objective of treasury?
I like to think of treasury as the guts of the company. The core objective of a treasury function is to manage liquidity-you need to make sure the company has sufficient cash to manage its day to day operations. You also need to make sure your cash is invested properly, sitting in the right accounts and in the right currencies.
Other key functions:
- Cash forecasting/working capital management
- Risk management
- Banking relations (opening/closing accounts, managing KYC documentation, etc.)
- Raising funds
What candidates are you looking for in terms of education? (GPA, School Brand, Major)
For a treasury analyst:
Typically someone with a business degree, a finance background is preferred. Designations-wise, CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), CTP (Certified Treasury Professional) or MBA are assets. If you have a non-business degree, you need to show some experience in business/finance, whether it be CFA level 1 or an internship at a bank or another corporation.
For a treasury manager up to assistant treasurer (an assistant treasurer at a large company may be more sophisticated than a treasurer at a small company):
CPA/CFA, 5-7 years of treasury experience, previous capital markets experience and preferably a CTP designation.
Exposure to bankers is very important. We see a lot of ex-investment bankers (across investment banking, corporate banking and trading floor staff) land assistant treasurer roles from the VP level. At major banks/bulge brackets, we can see them jump straight into the treasurer role.
How does someone with a low GPA get into treasury?
It depends on the company. I have never been asked to show my GPA.
At a major corporate, GPA will be looked at for entry level roles, but on the whole it is not as competitive as investment banking or management consulting. However, moving up internally is much more difficult than rising up in an up-or-out working culture in Big 4 accounting, MBB strategy consulting or an investment bank – where you would have to have good grades to start.
As such, we see a lot of people from consultancies or banks moving into relatively senior roles in treasury despite working fewer years than an equivalent treasury professional for that level.
What technical knowledge would you expect from a new hire? What technical questions would you ask?
- Strong Excel skills are a must
- Experience in the finance or banking sector is always preferred
- Experience building and understanding financial models and spreadsheets
- Familiarity with banking systems/treasury management systems would be an asset
What is the career trajectory?
Every company is different, generally it goes analyst, senior analyst, manager, senior manager, corporate treasurer and VP treasury.
From the treasurer role, there is room to move up into the C-suite with the natural progression being the Chief Financial Officer. However, there will usually be a rotation into other functions that are overseen by the CFO first, such as corporate development, financial planning & analysis and investor relations.
If the firm is not technically specialized (oil and gas or some other sort of engineering domain), treasury is a very competitive space within the firm alongside corporate development and can be a training ground for the eventual CEO spot.
How is treasury in Vancouver – are there any perks? What is it like elsewhere?
Treasury is certainly not as big in Vancouver if you compare it to FP&A or Accounting. However, I think it is gaining traction as many companies are realizing the value a treasury department can provide.
Large domestic or multinational companies such as TELUS, Goldcorp, Wheaton Precious Metals Streaming, First Quantum, Finning, MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates, Teck Resources and HSBC Canada are based out of Canada and will have if not large, then relatively sophisticated treasury operations given the scope of their businesses.
Other organizations that will hire for treasury in Vancouver include various credit unions, Interfor, Aritzia, BC Hydro etc.
Vancouver and Canada in general is lucky because most of the population is concentrated heavily in various major cities including Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. This means that the network is fairly close knit and that the banking community is easily accessible in contrast to the USA, where companies may be planted in far off suburbs.
In Vancouver, one of the perks of being in treasury is that you are the banker’s client, whether it is the commercial banker or the investment banker. This means that you are taken to Canucks games – often in the corporate box – several times a year. Given that there is only one major sports team, bankers will fill up client meetings with fancy lunches and drinks or even artsier events.
In Calgary, treasury professionals are taken to Flames games and booked all throughout the Stampede.
In Toronto, there is a larger range of sports events throughout the year, so that is usually the go to.
I have heard from my boss who used to work in treasury in London that bankers would routinely bring them to major soccer games (Champions League) at Highbury/Emirates Stadium or rugby at Twickenham, but the bankers liked cricket the most because it was an all day drinking event and after slamming a few Pimms you become really close with your client.
What sort of work comes up regularly throughout the year?
- Cash flow reporting, monitoring
- Executing wire transfers
- FX trades/hedges
- Issuing letters of credit/bank guarantees
- Bank relationship management/opening & closing accounts
- Ad-hoc reporting
What are the hours like and are they flexible?
It depends on the company but I believe it can be flexible. Usually 9-5 or 9-6, but longer at a large corporate. If you deal with foreign banks you may need to adjust your hours.
If you are working with an investment bank and a deal is imminent you may be all hands on deck but not to the extent of the corporate development team.
When people quit where do they tend to go?
Usually treasury roles elsewhere, sometimes commercial and corporate banks. Internally, other finance functions such as corporate development are popular.
Treasury professionals will sometimes join investment banks (not common), but rarely in M&A – usually an industry group that is in line with the business that they were in before or in an S&T group, DCM or ECM given that they are already familiar with the products.
Are the CFA or other designations helpful in landing a job? On the job itself?
Passing any level of CFA would be a plus for interviews – it shows initiative and interest in finance. Also, the CFA covers practically everything that happens in treasury, especially the products used and the corporate finance theory behind why we use them. In addition, the CFA offers perspective in terms of the whole firm – the whole point of treasury and any other function is to drive shareholder value.
Whether you are looking at interest rate 3-way collars or cost of capital, the CFA has something for treasury.
What financial products do you deal with on a regular basis?
It varies by company but standard financial instruments to support the above activities apply most everywhere.
This includes interest rate swaps, FX products from simple spot trades to longer dated structured products to commodity collars. Keep in mind that for very liquid commodities such as oil, hedging is much cheaper than to do something with Zinc.
If someone has a non-traditional background in Science/Engineering/Arts, how do they break into treasury?
A degree is generally required but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a commerce degree. If you don’t have a commerce background then some sort of experience in the finance industry is important. A designation (i.e. CTP or CFA) would be a good place to start. Other than that, you should build your knowledge in finance and start networking whether it’s attending conferences or CFA/AFP events.
However, the most natural fit would be an accounting or finance major.
What are the hiring cycles like? How many on cycle hires does your firm make? Off cycle hires?
Hiring is done on an as-needed basis.
Outside of the largest companies and major financial institutions, there are no dedicated and structured treasury programs. However, at these large companies (banks, multinationals) there is usually a entry-level new finance graduate scheme for both undergrads and MBAs that will give a comprehensive training experience.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to breaking into treasury?
If you are in school, get some banking or finance experience (co-op or internships). If that’s not plausible, work in a retail bank and get to know all the financial products. Reach out to current/former treasury professionals, most people will be willing to share their experience and offer advice. Unlike investment bankers who are bombarded with emails, treasury professionals are less likely to reject your coffee requests.
If you are graduating or have graduated, try to leverage your network for an interview. Be prepared to work long hours. If you’re just starting out, try to get in with a good company, even if the job isn’t necessarily your dream job. A good company will often provide plenty of opportunity for career development.
Use your free time to expand your finance knowledge, put your hand up and volunteer for new projects (especially finance related projects). If your supervisor is supportive, communicate your interests with your supervisor, he/she can get you on the right track.