My Life in Treasury
Kathy Hiebert, Senior Finance Manager, International Treasury, General Mills
Kathy is familiar to many readers of TMI following the excellent feature she wrote earlier this year on building a global treasury enterprise. In this edition, she describes her career to date and offers advice for those embarking on a treasury career.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
Like many people, I came to treasury largely by accident. My first role after college was an accounting position at Cargill, which happened to be part of the treasury team, so my focus was on the group’s financial market activities. I got to learn about the accounting side of treasury, including short- and long-term financing, FX and hedge accounting. During this time, I became increasingly attracted to the idea of working with external counterparties, such as banks, as well as engaging with the business internally. This decision then propelled me on my treasury journey.
How did your career progress through to the role that you hold today?
After four years in treasury accounting, I moved to the treasury operations side, and managed a team of six people responsible for cash management in North America. This was a really interesting and diverse role as it also included liquidity management such as cash pooling. Once I had established a good background in cash management and treasury operations, the opportunity arose to join The Mosaic Company, which was established in 2004 as a merger between Cargill’s Crop Nutrition division and fertilizer company IMC Global. Headquartered in Minneapolis, this was a unique opportunity to build a treasury operation from scratch for an FT-500 company. My primary focus during this time was capital markets, financial risk management, pensions and investment management, which was a valuable complement to the experience I had built up in my previous roles.
I spent seven years at Mosaic and was then seeking to develop my career further, and the role of international treasurer at General Mills came up, where I have worked ever since. This has been a marvelous opportunity to build on my existing skills and expertise in an international context.
How have demands and needs in terms of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does it now require?
One of the primary differences compared with the start of my treasury career is the increased importance of risk management, not only FX and interest rate risk, but also counterparty risk. Treasury is also far more engaged with the wider business than it was in the past. No longer does treasury operate in an ivory tower, but treasury’s role in risk management in particular means that it needs to understand and influence risk by working closely with the business.
What qualities do you look for when you are recruiting for your department?
Clearly the technical skills we look for will differ depending on the nature of the position: for example, someone coming in to manage risk needs a good grasp of FX and interest rate fundamentals as well as the ability to take a broad business view. Someone joining in a cash management role needs to be more detail-oriented. However, people across the team need the ability to relate to business partners and develop a deep knowledge of the business and how it operates. What always interests me about treasury is the diversity of skills that are required in each department, which also creates interest from a career perspective.