My Life in Treasury
Michelle Dovey, Director, MJD Treasury Solutions
Ever thought about taking a year out from treasury but are unsure how you will get back into the profession? Or perhaps you’ve considered opening your own treasury consultancy but don’t know where to start? Read on to discover how Michelle Dovey has accomplished these feats – and much more.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
I moved into treasury from a secretarial role at TI Group plc (now Smiths Group plc). I was looking for a more challenging role that involved numbers - accountancy lost... and treasury won. When I moved into treasury I’m not sure that I exactly picked the profession. I think that it was more the people that I would be working with. My manager in treasury, Carol Power, was inspirational. She worked her way from a secretary to a senior treasury manager in very male-dominated and old-fashioned environments (women couldn’t wear trousers at TI Group!). I had a lot of respect for her and she was passionate about treasury, I guess I wanted to follow that.
Over the next 20 years in treasury, I loved the variety in my day along with the ability to really make a difference to the company’s performance. The variety helps with my low boredom threshold and making a difference has meant that I look back with pride over all my positions. I guess this is why, when I decided to start my own business, it had to be with treasury in mind.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today – including taking time out?
I’ve enjoyed a varied and encompassing career to date. I began my treasury career at an engineering company where I concentrated on foreign exchange hedging and cash management. I worked in five different roles in six years which gave me a great grounding in treasury. We implemented a new treasury management system, changed our interest rate hedging strategy and more over my six years there.
I moved to a small, recently privatised, science company where I worked across hedging, cash management, guarantees and financing, together with managing a banking group during a time of corporate uncertainty. This grew my relationship skills, having to convince banks to deal with us rather than having them banging down the door.
Next for me was a tobacco company where, initially, I was responsible for treasury operations but soon moved onto acquisition financing, integration, debt capital markets with regular global bond issuances, and attached interest and currency hedging strategies. Highlights of my seven years there were the largest eurobond issuance, the integration of a similar size company with a wide geographical spread and the implementation of a new cash management structure with significant savings.
At this point I possessed treasury technical knowledge across most areas but I needed to develop the way that I interacted across the business.
I moved into my first group treasurer role at a global transport company. I was lucky enough to have a supportive and talented CFO, plus a fabulous team. I transformed personally in this role, undertaking a coaching series that really taught me a lot about myself and how I came across to others. I also developed significantly as a manager, leader and business partner. The ability to collaborate with the rest of the business gave me the opportunity to understand the impact I had. Furthermore, I enjoyed working with the business on new bids and other interesting areas that I hadn’t previously encountered, e.g., commodities, Middle Eastern activities, private placements etc.
I continued my career at a global publishing and events company, transforming the treasury function and working with the executive board to support the drive for business growth through acquisition. The closure of the treasury office was a difficult decision to make and implement, but the incredibly talented team that I was able to recruit made it all worthwhile. The executive board were really engaged on discussions around the group’s capital structure and I had the opportunity to advise them and challenge the investment bankers around the table with a full remit.
As I look back at all these years in treasury, I realise how fortunate my career path has been. I have been lucky with the people that I’ve worked for and the opportunities they have offered me. That said, I have also purposely changed industries to ensure that I continue to experience new environments and undertake different treasury activities, from cash management to bond issuances, from exposure hedging to acquisition debt structuring. This has meant that I have stayed engaged in each of my roles.
Personal circumstances in 2016 led to a decision to take a mid-career break. My husband and I took off around the world. It was a fabulous 15 months, experiencing different cultures, seeing the best that mother nature offers, overcoming fears and learning new skills. We met some incredible and inspirational people that challenged our thinking and became lifelong friends.
It also gave me the time to read, broaden my thinking and decide how I wanted to re-enter the business world. I thought about the amount of companies that don’t have a treasury department, but do have financial risks and debt, and decided to start MJD Treasury Solutions (treasurers aren’t known for their imagination, I guess!).
I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest in the consultancy offering that I have. One of my clients called me a ‘timeshare treasurer’, I kind of like that. It’s also a pretty accurate description as I get to work across a number of different businesses, with different requirements, cultures and risks. The great thing is that I feel I’m making a difference to each of these companies and I get something out of it too. My working life is now much more fluid and flexible, enabling me to add to my skillset, whilst continuing travels and exploration of other things.
I have also started my first non-executive role. The transition from executive to non-executive is really interesting and it is rewarding to help a socially responsible company. I am hoping to add another non-executive role and a charity trustee role over the coming months. So, I’ve changed my path a little since travelling, and perhaps I will go back into the traditional treasurer market, but time will tell.
How have the demands and needs of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does the role require today?
Treasury departments, along with others, have moved from operating in an ivory tower to needing to be a true business partner. Most CFOs come via the accounting route and generally have limited treasury experience, so I believe that treasurers can have a real impact on the performance of their company by being a trusted adviser to the CFO and the board.