My Life in Treasury
Giacomo Baldi, Global Treasurer, GE Grid Solutions and Power Conversion
He might not have specifically chosen treasury as a profession, but Giacomo Baldi has made the most of his time in the industry - and gathered a number of great career tips along the way. Here, he shares some of the most valuable experiences of his career and some of the best advice he’s been given.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
Actually, it was a decision taken by the business. By the time I was 32, I’d already had roles in the controllership and commercial finance functions within the company, which gave me the opportunity to display my problem-solving character. Seeing this, and my positive attitude to work, the company suggested that I moved into the treasury department. I was happy to accept the new role as another step forward in my career.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today?
The company went through a strong period of organic and inorganic growth in a changing business environment, which presented me with many opportunities to learn, enhance my business knowledge and improve my treasury skills. For example, I co-ordinated several acquisitions and integrations in strict collaboration with GE Corporate Treasury and other finance and non-finance functions. Being satisfied with my work, over time the company broadened my role and responsibilities, in line with the ever more global structure of the treasury organisation.
How have the demands and needs of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does the role require today?
Both the demands on the treasurer and the required skills have changed hugely in parallel with technology developments and globalisation. At the beginning of my career, treasury had a limited view of the business and supported business strategies purely from a technical angle, only providing very basic reporting. More recently, however, the function has been recognised as being more strategic and has begun to focus more on anticipating business needs.
Newer responsibilities include the analysis and optimisation of bank relationships, cash flow forecasting, more timely and accurate identification and management of FX exposures and hedging, as well as trade finance. At the same time, treasury professionals must be better at leveraging technology in general, as well as having specific knowledge about ERPs and/or TMSs, to provide refined reports aimed at supporting decision-making processes and M&A.
What specific, or perhaps surprising, qualities do you look for when recruiting treasury personnel?
Of course, technical skills in the treasury area are key but other factors come into play also. These include the ability to work cross-functionally, which means that treasury professionals need to have finance and accounting basics as well as a project-oriented attitude. In addition, soft skills are becoming more and more important as treasury increasingly has to interface and collaborate with other non-finance functions - then establish a common trust relationship and address issues and manage projects/initiatives horizontally. Finally, the ability to match treasury considerations with IT possibilities and ERP/TMS knowledge is a ‘nice-to-have’ skill.
How important do you think a formal treasury education is, as opposed to (or as well as) more general finance or accountancy qualifications?
It’s important if someone wants to accelerate their knowledge of the area and deep-dive quickly into a new role in treasury. Nevertheless, although quite technical, treasury is not rocket science - so anyone having robust finance and accounting knowledge can learn the basics on the job and develop sophisticated strategies by mixing the three disciplines.
What about wider experience in the world of business. Is that valuable too?
Absolutely! One of the most important things I have learnt during my career is that the more you know about the industry and the business you are in, the better you can adapt the treasury function to serve it. The treasurer should never work in isolation, hiding behind technicalities. Rather, treasurers must be open, develop their business knowledge, and strive to deliver simple messages and explanations about complex matters to the rest of the organisation - including finance and non-finance. Think about FX as an example.