My Life in Treasury
Anne Catherine Sailley, Manager, Treasury EMEA, Steelcase
With enough energy to light up the Eiffel Tower, Anne Catherine Sailley is busy continuously improving the Steelcase treasury function – yet still finds time to co-head the EACT’s cyber security working group and organise charitable missions in India. In this interview, she shares some great career advice and explains how she draws on her experience of raising horses to harness the creative power of her treasury team.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
I graduated from a French Business and Management School, having specialised in finance. My career began in earnest with KPMG Audit as an external auditor. This was a great fit for me because I like working on process improvement and bringing added value to corporates. I spent most of my time working for international groups, assessing internal controls, and writing recommendations.
Then, after four years at KPMG (18 years ago now!), I joined Steelcase and was tasked with creating the Internal Audit department in EMEA. One of the first challenges was to demonstrate the usefulness and added value provided by this new department. Fortunately, I won over the support of operations and then moved from a control role to a support one.
Thanks to my audit experience, I was able to progress on to a more operational finance role which involved consolidation, controlling, industrial reporting and analysis; but always with the same objective in mind: continuous improvement of existing processes. With that same goal, I then joined the treasury team.
To begin with, I honestly thought I would probably just stay in treasury for two or three years to complete my finance knowledge but rapidly it became clear to me that treasury would become my long-term career. So, today, eight years later, I continue to lead new projects and face exciting new challenges in the treasury department.
I really enjoy my job. It is a perfect combination between technical tasks, which require a lot of expertise, and softer, relationship-driven activities, which involve a great deal of human interaction with internal and external partners. I’m also very interested in travelling around the world, so this global position fits me perfectly.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today – and what are you working on at the moment?
In treasury, I evolved from an operational position, doing daily treasury transactions, to being an international and global project leader. My first objective was the improvement and globalisation of treasury processes. As such, I’ve led projects to implement European cash pooling, rationalise our banking structure, implement SWIFT for Corporates, and roll out a treasury management system (TMS) around the globe.
All those projects enabled me to build treasury knowledge in areas such as cash management, FX, treasury accounting, and guarantees, as well as garnering expertise in TMSs and a good understanding of treasury processes.
Currently, I am leading a global project to design improved controls around our payments, as well as redesigning our banking structure. In addition, I am always busy developing a wide range of professional contacts outside the company. Doing this allows me to keep a constant eye on technology trends and regulatory developments at the European level - and to adapt our projects and banking structure in response.
As an example, I have developed close ties with our TMS partner by joining the user club in France and then the International Client Advisory Board. During the 40-year anniversary of the French treasury association, AFTE, I also hosted a conference session on securing payments. And, at present, I co-head the European Association of Corporate Treasurer’s (EACT) working group on cyber security. This is a great help to me – and other treasurers - to stay informed about the constant evolution of the cybercrime landscape, fraud schemes, and techniques.
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 has definitely changed quite a bit and will continue to change deeply. But that’s part of what makes it an exciting career choice.
As a result of technological evolution, such as automation and digitalisation, the treasurer’s remit has already shifted from being a technical support function to performing a key strategic role. The treasurer occupies a unique position within the organisation that reaches across silos, and ensures they are completely integrated in the business. Today’s treasurer therefore has to be more proactive than ever - and to anticipate risks.
Whatever the treasury systems used and the processes in place, securing financial flows remains paramount. In addition, treasurers must work hard to ensure the image of the function changes from ‘expert’ to ‘leader’ - as well as speaking up in order to have a real impact on the growth and success of the organisation.
Skills that are very useful in treasury include: good business sense, high-level treasury and IT expertise, leadership capacity, communication ease, adaptability, curiosity, an open mind and an interest in innovation.
What specific, or perhaps surprising, qualities do you look for when recruiting treasury personnel?
I look for people with plenty of energy, new ideas, and positive attitude. I also want them to be team-oriented and to have the curiosity to learn something new, whilst always seeking to improve processes and controls.
In terms of how I approach the management of my team, I like to draw on my experience of raising horses – since it is easier to calm horses and channel their energy than to continuously force them to accelerate. For me, it is the same with people. I prefer to harness their creativity and their initiatives instead of pushing them down a specific route.
Elsewhere, I think that diversity is very important within any treasury team in order to have a range of opinions, fuel a productive debate, and create a sense of collaborative competition.
The human values are the most important as they are proper to each individual and they are deeply rooted and difficult to change, as opposed to technical qualifications that can be learned and evolved every day. I do not recruit only according to what the candidate knows as qualifications quickly become outdated but according to who the candidate is, their integrity and intelligence to learn, to adapt.