My Life in Treasury: Karen Van den Driessche
Karen Van den Driessche, Assistant Treasurer, Avnet
Karen Van den Driessche is looking for drivers on the bus, not passengers when she is recruiting for her team. The right attitude, common sense and attention to detail are also high on her priority list. “Commit yourself,” she advises, “and you will soon see that the treasury profession is a wonderful thing.”
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
Karen Van den Driessche
I came into treasury by accident. I joined Monsanto as credit and collection agent at the time when they were spinning off part of the organisation. As I had worked in a bank before, they asked if I was interested in taking on the treasury role for the EMEA organisation in the spin-off, Solutia. I went to a EuroFinance conference to get an idea about what treasury was, liked what I heard and decided to take the opportunity and have never regretted that decision.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today?
I am proud of my accomplishments and believe I have progressed at a good pace throughout my career. Over time, I have taken on different, more challenging projects and roles and responsibilities. I have had the opportunity to work for a number of interesting, well-known companies, each with their cultures and focuses, which has given me exposure to a variety of industries.
In addition, being voted in as the chair of the Association of Corporate Treasurers in Belgium (ATEB), and therefore being the face of corporate treasurers in Belgium, is testimony to the trust my peers have put in me to officially represent the profession internally within the treasury community and externally to society and stakeholders. That trust is built on a number of factors: my knowledge of the treasury profession and challenges faced by treasurers, my ability to bring different partners together to work on defining solutions, and my ability to look beyond today and into the future fuelled by passion, enthusiasm and leadership.
How have the demands and needs of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does the role require today?
The changes I have seen are mostly in three areas. First, being a better business partner, i.e. ensuring a better business understanding to be able to support the organisation with the appropriate products and tools. Second, focusing on providing insightful and actionable data. Third, identifying the impact of regulations, intended for banks, on treasury activities.
However, I do not think that there has been a significant change in what treasury needs to provide. Treasury teams still need to perform all of the basic treasury activities, such as ensuring an efficient bank account and liquidity structure is in place; setting the cash position; carrying out cash flow forecasting; and identifying and managing foreign exchange exposure.
In my opinion, the skills required today, in addition to the basic technical treasury skill set, are common sense, communication abilities and a keen interest in new technology and products.
What specific, or perhaps surprising, qualities do you look for when recruiting treasury personnel?
I am looking for people with the right attitude. I need drivers on the bus, not passengers.
My perfect treasury recruit is goal-oriented, has the right attitude, combined with common sense, communication skills, attention to detail, a sense of urgency and technical treasury knowledge. Is that being difficult or asking the impossible?
How important do you think a formal treasury education is, as opposed to (or as well as) more general finance or accountancy qualifications?
Both have their merits and a combination would be perfect.
I think a formal treasury education is important and has added value. While technical treasury knowledge can be taught on the job, it is easier to have this already as the starting point.