My Life in Treasury
Romy Tognon, Head of Treasury for Group and France, Rexel
Romy Tognon laughingly admits that at the age of 17, when she dreamt of being an auditor, her idea of entertainment was a pile of financial results. Now forging a successful career in the ‘fantastic world’ of treasury, she thinks that a good treasury team is composed of a blend of loyalty, smart intelligence, a positive attitude and common sense: a five-legged sheep.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
I was educated in Italy and from the age of 13 I wanted to become a certified accounting auditor. I dreamt of running my own accounting company and I spent my school days thinking about that. It makes me laugh to say that figures and financial results were my entertainment when I was 17! But a move to France meant I embarked upon a slightly different career when I was offered a position in treasury - even though treasury was the only exam that I had failed horribly at university. Nevertheless I accepted the challenge and ever since that day I have never considered changing my job and moving away from treasury. I like treasury! I am fascinated by it and think it is impossible to be bored by it. Even after 15 years, I discover at least one new thing every week that gives me new ideas and plenty of motivation.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today?
I started as an accounting auditor in Italy after leaving university. After I moved to France, I spent three years as an accountant/credit manager in Paris. This was an extremely interesting experience because I was able to explore the corporate environment. I learnt how to work closely with other teams and how to deal with people face to face. In fact, these experiences greatly improved my soft skills. This wasn’t my favourite job however and I didn’t feel truly comfortable until I took on the challenging position of operational treasurer within a large organisation. After spending one year in the treasury team, I became Head of Group Treasury and during the following 12 years I consistently focused on making improvements (working on processes, tools, procedures etc.) and fixing ambitious targets for my team and myself.
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 treasury environment has completely changed over the past 10 years or so.
In 2009 Etebac (Échange télématique banque-clients) was coming to an end in France. At that time I was still sending dozens of faxes to the banks to execute wire transfers. I prepared huge numbers of paper confirmations to approve FX deals. I spent time organising documents in thick binders, with each one having a proper detailed label.
Ten years later, the advances in IT and changes to market laws obliged all treasurers to streamline business practices and policies, to align processes, and to automate certain tasks.
I am definitely grateful for this progress and am generally in support of change, even if it means the way I do my job, or the way that I am appraised has to alter.
As a result of these changes, today we have replaced faxes with multibank electronic platforms, the binders have been replaced with digital storage, the manual signature by the electronic approval workflow and signatures and we can now focus on strategic projects.
The mandatory skills for treasury are flexibility and curiosity. A treasurer must be flexible in order to carry out all the requirements imposed by the banks, the law and the ever-changing business world.
What specific, or perhaps surprising, qualities do you look for when recruiting treasury personnel?
It is extremely difficult to recruit the right person. I admit that I have failed a few times, but I have also hired some wonderful people.
I look for people with a positive attitude, who are ready to work on big projects but, at the same time, are willing to accept small tasks. They must have a good team spirit and, more than anything, I look for loyalty. It is incredibly hard to find the ‘five-legged sheep’.