My Life in Treasury
Naomi Holland, International Treasurer, Intel Corporation
Naomi Holland, International Treasurer for Intel Corporation, details her career progression and describes the challenges of successfully balancing her family life while returning to a senior role after an eight-year career break.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
My entry to the world of treasury was somewhat unplanned, as my background was that of a chartered accountant which led me to join the finance department rather than the treasury department of Intel Ireland. The treasury connection came as my remit included supporting the EMEA treasury team. Then the Intel Ireland treasury manager was returning to the US, and I was asked to consider applying for his role, which I did. Treasury attracted me as at that time I assessed it as an area which was market focused, delivered tangible results and involved strong interaction with external stakeholders.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today?
My early career saw me both qualify and work as a chartered accountant with PwC. However, the ‘corporate world’ rather than the ‘world of practice’ was where I wanted to pursue my career. This saw me move to Intel Corporation where I have held a number of roles: Irish Finance Manager, Irish Treasury Manager, EMEA Treasury Manager, EMEA Treasurer and now International Treasurer, where my remit covers the treasury related activities of all non US locations. The progression through to my current role has been underpinned by my initial professional training as a chartered accountant. This provided me with some great skills – commercial acumen, communication, stakeholder management, planning etc. This, together with ongoing training, exposure to some excellent individuals, opportunities and informed risks I took along the way, has led to where I am today.
However, it hasn’t necessarily been a constant trajectory as I decided to take a career break in 2007 to prioritise focusing on our children/family life. This lasted for eight years, during which I took on some non-executive directorships, which I found interesting, challenging and rewarding. My return to full- time work came when I received a call from the treasurer of Intel Corporation asking me to re-join in what is now my current role. My initial response to his call, while I was both flattered and tempted, was that attempting to balance the proposed role (multiple time zones, international travel) and family life (three young children and a husband who himself had a demanding career) would be too challenging. However, following a number of conversations with the treasurer, and with the encouragement and support of my husband, I decided to give it a go. It’s now three years since I rejoined Intel Corporation and in my view we have made it work successfully thus far, greatly facilitated by ‘flexibility’, which I and Intel consistently provide. I would like to encourage both employees/employers to approach careers /career development in an holistic manner so that the working model continues to evolve and facilitates participation in the workforce through the various ‘cycles of life’ – great improvements have been made but as an overall ecosystem we have more to do.
How have the demands and needs of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does the role require today?
At a macro level, the demands and skills required to be successful in a treasury role have broadly remained unchanged over the course of my career. The emphasis of the job evolves, and this impacts the success criteria for treasurers. Work across all disciplines has and continues to become more demanding, more real-time, more global and requires an increased focus on the allocation of scarce resources (people, time, funds). The reliance on and therefore the level of differentiation provided by IT platforms, processes, cost base management, communication skills and so on, has increased. Therefore, the level of excellence in these areas will be a significant contributing factor in determining the overall success of the treasury function. More specifically, the treasury environment differs between companies (financial vs corporate, debt vs cash focus, multinational vs regional) and is influenced by world events (US tax reform, Brexit, economic cycles and geopolitics). The successful treasurer today is someone who has the skills to manage these agendas successfully and resolve the natural conflicts which the environment presents. Skills which have increased in importance include: adaptability; prioritisation; communication; commercial acumen; professional resilience. Of course at the more junior levels within treasury, core technical skills remain integral to success.
What specific, or perhaps surprising, qualities do you look for when recruiting treasury personnel?
What I look for is dependent on the role I am recruiting for, its level of seniority, internal and external stakeholder management requirements, geographical location, technical elements etc. Whilst I look for a variety of qualities, the ones I start with are intellect and work ethic. Building on those, I look for strong interpersonal skills: someone who is easy to work with, has excellent communication skills and is a good team player. They need to have the capability to grow within my organisation, and given today’s environment, they also need to be adaptable. Interestingly, I don’t necessarily need the ‘finished article’ per se: I prioritise talent and future development capability over someone who fits the immediate box I am looking to fill.