My Life in Treasury
Lionel Jouve, Head of Treasury and Financing, Printemps
Lionel Jouve, Head of Treasury and Financing, Printemps had an epiphany in 2001 after 9/11 and the Enron scandal. He realised he wanted to ‘hedge the business of a company rather than earn money by speculating’. As a result, he constantly strives to step outside his comfort zone and admits he has been motivated by curiosity throughout his career.
How did you come into treasury and what attracted you to the profession?
Like the myth that cats have nine lives, I had the great chance to live several lives before treasury. Throughout my student years I always wanted to be a trader. During my university course, I created several trusts to learn the equity market with friends. I was fascinated by the financial market, its creativity and the way it responds to corporates’, banks’ and investors’ needs. I was young and probably far too immersed in the economic theories, though!
I was a foreign exchange trader for seven years with a trading company – seven incredibly interesting years. I even gained a little experience in bandwidth trading just a few days before 9/11 and the Enron scandal.
After those two events, I had an epiphany. What I loved the most about my job was to hedge the business of the company rather than earning money by speculating.
I discovered my true calling when I was hired as a cash management treasurer within a service company. In the real day-to-day business, my job was very closely linked with the core job of the company. And it was so interesting to see how treasury matters could have a strong impact on the underlying business.
I have always tried to step outside my comfort zone in order to gain experience in new areas such as financing, electronic banking, monetary data and fraud.
How has your career progressed through to the role that you hold today?
To continue my cat theme, there is a popular saying that ‘curiosity killed the cat’. I have been the cat but, rather than killing me, curiosity has been my motivation. Like an electronic gamer, I have moved to the next level to put into practice what I have learnt at the previous level. Perhaps that stems from my childhood, when I loved fitting plastic bricks together.
How have the demands and needs of treasury changed over the course of your career, and what particular skills does the role require today?
Without doubt, the impact of technology has played a strong role in treasury. Technology is like a tsunami; after its passage, everything changes. Forty years ago, the job of a treasurer was to manage liquidity, financing and cash management. That was tough enough in itself. Now, we have all those tasks plus we have added factors such as real time, digitalisation, electronic banking, security and collaborative efforts with the other departments of the company.
The ingredients of my ‘become-a-good-treasurer’ cocktail are: flexibility; adaptability; and a thirst for knowledge - especially around financial and technological evolutions. It’s a great recipe!
What specific, or perhaps surprising, qualities do you look for when recruiting treasury personnel?
Recruitment is the most challenging aspect of my job. It is a kind of alchemy – you have to find not only the right person, but the right brain that has had the right past and will have the right future. I don’t think it is any more complicated to find a good treasurer than it is to find any other good employee. It is a meeting of the minds. I always look for a person with a positive attitude, who is well organised in his/her head and is ready to go the extra mile.