According to a new survey of senior financial executives conducted by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), today's corporate Treasury department is being asked to play a far more strategic role in the corporation, moving beyond its traditional responsibilities of bank relationships and cash management. Heightened levels of scrutiny in the area of financial accounting, in part the result of Sarbanes-Oxley, are creating important new roles for corporate treasury professionals in the areas of SEC compliance and strategic financial planning. As a result of these new professional demands, senior-level treasury professionals believe their treasury staff needs to be better prepared for future challenges.
"The roles and responsibilities of the corporate treasury professional have expanded dramatically over the last few years. In this current environment of corporate reform and enhanced oversight, treasury professionals are being asked to play a more central and strategic role, assisting with SEC compliance controls, risk management and accounting oversight," said Jim Kaitz, president and CEO of AFP. "Whether providing certification of data used in a company's financial statements or participating actively in the regulatory debate over options expensing and pension reform, treasury professionals are playing a more visible and critical role in strategic decision making for the corporation."
Seventy-one percent of respondents indicate that their Treasury department is playing a greater strategic role within their company than five years ago, and 77% expect this role to increase. Additional responsibilities that Treasury is — or will be — taking on include internal consulting, SEC compliance and strategic financial planning. At the same time, most companies will continue relying on the Treasury department to conduct traditional treasury activities, but 85% of them have increased their use of automation and technology to enable the treasury professionals to deploy their skills in more strategic finance areas.
"Today's corporate treasury professional is engaged in increasingly specialized areas of risk management and the application of new technologies to monitor and control reporting and compliance — responsibilities that are requiring them to constantly expand the borders of their expertise. Therefore, education and professional development are key ingredients for a successful future in the treasury profession," said Kaitz. "Our survey underscores the need of treasury professionals to constantly refine and broaden their academic horizons, to maintain their skill sets and stay competitive in today's marketplace."
Just 31% of senior-level treasury professionals "strongly" agree that today's treasury professionals are prepared for their future role in their company. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents cite resources such as continuing education and professional certification such as AFP's Certified Treasury Professional as "very important" or "important" to prepare employees for future growth and responsibilities within an organization.
Other findings of the survey:
Seventy-five percent of respondents said companies are increasing their reliance on the treasury department to act as an internal consultant for the company.
- Companies devote roughly the same amount of resources and staff time to traditional treasury activities (e.g., short-term borrowing, short-term investing, bank relationship management and cash management) as five years earlier.
- Thirty-five percent of respondents indicate that their company has expanded the size of its Treasury department in the past five years. Further, 28% expect their company will add Treasury staff in the next five years.
- While only 20% of companies have either increased outsourcing in the past years or expect to do so in the future, 85% of companies have increased their use of automation and 87% expect an increase in the future.
The survey, conducted in September 2003, was sent to senior-level treasury professionals and generated 443 responses. The full survey results are available at www.AFPonline.org.