What sort of person makes a treasurer?

Treasurer’s type of personality is particular and usually misunderstood. Because of their function, they often demonstrate a certain conservatism and resistance to changes, despite their evolving role. “Once a treasurer, always a treasurer” could be applied to a majority of them. They fall in love with their highly technical job.

Corporate treasurers have a particular type of personality, one that is often misunderstood. This is because of their personalities, perhaps, but perhaps also because of a certain reticence. I would not like you to think that their characters are all the same. However, almost all of them that I have met share features that give them this very distinctive personality. Treasurers are beings who are more reserved than other finance people, as if they were sure of the importance of what they were doing, and so did not need to draw attention to it or show it off. They are as much reserved as they are conservative, in my opinion. They have only a moderate liking for change, and sometimes allow themselves time to be convinced of the value of changing an approach or technique. It is their very pragmatic side that often comes to the fore. They are great technicians, good at multi-tasking and versatile. They like what they do, and the words “once a treasurer, always a treasurer” could well apply to them. Hyper-technicians who might suffer from boredom in any other section of finance department or any other job, even the CFO’s job. They like the diverse nature of their job and think it the best job in finance, without being arrogant or thinking that they are the most indispensable. They are aware of their role, but do not see themselves as being key to the whole finance department. They see themselves as being a strong and important link in the chain, although many of them often forget all about that, wrapped up in their very specific technical tasks. Treasurers love what they do (sometimes to the point of not being open to change) and might be seen as being victims in a way to their very sexy and attractive jobs. They are therefore loyal, even over the long term, and do not find what they do to be repetitive. They can certainly be grumpy, sometimes. For example, they don’t like new regulations, which they find pointless and restrictive. They criticise them freely, but do not make a big deal of anticipating the potential impact that they may have. They like to moan after the fray without having tried to avoid it. Typically, they complain after the event. They are more reactive than proactive. Don’t ask them to be the ones to kick off the revolution, unless it is to be a peaceful and gentle revolution. They therefore have strong although not outgoing personalities, and it would not be wrong to say that they are not the greatest communicators in existence in finance. This is one of their weak points, and they know perfectly well that it is something they need to work on. They know full well that communication, both internal and external, is vital these days. They show restraint because CFOs often see their treasury departments, just as they do their accountancy or consolidation departments, as being necessary but not very interesting. Treasury department, which may be seen as a bit mysterious, does not greatly interest all CFOs. The financing aspect, perhaps, because it is more crucial than the rest. This lack of interest often forces treasurers in particular to “sell” their projects better than their colleagues do. They don’t like doing it, however. The evidence suggests they do not understand what is needed to defend their projects, or even worse what is needed to “sell” them. 

They manage financial risk, and they like doing that. That does not make them adrenalin junkies. They are often opposed to risk and they like to adhere to the policies and principles laid down. They are anything but rebels. They are loyal lieutenants, on whom you can rely. They could be criticised for a lack of boldness and creativity. They are often not the pioneers who push the boundaries in treasury management. They are great fans of spreadsheets and firmly believe that their own are perfect and completely reliable. 

To sum up, treasurers might briefly be described as lovable, discreet, competent, loyal and reliable, while at the same time being hyper-technicians. They should certainly work on raising their profile in the eyes of their colleagues, to attain a standing more in keeping with their skills. The financial crisis and a few burdensome financial regulations have helped with that. Their position has improved and their role has gained greater recognition over the years. It is over to them to take it further and achieve the status that they ought to have, perhaps questioning themselves every so often. But here again, you will have realised, this is not something that comes naturally to them. They need to step outside their comfort zone, because with a bit more creativity, desire for change and boldness, they could make themselves indispensable and even more highly regarded.