Welcome belatedly to 2021. As with everyone I’m sure, it has been a hectic start to the year.
When I wrote this welcome last year, the big external issue was the bushfires – I only briefly mentioned COVID as an emerging risk. None of us at the time had any idea how much of an impact COVID would have or how long it would go on. Clearly, that impact is still being felt in our day-to-day lives, both personally and in our work. How we come out the other side, and what we can learn, are top of mind for all of us. With that in mind, I recently sat down with three of my fellow ACTA Board members – Kurt Smith, Alice Van Der Geest, and Sarah Scopel to discuss where we saw 2021 heading.
What do you see as the big issues for 2021 in Treasury and what are your thoughts on the three key areas of FX, Interest rates, and debt markets.
Kurt – My focus is over the next ten years. In the short term, it’s about interest rates – the RBA has been clear that they intend to keep the yield curve low at the short end for a while and tight swap spreads are likely to continue owing to the level of liquidity in the banking system. This means managing the cost of debt will be dependent on the type of business you are in and the time horizon. For example, with long-term infrastructure businesses, the most cost-effective way to fund in a steepening yield curve with tight swap spreads is by reweighting between fixed and floating-rate exposure. For businesses with FX exposure, taking a longer-term view allows you to look through near-term volatility to establish where forward rates are in relation to the corporate strategy and to long-term trading ranges. For importers, for example, forward contracts will be more attractive towards the top of the trading range, and towards the middle to bottom of the trading, range options will be more attractive provided volatilities and skews are not too large. Active risk managers should be looking for interest rate levels that are consistent with their strategic plan and entering the derivative market at those times rather than waiting for physical issuance or refinancing. The risk ahead is that interest rates increase further and/or faster than is currently priced into the market; and for FX, that the global desire for weaker currencies to support economic growth leads to larger changes in currency relativities.
Alice – There are significant pools of available liquidity across markets globally which is pleasing coming into 2021. Debt investor engagement is vital on an ongoing basis, to enable businesses to present each organisation’s individual response to COVID, and the recovery profile in a post COVID world. It is important to shine light on the Australian context relative to the rest of the world. External marketing is key, especially for new and less frequent borrowers to provide investors with time to complete the required credit work. For me, I have a keen interest in seeing the rollout of the vaccine, its success, and the ability to return the world to a more normal setting. The recent increase in rates, off a low base, with interest rate curves beginning to steepen, so people are starting to be more optimistic – so the question there is, is now the time to lock away term funding? Treasurers must be nimble and agile and manage execution windows
Sarah – If COVID taught us anything, it is to be prepared for the extreme scenarios that are outside the normal bounds, such as what happens if the business completely shuts for a period of time. (Alice, yes, sensitivity norms are now way outside what we are used to). And we need to get everyone onboard faster. We need to educate everyone in our businesses about the need to balance the focus on preserving cash (including minimising cash interest cost), compared with holding a prudent liquidity buffer (that has a cost to hold).
What is the state of funding markets, are liquidity and cost levels back to normal?
Sarah – It all comes down to what sector you are in and whether COVID impacts are permanent or temporary and how easily you can look through the cycle to what conditions will look like once the COVID distribution globally dissipates
Alice – Yes, it comes down to COVID affected vs non-affected. But overall, margins are lower than last year regardless. And that’s on the back of people fighting for yield with QE around the world.
Kurt – if you’re a fund manager looking for yield, it’s almost like equities have less risk than Bonds because the risk on the Bond side is highly asymmetrical because of very low traded yields. Most fund managers don’t have much incentive to go too far down the credit curve to pick up yield – making investment-grade bonds much more attractive than sub-investment grade bonds. I think a low flat yield curve is partly what has fuelled the equity increases as it is almost a lower risk trade than low-yielding bonds. Quite an interesting idea to get your head around!
How is Treasury now viewed within business? Clearly, there was a huge focus in 2020, has that remained early in 2021? Is there a permanent shift in Treasury as a profession and how its viewed?
Sarah – Yes. A greater appreciation for the granular parts of Treasury that we focus on that maybe didn’t get as much attention before, for example, forecasting agility and accuracy, flexibility in documents, not only in relation to covenant headroom but also the reps and warranties. Our ability to forecast and pre-empt outcomes of various scenarios is definitely highly valued – being proactive vs reactive, including with our approach with lenders and rating agencies. Treasury is responsible for managing a key external stakeholder group which is now very well recognised (if it wasn’t already). Conveying the ‘credit’ messaging including a path to recovery from downturns and maintaining credit relationships is key to our roles and I believe general treasury functions are now increasingly recognised as being strategic rather than purely a compliance or reporting function.
Alice – There is nothing like a crisis that shines a light on Treasury, certainly providing an opportunity to have a seat at the table strategically. It is as important to be able to translate treasury issues both Internally and externally. As Treasurers, we are often solutionists, we come up with ideas on responses, our opinions are and should be sought. Our role is to explain it all in simple terms. It’s important to explain the why so that you are supported. So essentially, our ability to influence those key decisions around capital allocation and other strategies is higher than it has ever been.
Sarah – we’re more involved in decisions such as reviewing transactions before they go for approval as people understand the Treasury and capital structure implications better now. There is definitely a higher appreciation for the complexity of Treasury, it’s not about “pressing a button” to release funds.
Kurt – Treasury needs to have strategic influence, no doubt. Operationally, when 99% of the time everything is going well, things aren’t noticed, it’s just normal. Conversely, a 1% compliance breach in Treasury is usually escalated to Board and hence, is quickly noticed. You have to do the operational very well so that you can get access to strategic conversations, and credibility in providing strategic contributions.
It’s all about getting Treasury to the front of the value chain rather than at the end. To Sarah’s point, it’s being involved at the beginning, to influence decisions before they are made.
Treasurers who haven’t previously had access to ExCo or the Board now is a terrific opportunity to change that and have some proactive strategic influence rather than just being operationally reactive.
Looking back on 2020, and in particular, Australia, as an economy, a place to do business, where you get funding, how the financial system works – do you think it all worked, or do you think, gee that was tough and didn’t work as well as we’d like. Did it expose flaws in the system?
Sarah – The support of the financial institutions early, when no one knew what would happen with COVID, was phenomenal – I was working at an organisation where the business ultimately completely shut down with very little notice and the banks were able to navigate around this to provide confidence through the highly uncertain environment which allowed us to focus on returning to reopening and looking after the people in the business. There was Government support at the same time. Thanks to the leadership of the domestic banks, Australian companies were lucky enough to have access to global funding as we were effectively operating in that protected environment.
Alice – While the co-ordination was hard work, things went as well as possible. What was different to normal crises, was that everyone was feeling the same pain from a liquidity point of view. The view across all parties was, let’s work together to get it done. Relationships with lenders matter, it is evident that having strength in the relationship built over time does make it easier, especially in response to a crisis.
Kurt – I think the jury is still out for Australia as an open economy. In the very short term, we’ve done okay. Given the nature of COVID, it has been great to be as isolated as Australia, and probably even more so for me as a West Australian. But, we essentially have an oligopoly in Banking, and the economy has very much been underwritten by taxpayer funds through Government. How that works its way through the economy over the next decade is going to be interesting. COVID levy?
Turning our mind now to 2021 and beyond, have Corporations now turned their minds back to growth?
Alice – cautiously optimistic. I think most still need to see some more proof points that the trajectory is positive. So, you’d be planning for positive, but not yet acting.
Sarah – Again, I think that is sector-specific and also dependent on the competitive dynamics in an industry to be best placed for the world post-COVID.
Kurt – an interesting lead indicator for me are the bank and consulting firms recruiting in industry-facing roles. It seems they are starting now to recruit, and given their exposure to all sectors of the economy, that is a positive. Western Australia has also been performing well economically as the mining sector is quite strong.
Any last thoughts?
Alice – I think we need to focus on our Treasury teams, there could be increased external opportunities. Make sure you do your bit to look after good people
Kurt – for the ACTA, we need to keep thinking about how we are positioned to help our Community.
Kurt’s last point is a key one. As a professional association, our role is to provide services to our Community. With that in mind, a number of deliverables for 2021 are very exciting.
We will soon be advising details of our Certification program, offering a true learning and consolidation experience for Treasurers. Not only will this program provide education, it will give the Treasury community recognition of the individuals within it as professionals in their own right, as we see with accountants, engineers, and lawyers.
We are super keen to begin bringing back face to face networking and CPD opportunities. This will always be carried out with the best health and safety requirements top of mind, and will also provide options for people who are unable to be face to face. Our digital experience over the past 12 months has been a big plus and we plan to make the best use of it!
And we are planning on Conference for 2021 to be bigger and better than ever. Notwithstanding any further changes to restrictions and requirements, we will be in Melbourne, at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from November 30, bringing our usual world-class program and exhibitors back to a face-to-face experience. As with the above comment though, we will also be managing risk by having alternatives available should they be needed.
I am immensely proud of what we have been able to achieve over the past 12 months as an industry, but I am excited for the coming 12 months ahead and how the Australian Corporate Treasury Association can assist you and your organisation to stay informed, stay connected, and continue to deliver in your vital role in the Treasury profession, all of us being part of Australia’s Treasury Community.
Australian Corporate Treasury Association
We are excited to announce that we have changed our name from the Finance and Treasury Association Limited (FTA), to the Australian Corporate Treasury Association Limited (ACTA).
Over the past 20 months as the Board has deliberated on its strategy, and it became clear that the future for the association is not to be a ‘broad church’ but to focus on treasury, at all levels and to those in that treasury ecosystem (eg tech and product providers, banks, legal specialists, consultants). This led to a change in our stated purpose ‘to be Australia’s Treasury Community’ and now, to a name change to the Australian Corporate Treasury Association which ties this all together, and to show who we are, and who we are here for – an Association for Treasury professionals, to drive the profession forward.
Our new logo is the one element that unifies and represents our brand and our vision.
The Australian Corporate Treasury Association has a longstanding place within the Treasury community in Australia; started in 1982 as The Currency Club, the club was formed following the Aussie dollar being floated in the early 80’s, and with financial deregulation, there was a need in those early years to bring a community together to help each other navigate the new world.
It grew quickly, and in 1985 the Australian Society of Corporate Treasurers was born. In 1988 it hosted its First Annual Congress and has run continuously now for 33 years straight.
In 1998, with the continued evolution of the Treasury role, the name was changed to the Finance and Treasury Association, the FTA. The Finance part of the name was introduced to reflect the broader Financial Risk Management role of treasurers and to try to broaden the appeal of the Association to the finance community.
In hindsight, the addition of Finance to the title has taken the focus away from the association’s core mandate, being a place of education, training, and networking for Treasury professionals and those in the Treasury eco-system. Treasury in itself is a profession and function found across Australian business, from the large ASX companies, down to small family-owned SME’s – regardless of what they call the function. Within those Treasury, functions sit roles of many names and descriptions, not just Treasurers, hence the reference to Treasury as all-encompassing.
The rename from the Finance and Treasury Association Limited (FTA) to the Australian Corporate Treasury Association Limited (ACTA) was officially endorsed at the annual general meeting in December 2020.
Through both the GFC of 2008 and the pandemic of 2020, Australia has been reminded of the importance and value of Treasury and treasury professionals in Corporate Australia.
Don’t forget to Like and follow us on social media (@actatreasury) and to keep an eye out for our newly branded social posts to ensure you stay up to date with the latest news from the Australian Corporate Treasury Association.
Over the coming months you will see the new branding used, and updates to our website, including the member portal, so make sure you keep an eye out on social media, and we encourage you to take a look at the member forum (by signing in via the member portal) to discuss front of mind topics with your peers.
We hope you like the new look.
Australian Corporate Treasury Association
We want to thank each of you for your continued support of the Finance and Treasury Association in 2020. This was a challenging year in many ways for all of us, our shared organisation no different. While those challenges remain, we are well placed for 2021 and have some exciting developments in store for the year.
Striving to always improve our service, we want to check in with you and hope that you can spare 10 minutes to complete our Member Satisfaction Survey. It covers engagement, value and member services and will help us ensure we are meeting your expectations.
The survey is anonymous however if you’d like to be in the draw to win one of two $100 JB HI-FI e-Gift Cards, there is a chance to add your contact details at the end. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I look forward to publishing the survey results with you.
Finance and Treasury Association
Hope everyone is doing well in what no doubt has been a busy last couple of months in the FY changeover period. Not to mention the extraordinary time we are in!
At FTA our focus is on continuing to deliver CPD and other services to you digitally during this lockdown/WFH time. Our calendar is full as you will see from webinars and our other programs such as Treasury Management and Fundamentals. Please keep looking out for these, continuing professional development is something that is never not needed.
The big thing right now though is the work on Conference. Hopefully, you’re all seeing our updates, we’re extremely proud of, and excited by, the program that has now been developed. When we have speakers of the caliber of Kevin Rudd, Stephen Koukoulos, and Matt Gertken, and case studies from businesses such as Coles and Oil Search, you know its going to be great.
Please jump on board, we can’t wait to see everyone there – the interaction and networking is also fantastic on our platform.
Getting to know the Young Leaders Committee
It has been an honour to be the first female Chair of the Young Leaders Committee for the FTA. The opportunity to collaborate with and work alongside such a high caliber of young professionals in the Treasury industry has been both rewarding and fulfilling.
What I enjoy about being part of this Committee is the immense talent, diversity of skills, and strong work ethic each member shares, tantamount to their professional careers and development.
Our committee has worked successfully towards our FY20 objectives of educating our local students and empowering young professionals in our industry to aspire to succeed in their career – which is what makes me truly proud of being part of the FTA community.
Therefore, I would like to extend my special thanks to Kirsty, Toby, Andrew, and Piero for all your tremendous efforts and commitment over the past year. I have been thrilled to participate in and observe the development of this committee, as we aspire towards becoming future leaders in the Corporate Treasury and Finance space in Australia.
When I first began my journey in the FTA community, I was extremely lucky to be part of the mentorship program as a mentee. Notwithstanding my previous experiences of mentorship programs earlier in my career in Banking, I was able to really distinguish and relate to the philosophy of mentorship. The FTA matched me with an influential Corporate Treasurer as my mentor. I recall feeling immediately impressed not just by her successful career, but most importantly her passion in fulfilling her role as a devoted mother and having such a warm bubbly personality! I was inspired instantly and understood that was the same magnitude of energy and presence I would like to demonstrate as a future mentor.
Over the past year attending educational FTA seminars, networking events, webinars, and conferences it has been such a rewarding experience since I joined the Association. These opportunities in meeting incredible professionals in the corporate industry have created lasting impressions as I continue to support and advocate the Treasury Profession.
Despite the immediate global challenges this year, the Young Leaders Committee has committed to keeping us at the forefront of this dramatically evolving environment. With a variety of concerning the industry, risks have never been so prevalent that the reliance on sound Finance and Treasury professionals has never been so demanding.
Our aim is to continue to empower young professionals, aspiring students as well as the rest of our Treasury community to continue to strive for excellence in their current and future careers, as well as their corporate service – We, will continue to promote our committee in FY21 through the communication of our innovative ideas, collaboration with our extensive FTA network, and ultimately demonstration of our financial stewardship through our industry experience.
I look forward to seeing the YLC continue to develop and contribute exciting outcomes to the FTA community in the coming Financial Year.
Have you seen and explored the new Member Portal? Behind the scenes, we have been working hard to bring you a more streamlined and Member friendly portal. Included in the recent upgrades has been the inclusion of a Member Forum for the Australian Treasury Community.
Ask questions, or create a new discussion thread. The Member Forum is the place to engage with the Australian Treasury Community.
How to Subscribe –
You can choose to receive an update each time a comment is made in all Forum Threads by clicking ‘Subscribe for new topics’ found on the Forum Home Page, under Finance & Treasury Associaiton (as above); alternatively you can select which Threads you only wish to receive updates from by clicking on your chosen Thread (eg General Treasury) and clicking on ‘Subscribe for new topics’.
If you would like to create a new Topic, you can do this by selecting ‘Add topic’ in the top right corner of your chosen Thread.
We encourage you to sign in and join the conversation here.
In November the inaugural virtual FTA Conference 2020 is taking place. I have been involved in a number of FTA conferences over the years and it has been inspiring to work on this initiative, helping the FTA executives and the conference committee pull together an event creating an opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of attending a conference as we have shared in the past, this time virtually. I am excited we will have the benefit of a virtual conference which will not be a series of webinars, but an opportunity to hear presentations, interact with panels (many of who will be on a live stage), have one on one sessions with our exhibitors, and our peers.
Even though we have been put in a position to run the conference in this way, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outcome is an opportunity to have an event where we can reach an even greater audience than has been possible in the past. Yes, the networking will be different, but it will be there, it will be an opportunity to share the stories and experiences that enrich our attendance. The conference committee has pulled together a technical program that is packed full of content and insights from your treasury peers (over 20 corporate treasurers supported 22 experienced treasury professionals) by sharing their experiences while developing a view on what the future of treasury may look like. This is complemented by our inspirational/experienced speakers focusing on economics, global relations, the outcome of the US elections and our future. Finally, I must, in advance, thank our sponsors and exhibitors, they are making a contribution to the content, offering virtual experiences, and providing support in a number of other ways.
Book your place today – www.ftaconference.com.au
Do you have an upcoming role you need to advertise? We’re pleased to offer companies the chance to promote their new listings on the FTA jobs board. Find out more by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have recently changed our mailing address and contact phone number. Please ensure you have also updated your records to ensure your communications to the Association are received in a timely manner.
Our new mailing address:
PO Box 21003
Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne VIC 8011
Our new phone number:
+61 (03) 9132 5240
A MESSAGE TO THE AUSTRALIAN TREASURY COMMUNITY
FY20 is about to come to a close, and I’m sure you would all agree this has been one of the most challenging years the world has had to face in a very long time. However, for the FTA and the treasury community, the challenges have been tackled head-on, and we have emerged stronger and more confident in the importance and relevance of our profession.
Firstly, a huge thank you to the staff, board, and committee members who have helped the FTA navigate these troubled times. Without their support, the FTA would not be in the strong position that it is. We have had a huge increase in the online delivery of events, with weekly webinars, and the Treasury Management Course being delivered virtually since the crisis hit. We were on the front page of the AFR, highlighting the very important issues facing Corporate Australia, and hosted top-level talks with senior treasurers across Australia.
The FTA is stronger than ever
I am pleased to report the FTA is about to close yet another profitable year, and has a strong cash and capital position to see us through this crisis and emerge on the other side stronger than ever. A huge thank you to our members and sponsors for their continued support. This will allow the FTA to further invest in the treasury profession and execute on its strategy over the next few years.
Treasury is more important than ever
The global pandemic has reminded the government and business community of the importance of treasury professionals. As they say, you should never waste a good crisis, and no doubt the next few years will see governments and corporations reflecting on lessons learned. Treasurers should be asking for more resources to invest in people, policies, processes, and systems in order to strengthen the treasury function and prepare businesses for the roadmap out of the crisis. To further support this, the FTA is executing its strategic objective to create a formal qualification for certified treasury professionals – watch this space as we plan to launch this exciting initiative later this calendar year.
Virtual FTA Conference 2020.
Back in March this year, as the FTA board met to discuss strategy, the first critical decision we made was to make FTA Conference 2020 an online only event. The conference committee has pulled together a fantastic program and the technology platform promises to deliver everything an in-person conference would offer, and more! Networking will be much more targeted as you can connect with other attendees virtually over the 3 days. If you haven’t checked out the event details, here is a link on how to register.
Renew your membership!
To those members who continue to support the FTA – thank you! For those who have yet to commit, we invite you to renew and continue to support the treasury community – you have 1 more day to claim that tax deduction!
Happy EOFY to all, and wishing you all the best for FY21.
Steven Cunico, FFTP
Broadening Eligibility of Corporate Debt Securities as Collateral for Domestic Market Operations
A great step forward for Australian Corporates was announced yesterday. Australia’s corporate Treasury community has been working hard with bodies such as the RBA over recent times, and this announcement is a very welcome one.
The announcement advises that as a way of assisting with the smooth functioning of Australian capital markets, the Reserve Bank has broadened the range of corporate debt securities that are eligible as collateral for domestic market operations to investment grade.
Chief Executive Officer
Finance and Treasury Association
The Australian Corporate Treasury Association had the pleasure to host a number of Melbourne’s Senior Treasurers last night, representing some of the countries largest corporates.
The evening was full of fantastic discussion around the table on what the key issues effecting treasurers, treasuries and their business including the impact of Corona virus; the low interest rate environment, and the fact that it impacts not just borrowing; what would a negative rate environment look like and the need for an industry view; benchmark rate changes, when, how; ESG for both sides of the balance sheet; the shallow market currently existing for business with lower ratings; the advantages of Treasurers working in Investor Relations; supply change finance – reporting and implications of that, effect on ratings, possible change to accounting standards?
Thanks to Alice Van Der Geest, Uri Gordon, Shane Healey, Mark Tarlinton, Diane Crossley, Kim Kerr, Darren Murphy, Peter Kopanidis, Martin Dunton, Andrew Vandeligt, Karen Jordan, and Steven Cunico for your insights.
We look forward to doing it again, starting in Sydney in April!
In these uncertain times, the Treasury function is as important as ever to every Australian business. If you have been impacted in your role by the current pandemic, we want to help.
Just as individuals have been impacted, so too have many Treasuries been impacted with extra responsibility and are as such resource poor. The FTA would like to bring together prospective employees and employers to match up capabilities and needs on both sides.
So if your team needs an extra set of hands to help with the day to day; or if you are looking for work, contact the FTA, Australia’s Treasury Community.
Do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
Chief Executive Officer
Finance and Treasury Association
I’m writing to update you on the FTA response to the growing COVID-19 threat. Given the amount of information you are already receiving, I will keep this brief.
From a resource perspective, we are very small, but we are now working separately to each other, while maintaining member servicing. While this is important for the well being of the team, it is vital that we play our part in restricting the spread of the virus through our communities, and therefore to those most vulnerable people. This is something we feel very strongly about and believe everyone should be undertaking where possible.
For our members and Treasury community, we are working hard to ensure ongoing value and a continuing viable business. To that end we are
- Not holding any face to face meetings or functions from March 16 until May 31 unless advised by authorities that it has become safe to do so. We will further advise any addition to this.
- Working hard on delivering an increased online CPD program via increased numbers of webinars and content sharing
- Exploring ways to deliver other educational programs in a virtual or online environment
- Finalising improvements to our website including a communications forum to facilitate online networking and discussion
On behalf of the Board, I thank you all for your ongoing support, and while we consider these steps to be the only option for our wider community, we do apologise for any disruption this may cause.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe, take care of each other – we look forward to resuming normal programs as soon as possible.
Chief Executive Officer
Finance and Treasury Association