Get to know Luke Derham - Treasury Manager, Stockland

1. What made you decide to follow a career in treasury?

I grew up in outback WA near Kalgoorlie, the middle son of a GP and nurse – I had absolutely no desire to see blood, so that ruled out medicine! Dad was constantly being called out to mining accidents or car crashes, and I knew from an early age that was just not for me.

I always enjoyed wheeling and dealing, and by 12 my brother and I had set up a successful lawn mowing and window washing business. The local resi’s loved the idea of kids working in their yard, so the marketing aspect of the business was taken care of! The town only had about 1200 locals, so everybody knew everybody and there was a strong sense of community. We still have a laugh about two kids and a dog pushing a mower from one side of town to the other.

Fast forward 15 years – I had always been fascinated with Asian culture, so I picked up a degree in Chinese and Finance. I completed the second half in Beijing on a Curtin Business School scholarship, which was a very interesting experience. I took a year off after uni to travel and spent most of my time living in New York. That was when the GFC hit – not the best time to travel as my savings literally halved! But interesting to be in the thick of it as my apartment was 5 blocks away from Wall Street.

I returned to Perth to embark on a career, and shortly after an opportunity opened at a Chinese mining company seeking a Treasury Analyst. Admittedly I knew very little about Treasury, but upon researching the role it seemed to incorporate all the aspects I was looking for in a career. I was fortunate to have a very good manager and senior colleague who both quickly became mentors. They are still working together in Treasury 10 years later but at a different company!

2. What are the most enjoyable and also the most challenging aspects of treasury?

Treasury captures all of the aspects that I enjoyed from studying finance, accounting, and economics, as well as offering opportunities to be creative, roll up your sleeves and get involved in the business in a direct manner. These aspects were key to me –I wanted to be dealing with people on a personal level and making a valuable contribution through my performance.

Treasury as a market facing function provides many opportunities to meet with a variety of enterprises and organisations in different forms – negotiating deals with banks, working through exciting projects utilising market leading consultants, and liaising with knowledgeable accounting and law firms can be very rewarding. There are also terrific opportunities available to socialise with other Treasurers and discuss challenges in the current market and solutions to those challenges – one of the great opportunities of being involved with the FTA!

For me the challenges for Treasury are maintaining a robust strategic function that acts jointly as a safeguard for the business whilst providing tangible economic value. The appropriate management of financial and technological risks both internal and external is key, while simultaneously demonstrating to the CFO and board that investing in their Treasury team has a direct impact on shareholder return.

3. What is your view for developing yourself to continue to be a successful treasurer?

I think continuous improvement should always be front of mind for the treasurer – upskilling of both soft skills and hard skills where appropriate, and keeping involved in industry relevant events.

I am a strong advocate of mentorship and completing a post-grad study in a related field – I completed an AMCT diploma in corporate treasury and a CPA and from my experience have found these have directly assisted my understanding and development as a corporate treasurer.

Particularly for younger members of the FTA I would recommend investigating such educational opportunities, as well as educational and mentorship programs provided by the FTA.

4. What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their treasury career?

I think Treasury is an exciting career path that will offer a variety of opportunities for career development and personal growth – its allows for diversity across almost any industry, as well as translatable business and risk management skills which are integral in a rapidly evolving business space.

One of the issues on the table at present is how AI will affect future jobs – so young people need to take care in considering what kind of career they want, and what it may look like in the future.

It’s interesting to try and conceive how the world may look going forward – in reflection of the last 10 years with the rise of the FAANG corps, shared services including Uber and Airbnb, China’s evolution, and an almost zero interest rate economy …what could happen in the next 10? The rise of Ai, flying driverless cars, Trumpenomics and the next generation of tech-savvy coding literate creative millennials is certainly a recipe for an exciting change!

In my view treasury will remain an integral function within these evolving markets, as the growing need for risk management, stewardship and strategy will be pertinent in the years to come.

5. As the Chair of the NSW Committee, what are your hopes for the year ahead?

I’m a strong believer in teamwork and from experience believe that anything is possible when people work together. The recent FTA conference at Gold Coast was an excellent example of the opportunities for new learnings and development, networking and a rewarding social time for all involved.

I would really like to see more of this in 2019 on a state level – my hope is in 2019 the NSW Treasury community get involved with the FTA as much as possible and recognise the intrinsic value inherent in the organisation – which is really motivated by member involvement!

We, the committee will endeavour to provide opportunities for all members to participate in throughout the year, to provide keynote speakers who will deliver on the relevant topics to assist in the day to day management of successful treasury bodies, as well as important networking events – as Chairman I would only ask you to make the effort to attend, and contribute your own ideas and feedback !

Through all of us working together, in the same direction, anything is achievable. 2019 – year of the pig!

Get to know Mike Christensen - FTA President & Director

What made you decide to follow a career in treasury?Mike Christensen

Like many people, I have had a few career “phases.” My first phase was as in banking. After graduating with an economics degree in the middle of the early 1990’s recession, I was lucky enough to start off as an ANZ graduate trainee and was rotated around the bank from branch teller to SME lending to credit and more! I loved SME lending and I got to spend time with various businesses ranging from engineering firms to property developers to truck drivers. I have a real passion and respect for small business as both my father and father-in-law were owners of small businesses. As exciting as banking in suburban Brisbane was, my wife (then girlfriend) convinced me to apply for 12 months leave without pay and apply for a UK working visa with the intention of extensive travel.

So I became one of the many Aussie backpackers descending on London at the time. It took some convincing as I thought I’d be jeopardising my career by leaving the bank and taking a “gap year” off, but in the end, it was the best decision I (well, my wife) ever made. We travelled for 18 months on an off and in between, I took contract work in banking. This time I worked as a product (management) accountant for various global banks in various financial market groups, from currency and index trading to Latin American Brady bonds. My last role was with Bankers Trust and they asked me to transition a function from their London office to their New York office – so lots of experience and fun! While working for BT overseas I met one of the senior executives from BT Australia and consequently landed a role with BT when I got home (after briefly looking for banking roles in Brisbane to satisfy my family, I quickly demonstrated Sydney was the place to be for broader career opportunities).

Whilst there I started my Masters of Finance with Macquarie University and stumbled across a subject called Corporate Treasury. At the same time, I was getting a bit jaded with banking. I wanted to work for businesses that made stuff rather than businesses that just moved money around! So, inspired by my new awareness of corporate treasury as a profession, I began searching for roles. My breakthrough was starting as an investment dealer for a listed reinsurer but that was a short stepping stone into Westfield’s treasury and then onto DEXUS and the rest is history.

Throughout your career, how have you seen the treasury function evolve?

Far more use of integrated technology, more demands for productivity and efficiency and increasing focus on strategic risk management and business partnering.

What are the most enjoyable and also the most challenging aspects of treasury?

Most enjoyable
1. Helping the business successfully execute on its strategy
2. Building social capital with key stakeholders like the board and investors
3. The variety of work and intellect required to solve problems arising in treasury

Most challenging
1. Keeping up with regulatory, legal and accounting changes
2. Constant awareness of developing talent, internally and externally – treasury is highly specialised therefore succession planning and talent development is a key opportunity/challenge.
3. Constant education around sustainable risk management decision making v short-term decision making driven solely by cost

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their treasury career?

No matter where you are now (starting out or otherwise), my advice is to broaden your horizons, embrace new opportunities, and practice leadership as early and as often as you can.

What was your reasoning for shifting from being a corporate treasurer into consulting and advisory?

Consulting and advisory was the next phase in my career that made sense for me.  I had always wanted to start my own business.  Hence the treasury consulting and advisory piece.  Additionally, after completing the AICD Company Director course, I was fascinated with corporate governance and the role a director plays in an organisation. Hence the board piece. I was also keen to see if I could play a broader role in helping organisations grow. Hence the small to medium enterprise (SME) coaching and consulting piece.

There is a massive need in the marketplace for this offering which can make a huge difference to SME business owners. I chose to be involved with Stellar because I believe the offering is unique and compelling.  I have seen the results first hand.  This is the piece that puts me most outside my comfort zone and therefore where I learn and grow most.  In many ways, it has been the equivalent of completing an MBA but with far more emphasis on practical application than the theory.  All three pieces intersect from time to time which I think makes me more dimensional when I’m with clients. For example, the Stellar network and ecosystem can be very valuable in the board advisory space and visa versa.

As President of the FTA, what are your hopes for the FTA in the year ahead?

Simplistically, I’d like to see the momentum from this year continue into next year and build.  So that means further targeted enhancements of our products and services to our members and customers by continuing to leverage our strategic partner relationships and technology.  i.e. I would like to see our association do the basics very well before we move ahead too quickly.

Personally, I’d like to see more engagement in what I call the bookends of the profession – the cradle to the grave so to speak.  If we can get more senior professionals involved, acknowledged for their professional achievements and sharing their experiences with our younger members and customers that would be a great win.  Of course, that means we also need to engage with younger professionals earlier and have a tailored offering and pathway for them too.

I’d also like to see some broadening of our community without letting go of our core DNA.  Our profession has so much to offer areas outside our core.  For example, the SME market which generally speaking tends to be less mature around financial risk management.  But there are also company directors who may have been less exposed to treasury during their executive careers.  Again, I don’t want developments in these areas to dilute our focus on delivering a great experience to our core.  Broadening our community is more of an aspirational goal.