People, Treasury

3 Ways in Making the MNC Regional Treasury Role More Rewarding

November 06, 2017
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3 Ways in Making the MNC Regional Treasury Role More Rewarding

Join our effort to keep regional treasury center jobs compelling.

One of the differences between Singapore and Hong Kong in terms of treasury center incentives is that Singapore still requires some headcount. But what kind of headcount and in what kind of roles? Will team members have compelling work to do and a strategic regional treasurer to lead them?

For the last seven years, NeuGroup has run an Asia Treasury Peer Group for MNC regional treasurers, mostly those supporting our member companies in the US from Singapore. Over that time, we’ve witnessed several trends that are impacting the role of regional treasurers for better or worse. Here are three:

1) Expat to local hires. Over the years, there has been a greater shift to MNCs hiring or elevating local talent to the regional treasurer job. One reason is cost, but the other is that local talent is of a high caliber. Local hires also limit the sense of the regional treasury being an “education abroad program.” The flip side is that if the regional treasurer role is not made compelling with rewarding career paths, these local hires eventually feel the need to look elsewhere, including at firms headquartered locally that may offer them a more senior role (or a better path to it). We’ve seen a number of our members leave MNC regional roles for more senior titles with firms based in Asia, including those that are looking to become multinationals themselves. Fintech and other start-ups being promoted in Singapore and elsewhere also beckon.

2) More to it than education abroad. One treasurer of a Fortune 50 company in the US once told me he would never consider setting up a regional treasury center except as a means to offer a “study abroad program” to his team. Of course, few CFOs are going to sign off on such an agenda, so these firms tend to keep most of treasury centralized at the head office. Not all treasurers in the US hold a similar view about a treasury stint in the region, but the view clearly is out there. 

Not everyone sees the value of a regional treasury center, apart from the tax incentives and the marginal benefit of having operating capabilities in different time zones. Nor does a regional center with real decision-making power fit every company’s organizational model. But those that try to make it work can find their regional treasurers making a significant contribution to expanding business in Asia.

 3) Business support as job one. More and more of the regional treasurer’s value-enhancing role is made up of business support activities, ranging from advising on changing financial regulations impacting business to arranging customer, distributor and supplier financing using the best mix of solutions from global, regional and local banks, plus regional capital markets where relevant. Indeed, one of our member regional treasurers works for a company where financing of equipment priced at millions of dollars is critical to sales. Having someone in region to help close strategic sales with the business leads also based there helps to cement the idea of a strategic regional treasury. On the other hand, if business leadership and strategic decisions are not found and being made in region, then it’s going to be more challenging for the regional treasurer to be a leading business support partner. 

Also, increasingly, upward movement in treasury roles require that you rotate outside treasury into the business. If there are no business finance roles to be rotated into to move upward, regional treasury jobs can lead to a career dead end.

One NeuGroup member guest addressing our Asia Treasury Peer Group recently explained his company’s aversion to a regional treasury center as follows: “All of the finance team and the business leadership are centralized at headquarters, so it would be very difficult for a person in Asia to be made part of the team.” In such organizations, it’s almost impossible to create a rewarding regional treasury role. “It wouldn’t really be fair to that person, if we did hire them for such a role,” this treasurer added.

With these trends in mind, NeuGroup sees a mandate to work with MNCs and regional treasuries to make the regional treasurer role more rewarding. We can do this by encouraging knowledge exchange on how others are going about this and spotlighting value created by professionals in these roles currently. If we don’t do this, the never-ceasing impulse to centralize treasury, enabled by Robotic Process Automation tools that don’t mind working around the clock, will further erode the regional treasurer’s career mandate. Meanwhile, the jobs created by the Finance and Treasury Centre incentive in Singapore will prove less rewarding. I welcome examples and thoughts on how to counter this in the comments below, or you can reach out to me directly.

about author

Joseph Neu is Founder and CEO of NeuGroup, a US company dedicated to connecting leaders in treasury and finance to share knowledge and experience to better their companies and careers. Since 1994, NeuGroup has been building forums and relationships with multinational treasury professionals that encourage value creation with knowledge exchange. Mr. Neu can be reached via