Tell us about your career path and what particular experience has been most valuable to you along the way?
I sort of fell into the world of treasury and worked my way through various corporates and areas of treasury. While studying for my degree, I worked first in the back office at a merchant bank and then the accounts team with a view to move into banking after completing my studies. Immediately after my degree I took a year off traveling and when that ended, the banking world was struggling. I was offered an opportunity to work in the EMEA treasury for a global oil business. After 3 years I moved to a Treasury front office role with a spirits and drinks business. I then spent a couple of years as a Treasury Consultant within an IT business, and then finally back to another drinks business which was SABMiller. My final role there was as a procurement treasurer. SABMiller’s central procurement was based in Switzerland and I had moved there to set up the treasury. When AB InBev acquired SABMiller, the team was no longer required and I relocated back to the UK where I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to join the Asahi Breweries Europe Group as the Treasurer.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face?
Internally, the biggest challenge is forecasting accuracy for cash, currency and commodities. However, there have been huge improvements during my time at Asahi. Externally, volatility in the world of commodities – in addition to that there is a lack of a financial market to hedge European barley, which is an issue for us because that is our largest commodity exposure as a brewer.
How is the performance of your treasury group measured?
Cash is very closely monitored and reported monthly to Asahi Group Holdings in Tokyo. Since the Asahi group acquired the Central European businesses from SABMiller for around EUR7 billion, we have been very focused on debt repayment to ensure the Group maintains its credit rating. Therefore, we are clearly focused on cash, using a multi-currency centralised cash pool and then repatriating excess funds back to Tokyo to support the debt repayment. We use certain indicators around FX and commodity risk management – one is naturally around budget rates, but I am actually more interested in our performance versus the market because the risk managers have an element of discretion within policy guidelines.
As a group, we are quite well developed in tracking individual’s performance and career development opportunities. So from my point of view, I am focused on the team’s performance and how they progress within the Group. An important factor to me is when treasury staff move into other areas such as procurement or broader finance. This is certainly also something that the CFO will be looking at to benchmark treasury performance.
We use certain indicators around FX and commodity risk management – one is naturally around budget rates, but I am actually more interested in our performance versus the market because the risk managers have an element of discretion within policy guidelines
What takes up most of your time?
My first more flippant comment would be around the excessive use of emails. The abuse of CC instead of picking up the phone. Although that behaviour is improving there is definitely a focus and discussions around this issue and how people should use the phone rather than writing an email with too many people cc’ed. In terms of a more treasury focus, a key area of my time is spent on the expansion of our commodity risk portfolio. We are looking at all elements that go into brewing with a goal to manage price volatility where possible – obviously we consider aluminium for the cans, energy for our breweries, diesel for logistics and sales team. Another focus is the expansion of working capital opportunities beyond supply chain financing to support Asahi Group Holdings’ cash repatriation requirements and our suppliers. We generate cash all over Europe – not least Central Europe where our main production is – converting it ultimately to Japanese Yen in order to deposit funds back in Asahi Group.
How has technology changed treasury?
Technology is definitely key to our development. The change of control that occurred when Asahi acquired ABEG last year largely coincided with me joining the company, and at that point there was no treasury team. We had no people, no systems, and we had an old cash pool that was set up as part of SABMiller. So it gave us the opportunity to start from scratch. Now, much looks like the old SABMiller format but it gave us the chance to update systems and ensure everything worked for us in commodities, currencies, as well as cash. We have straight-through-processing from the business providing cash, currency or commodity forecasts, which go straight into our systems. We can then hedge the exposures; the trades being matched directly to bank trades, through to settlements and hedge accounting without the need to rekey any of the exposures or trades – it is all automated from forecast to accounting. The treasury team is quite small so we need that level of automation otherwise we cannot handle the volumes, flows, and breath of exposure that we are managing. The key thing in terms of technology is that we wish to remove operational processes. Generally, I hope to see improved cost effective technology around commodity risk management and trading platforms.
What is your favourite hobby or sports team?That would have to be mountain and road bikes, although after various accidents my family would say that it is perhaps safer for me to do my cycling from the sofa, watching it on TV. Then my children take up most of the free time at weekends, taking them to sporting event and various competitions.
What is your dream job?Dream job, obviously my current one. Although Touring car racing would be fun too!
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