Name: Christopher Wright
Degree and university: Joint Honours Degree in Law and Economics at Keele University, Staffordshire, UK.
Job Title: Group Treasurer at SSP Group Ltd
What do you actually do? SSP Group Ltd is an international food and beverage concession business that runs restaurants, catering outlets and convenience stores in travel locations in 30 countries throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. SSP was formally a division of a large FTSE 100 listed Group but was sold to a Private Equity buyer in June 2006 in a deal primarily funded by Debt (a ‘leveraged buyout’). It is my role to ensure that we continue to meet our obligations under this debt facility; to use cash as efficiently as possible within the Group, to ensure the various operating businesses remit cash back to the centre to meet our interest obligations, to ensure that the business is not exposed to movements in interest rates or FX rates, and to provide advice to the various subsidiaries regarding their retail banking requirements.
Did you always want to work in this sector? By my final year of university I had decided that I wanted to go into the retail/FMCG business and started investigating a number of graduate schemes with large companies. I had decided that traditional accountancy (i.e. auditing) was not for me, but saw The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) stand at our University careers fair and was attracted by their qualification and different focus. At the time I applied for university I was interested in studying law but was unsure as to whether I would enjoy it enough to make a career out of it. I had enjoyed studying economics at A-Level so decided to study both to broaden my options. Looking through the UCAS guide, I saw that many universities offered dual honours courses where you could initially study both subjects before majoring in one of them, but only a small number offered a true joint honours course, allowing you to study both subjects in full, so I focused my attention on these, selecting Keele as my first choice.
Would you undertake furhter study to gain advancement? I already have. After graduating from university, I joined the Finance Graduate Management scheme at Safeway PLC, undertaking a number of management accounting roles whilst completing my CIMA (management accounting) exams. Having completed the scheme I was offered the permanent role of Treasury Accountant, and as I had no previous experience in Treasury I persuaded my employer to pay for me to study the Association of Corporate Treasurer’s (ACT) core qualification – the AMCT Diploma in Treasury. Over the past six years I have focused on building up my practical experience, but do intend to take the MCT Advanced Diploma, the ACT’s full membership level qualification in the next couple of years.
What do you most enjoy about what you do and are there any downsides? What I enjoy most is the sheer variety of the work that comes across my desk and the interaction with and opportunity to influence the most senior members of SSP’s management team. The opportunity to travel to our various subsidiaries around the world is also a bonus.
Due to the variety of work that I get involved in, and the pace at which we operate, I find myself being much more of a generalist than I would naturally like to be, but have been able to overcome this by recruiting a strong team and developing a number of relationships with specialists that I can count on if I need to look at a particular piece of work in greater detail. Treasury is definitely not a 9 to 5 job and a good deal of commitment is required to get to the highest levels of the profession.
What do you think you need to succeed? Excellent organisation and time management, a good ability to influence others, a sound understanding of treasury fundamentals, and an ability to connect the theory learned to the commercial organisation.
Would you like to add anything? The treasury function tends to be fairly small and specialised in even the largest of companies, and straight from university graduate opportunities are rare, so I would personally recommend studying for a qualification such as CIMA first before applying for a treasury role. This will give you greater breadth in the roles that you can apply for, understanding how to account for treasury activities will give you an advantage, and the qualification will help further down the career path when applying for a manager role.