Name: Mairi Gemmell
Degree and university: Strathclyde University, Glasgow
Accountancy & Finance
Job title: Treasury Front Office Manager, Scottish Power Limited
What do you actually do? Treasury is responsible for protecting the group from interest rate and foreign exchange exposures, and for managing the group’s cash flows. As Treasury Front Office Manager I am responsible for ensuring all trades are undertaken to close out known group exposures. On a day-to-day basis this mainly involves foreign currency trading and cash management. Foreign exchange management includes trading a wide range of currencies to meet business requirements. I speak regularly with contacts throughout the business to identify exposures, such as foreign currency contracts, and provide hedging advice and solutions to ensure compliance with group policies. For example, the exchange rate of a foreign currency contract can be locked in using ‘foreign currency forwards’ to ensure we know exactly how much the payment will cost in sterling terms.
Group cash management involves ensuring there are adequate funds available for group activities. This includes cash flow forecasting and regular discussions with business contacts regarding forthcoming projects. I am responsible for initiating, developing and maintaining close bank relationships. I work very closely with the banks to enter into deals on a daily basis and develop new treasury ideas that will benefit the group.
The treasury team role has changed dramatically since the takeover by Spanish company, Iberdrola. This has been an exciting time and has provided many new challenges. Developing a relationship with Iberdrola has introduced the treasury team to new techniques and a different culture.
Would you undertake further traning in order to progress your career? Yes, to date I have gained qualifications with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) and Institute of Internal Auditors (AII).
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? The role of the treasurer is affected by so many internal and external factors. For example, it is important that I am aware of group activities, including major acquisitions and contracts to ensure there is adequate cash available and that any interest rate or foreign currency exposures are managed. Externally, a volatile market provides a particularly interesting time for treasurers.
Treasurers make a lot of decisions that are designed to protect the company from risk, but we are also making decisions that can generate cash savings as well. This is very satisfying and interesting.
There aren’t many downsides! The role can be very demanding with tight time constraints. As the market can move so quickly it is important to react, particularly regarding any financial exposures.
What skills do you need to succeed? It is important to build good relationships both throughout the group and with external parties, therefore good communication skills are vital.
As my career has developed I have gained several more professional qualifications, including the ACT’s AMCT Diploma in Treasury which has meant a lot of studying. This requires time and commitment and can be challenging after a long day in the office!
What advice would you give graduates entering this sector? Treasury has proved to be an environment of continual learning and development. A willingness to learn and to keep up with current affairs and market conditions is vital. Professional exams are demanding, especially when balancing studying with a full-time job, however they are very important in allowing future development and career progression.