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ACT Annual Conference 2011: Church and debate
Publication date: 18 May 2011
Aside from the intriguing juxtaposition of ‘finance’ and ‘faith’ that the gala dinner at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral presented, conversation on the floor at this year’s ACT Annual Conference (10th & 11th May) centred around risk, regulation and recovery. (Needless to say, any chatter surrounding the aptness of the dinner venue was blown out of the water on arrival at the stunning Cathedral on the Tuesday evening – in particular once the Dean, The Very Revd Justin Welby, had addressed the ‘congregation’ and revealed his corporate treasury roots.)
During the inaugural plenary, Peter Matza, Head of Publishing at the ACT, ran an interactive session looking at the key items on a corporate treasurer’s agenda today. When assessing their main priorities, a third of the audience (32.9%) plumped for cash management, while funding and risk management garnered 23.7% and 22.3% of the votes respectively. Unsurprisingly, financial strategy (12.8%) and control issues (8.3%) were much lower down on the list.
Although funding was the second highest priority, the findings of the poll around treasury’s ability to raise funds showed that 50.1% of attendees thought it was somewhat easier to access funds today than a year ago, with only 11.6% of respondents saying that in fact it was now harder to raise funds. Elsewhere, though no doubt linked to the question of funding, the corporates confirmed that bank relationships now held far greater sway, with 64.9% of respondents stating that bank relationships had become either more important or much more important to them.
While the banks in the room were largely comforted by the outcome of the polling session, the corporates were in for a reality check when the banks were asked to vote on how effectively their customers manage their business and finance strategies, with 37.5% saying ‘quite effectively’ and 21.1% saying ‘not effectively’. Perhaps the results may have been somewhat different, with less emphasis on the negative, had the votes not been anonymous, but 21.1% seems rather high. So, come on corporates – time waits for no man.
This call to action was echoed by Yuri Polyakov, Head of Risk Solutions Group, Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets in the ‘Risk strategy in a changed financial world’ session on day one, during which Polyakov touched on the meaning of Financial Darwinism. He reminded the audience that it is not about survival of the fittest in the sense that we often perceive it but more about survival through adaptation. Those who can adapt quickly and successfully to the new risk environment will have the best chances of survival.
During Wednesday’s session, ‘The treasurer’s focus in 2011 – positioning for growth’, however, Nigel Youngman, Group Treasurer, G4S shared his aims and ambitions for his company, which stretch far beyond survival, with reducing the company’s dependency on bank finance a key priority. And on the subject of cash management, Youngman was adamant about the goal: ‘right place, right time’.
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