‘Mike knows my achievements and the clients who need me.’
An interview with Stephen Long; Group Treasurer, Williams Lea Tag
How did you and Mike Richards, CEO of The Treasury Recruitment Company meet?
Mike Richards and I first met when he worked at Robert Walters back in 1999. I’d been working in Banking and corporate treasury at that point, and we both knew Nigel Hopkins, an outstanding treasury recruitment specialist who went on to place me in my first treasury role. I was sort of bequeathed to Mike by Nigel who was retiring, and I’ve never looked back.
How would you describe your career path within Treasury?
Approximately twenty years ago, Mike placed me in a role as a treasury officer where I quickly gained experience in liquidity management. I learned, as part of a good treasury team, to support each other, learn from each other and grow together. My next role, at English China Clays PLC (ECC) was a great environment with a fantastic “family” team. Mike phoned following a French buyout at ECC. I remember him saying: “you need to go and work in Telecoms, the sexy industry” with the experience I had gained at ECC it gave me a real stepping stone into a company as huge as MCI Worldcom.
At MCI Worldcom I put in the Banking structure that their new owners, Verizon, still use to this day. I’m proud of that. It also gave me a hunger for problem-solving so I asked Mike about interspersing consultancy/project roles after this.
What’s different about treasury consultancy roles to working in-house?
I’d say you can really make a difference to the long-term futures of companies. I started with KPMG setting up their first UK Treasury team and then moved to a company called Charter, where I had to untangle a treasury system made up of disparate Excel spreadsheets left behind by an infamous Treasury Manager. Let’s say there were inconsistencies…
Consultancy can also give you rapid promotions too. In my next role, I received a call back from Genworth from an interview I initially did not get (despite Mike’s best efforts) just two weeks after rejection. They’d promoted within and needed a Cash Manager urgently. It was the position I’d interviewed for, but I became a stand-alone project manager within weeks. I was embedded in the company, working on lifestyle and mortgage insurance risk, and I really enjoyed it. The people I met there were fantastic.
What advice would you give someone trying to decide which job to take?
I read something on LinkedIn recently about how important it is to find yourself a great boss. In 2012 I went for an interview with the VP of Finance at Invensys, Karl Fenlon who subsequently moved onto the University of Surrey and Claire Moore who remains at Schneider Electric. Mike had told them all about me, and he said to me “I want you to hear it from them and see what you think of Karl and Claire.”
I ended up working for a boss who empowered me, trusted my abilities and it was so refreshing. An important part was how Mike knew all my achievements, my strengths and weaknesses, and he knew about matching me with the right client.
I guess, a second piece of advice is to find a recruiter who deals honestly with you and employers, someone who is familiar with all the players. For me, treasury is all about the relationships you have because the jobs are interchangeable between industry, company and technology. Mike has the relationships in place to make getting the jobs easy.
Now that you are in ‘the big chair’ have you used The Treasury Recruitment Company to hire?
Yes! In my current role as Global Treasurer for Williams Lea Tag, I phoned them when I needed to hire a Treasury Analyst.
Mike’s colleague Danielle really knows that level of the market, she chatted through the candidates with me, and the great thing about the relationship we have is they just really tell me what they are like. They explain to candidates “why a position is right for them” and this is key. However, when hiring I wanted a straight-up assessment of why she had chosen the candidates. As a result of our chats, which feels more as if I’m asking a friend, I went into the interviews with strategies to open up and get the best out of the candidates.
I’m incredibly pleased with the person I’ve hired. It was an interesting hire, because I wouldn’t say I hired the candidate as a result of the interview. Not everyone who is a great employee is a star at interview. I needed to incorporate Danielle’s assessment even more, in this instance with what my own instincts were telling me. I learned a lot from that experience.
Why have you stayed with The Treasury Recruitment Company over the years?
Let’s put it this way, in the world of treasury recruitment there are occasional ‘bad apples’ you try to avoid. Mike isn’t one of them. Treasury is a unique area – you kind of grow to know everyone in it (by reputation if nothing else). People move between companies as opportunities arise and it’s interesting at that point because you’ll perhaps know members of staff at your new job. We all attend the same conferences and banking dinners, which eventually become like catching up with old friends. Mike’s my go-to person if I need to know anything. He knows everyone, and they all like him too!
“Mike’s my go-to person if I need to know anything. He knows everyone, and they all like him too!”
Would you say Mike’s become a ‘thought leader’ for the industry?
Yes. He’s always looking to push the boundaries. He’s always looking for new ways to engage people. He’s a LinkedIn doyenne and strongly believes developing a personal brand will help you advance. He’s even convinced me to change my profile picture!
Stephen Long is Group Treasurer at Williams Lea Tag since September 2017.