In 2011, after more than nine years running treasury and risk management in one of the largest construction companies in Poland, Skanska SA, I was invited to start the company’s operations in Romania, which would be concerned with construction and office development. The idea was to establish and finance an organisation that could support a medium-sized business with a turnover of EUR 50-100m and approximately 150 employees.
By early 2012 there were six of us who were to start this venture for Skanska. It was the company’s first greenfield entry in a new country in over 20 years, so we had to make our plans as we went along. Finance had to cover all three of the main activities: accounting (and reporting), management and treasury.
The starting point was very simple: we had bank accounts with one international bank and a small accountancy firm looking after the accounts. IFRS compliance was carried out manually in Excel.
When establishing finance and treasury I always had in mind where and how finance is established in an organisation: are we back office, front office? But I strongly believe that this question is no longer relevant. A modern organisation cannot function without finance. In order to describe the finance function, I like to use the ‘pit stop’ concept, imagining that our company is a Formula One team, competing against all the other teams. The most visible person is the driver – he/she is driving to win. This could be our sales people or project managers. But the driver will never win the race without her/his team. You need someone to prepare everything – the car, the fuel, the tyres, and you will have people like those in the pit stop who are visible plus the rest of the crew who are hidden but essential. The same is true of your company: do you actually see treasury performing? Most of the time you don’t, but if proper cash management is not in place, your company will go bankrupt very quickly.