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Corporate treasury: The voice of reason

It is always nice to feel appreciated. And in the go-go days of the recent boom years not everybody was. While proponents of exotic financial engineering attracted rapt attention from both buy and sell side, others found their input rather less valued. Among them were many CFOs, who struggled to make their voices heard in the rush to lever up.

But the harsh new post-boom reality has changed all that. While many structuring supremos have slunk away to lick their wounds, corporate treasurers are finding a sudden audience for their opinions.

"In a downturn the voice of the finance function gets heard," said Doug Smailes, group treasurer at Anglo American, at a recent Euromoney conference in Paris. "In prior years I would only attend one or two board meetings and then only in a passive role. In 2009 I have been to every board meeting."

This sudden attention is being enjoyed by many other corporate treasurers. Christof Hassig, head of corporate financing and treasury at Swiss cement and aggregate supplier Holcim, found recent forays into the bond market a refreshingly different experience. "For the first time people were listening – we got attention," he commented.

The corporate treasury function is clearly enjoying being listened to for a change – and quite right too. As soon as those invitations to board meetings start drying up again trouble will not be far behind.

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