Once considered a branch of accounting, treasurer positions are now in their own specialized field and have their own unique career paths. Treasurers are the ultimate processors: they need to incorporate as much good information as possible and make informed decisions that affect the firm's bottom line.

Skills and Qualifications

Treasurers aren't just bookkeepers; they are financial decision makers who shoulder a lot of responsibility. They need to have an eye for smaller details with the vision to tackle big-picture problems. They are supervisors and advisors at the same time and, especially when there is serious investment capital involved, they sometimes act as financial planners for the entire company.

Treasurers need to demonstrate many different competencies, such as investment management, organizational leadership, and technical accounting knowledge. It's a unique role, but one that modern mid-size and large companies simply can't do without.

Responsibilities and Job Description

Generally, a company treasurer handles investments and the risks associated with investments. Some participate in all short- and long-term business planning, including mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity.

The treasurer is a crucial, though sometimes challenging, position in a company. Corporate treasurers are responsible for identifying and managing risks and developing policies, but they must also coordinate accountants and other specialists to follow those policies and mitigate those risks.

Historically a technical and analytical role, the modern treasurer is increasingly strategic in decision making. Whereas past treasurers may have simply kept a finger on the pulse of key financial ratios, today's treasurers need to understand macroeconomics, business methods, and risk avoidance.

In a larger company, the treasurer works closely with the chief financial officer (CFO) and other key analysts. He may consult with attorneys or compliance officers. It might be necessary for the treasurer to brief different levels of management about new policies. This means developing interpersonal skills and working collaboratively with junior and senior staff.

Standard Career Path

The path to control of the treasury begins with a bachelor's degree. Even the most entry-level treasurer positions require bachelor's degrees, and it's best to major in a field such as accounting, economics, finance or business administration. Some colleges and universities participate in the Corporate Treasury Management (CTM) program.

From there, it's best to get work experience in the financial sector. Those with CTM backgrounds will automatically be enrolled in the Association for Financial Professionals, which comes with particular opportunities. Others can work public or private sector jobs in accounting, analysis or fields with an investment focus.

Some may pursue professional certification, including the certified treasury professional (CTP) and chartered financial analyst (CFA) certifications. These are rarely required for a position, but they look good on a resume. Treasurers come from a wide range of backgrounds, and an easily recognizable certification like CTP should help those from atypical launch points.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) believes that future advancement opportunities in finance and accounting professions are best for individuals with graduate degrees, particularly master's in business administration (MBA) degrees.

Treasurers need a blend of technical expertise and management skills. Most work in some management capacity before reaching higher treasurer positions, even if it's simply as senior accountants or team leaders.

Avoiding a Dead End

A lot of treasurers hope to graduate to the executive staff (and executive compensation), particularly as finance directors or CFOs. Unfortunately, a lot of career financial experts find themselves slotted into treasury positions because of some perceived lack of social or management ability. If the company doesn't feel comfortable putting him in front of clients or shareholders, the treasurer may find himself stuck with a low ceiling.

Managing directors and chairmen want to see cross-functional management experience, since the top-level finance positions have to oversee many different teams across many departments. Ambitious treasurers would do well to focus just as much on the soft skills (including communication and leadership) as they do on their technical prowess.