DONNA MISKIN: The Overall Excellence Award is a very special honor in the Alexander Hamilton Awards. The judges recognize one company for excellence based on the cumulative impressiveness of their offerings or the uniqueness of their innovation.
And as I mentioned before, this year we had an incredible field of entries. The judges were absolutely blown away. It was really difficult to pick the winners in each of the categories. But as we did, we saw some top contenders here and our platinum sponsor, Bank of New York Mellon, will help us present this award. And I’m pleased to introduce Susan Skerritt.
Susan leads the strategy development and investment division of the Financial Markets & Treasury Services Group of the Bank of New York Mellon. The FMTS Group represents about one-third of the revenue stream of the bank and includes treasury services, corporate trusts, shareowner services, depository receipts, broker/dealer services and alternative services.
Since joining the bank in 2006, Susan has been involved with several high-profile projects and products. She had the business management responsibility for the Global Corporate Trust CDO Project, which provides administrative and trustee services for highly structured collateralized pools of debt.
Before joining Bank of New York Mellon, Susan was a partner at Treasury Strategies. She worked for 20 years in senior positions at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., Ernst & Young and Morgan Stanley. Susan.
SUSAN SKERRITT: I don’t know what I should comment on first. The fact that Manufacturers Hanover is a name that a lot of people don’t recognize anymore and just indicates how old I am, or I should apologize like Ron did for the length of that bio.
But it is a pleasure to be here. BNY Mellon is a huge supporter of the Alexander Hamilton Awards and we appreciate all of you being here to help us recognize the Overall Excellence Award Winner. Donna, I’m going to do this slightly out of order, because my remarks are very much talking about the award winner’s submissions.
So it’s not going to be a big surprise if I wait and give the award after my remarks. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to make the award now, assuming that folks from that organization are here. I saw them outside before. Yes. Good. All right. So, I’m very pleased to announce that the winner of the Overall Excellence Award is Cisco Systems.
We have several representatives from Cisco. Greg Bromberger, who is the assistant treasurer; Maryann Von Seggern; and Sean Folan. You should all come up. They’re all going to represent our panel in a few moments. Congratulations, Greg.
Greg is going to make remarks in a few minutes. But first I’m going to just give you some perspective of mine about innovation, which is one of my responsibilities at BNY Mellon and an area that is, I think, germane particularly for Cisco and for what they’ve submitted.
Throughout this conference we’ve heard myriad examples of Cisco’s innovative and best-in-class approaches to managing financial enterprise and credit risk, to applying technology for better productivity and a reduced carbon footprint, and to managing working capital and liquidity.
In this period of financial volatility and uncertainty, this is not time to hunker down, even though it may feel a lot safer to do just that. Instead, an effective treasury team must be innovative in its thinking. When faced with the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen in more than a generation, the best financial professionals have found new and better ways to identify and mitigate risks and to ensure that sufficient liquidity is available for them to weather the storm.
And as we look to the future, we see continued slow global economic growth, increasing financial regulation and ongoing uncertainty, all of which makes the path forward less clear. This means that innovation is crucial. We need innovation applied well to ensure that we continue to grow and become ever more productive.
These awards are named after one of our country’s most innovative financial thinkers, Alexander Hamilton. As you know, he was the first Secretary of the Treasury and was instrumental in establishing the central bank and a system of tariffs for our young nation. Coincidentally Hamilton was also one of the founders of my company, BNY Mellon.
In keeping with the tradition of his legacy, BNY Mellon is dedicated to delivering innovative solutions and services to our clients. Like Cisco, all of us at BNY Mellon have made innovation one of our key values across our transaction banking businesses, which, as Donna mentioned, include cash management, corporate trusts, stock transfer, custody, to name a few.
We’ve asked our employees to find better ways to anticipate and respond to our customers’ needs. By tapping into our collective creative spirit, we are proud to deliver new, innovative programs and solutions. For instance, we created our environmental innovation solutions, which is a series of products that support our clients in meeting their compliance requirements and reducing their carbon footprints. With new compliance programs transitioning from a reporting to a financial obligation, environmental compliance is a new risk area that requires the attention of all corporate treasurers.
We also launched our Derivatives 360 program, which provides our corporate, sovereign entity, and financial clients with integrative derivatives execution, clearing, settlement and reporting capabilities. This innovative bundling of services means our customers don’t have to go to multiple places within our organizations.
Our Real Estate One-Stop Solution provides corporations and institutional real estate investors with an integrated accounts payable, auditing, accounts receivable and accounting solution. This can assist treasurers in corporations with improving cash flow and liquidity.
And just this week, the BNY Mellon Treasury Services business announced the launch of another innovative solution -- Remit Worldwide, which turns smartphones into global remittance platforms by allowing smartphone users to initiate, view, and track remittances via the Remit Worldwide system. This new client-friendly and cost-effective solution shows we’re keeping pace with consumer preferences by adding mobile-friendly features to our payment solutions.
But enough about BNY Mellon. In winning this award, Cisco’s treasury team has demonstrated how innovation, when applied across a set of challenges and opportunities, benefits their company in various ways. Moreover, the team’s efforts echo an overall corporate commitment. Cisco is one of our major technology providers and a significant collaborator with us in our own innovation efforts.
So what I want to do is share with you a video clip that we took, a short video clip, of one of their colleagues, one of Greg’s colleagues, a fellow named Didier Moretti. He’s going to describe how Cisco enables innovation at the corporate level through a program to incubate and support new business units. Hector you want to play the video, please?
DIDIER MORETTI: It’s very hard to do what we do because Cisco is a very well-oiled machine that knows how to do its thing and then we create these new businesses that are going after new markets. By definition, the business model is different because the buyer or the buying center will be different. The partners may be different, the services may be different. The whole offer may be different. Other elements of the business model.
And so you have this well-oiled machine and then you have these small start-ups that at first have no revenues, they’re not material to Cisco, but yet that require all these exceptions and changes and things from this big machine. It’s a little bit like throwing sand in the gears. Really. Literally.
And so it requires a whole governance and tremendous effort and energy to navigate through all this and emerge on the other end without squashing this new business somewhere in the process.
SKERRITT: As Didier described, innovation is not always easy. It requires a degree of focus and a willingness to, as he says, ‘throw sand into the operating gears.’ That’s the only way to make innovation effective. So let’s take a look at how Cisco’s Alexander Hamilton submissions demonstrate this innovative spirit.
Innovation means thinking broadly and creatively about the needs of your business. As a result of the global economic downturn, Cisco’s distribution channel partners, which include distributors, system integrators and resellers, faced a contraction in credit available to them. In response, the Cisco treasury team developed a channel financing solution that would extend payment terms, mitigate incremental credit risk and maintain receivable terms for Cisco. You’ll hear more about this tomorrow, but this clearly is a key treasury innovation that addressed a key business issue for the company.
Innovation also means collaborating effectively with your internal and external partners. The Cisco treasury team collaborated with other finance functions to better quantify its aggregate credit risk to counterparties across the enterprise and to identify a more sophisticated risk management process and system that was more predictive and forward-looking.
Innovation means deploying the capabilities and competencies of the organization in new ways. As you heard earlier today, Cisco accomplished this by implementing its TelePresence and WebEx technology tools to make itself more environmentally friendly. This green program has enhanced its communications with banking and other external partners. It has reduced the group’s travel expenses and it’s enabled Cisco’s partners to save time and money as well.
Innovation means executing effectively. Cisco’s treasury group had always used technology to support its functional activities. Over time, however, they found the multitude of applications they used would not support treasury’s long-term goals. They’ve undertaken a multi-phased project, massive in scope, to replace and reconfigure their treasury automation tools with a streamlined and unified reporting and collaboration program.
This new system will serve all of the functional areas of Cisco’s treasury and will be scalable and versatile enough to meet future needs. Cisco has clearly demonstrated how an innovative approach to treasury management benefits the company as a whole. Congratulations, again, to Cisco for exhibiting not only a truly innovative spirit but overall excellence in all they do.
Greg Bromberger is the assistant treasurer in Cisco’s treasury department. He has responsibility for various capital markets teams, which include investment portfolio, share repurchase, debt portfolio and foreign exchange activities. He also has had responsibility while at Cisco for treasury operations.
So he really has done the gamut of treasury activities. Before joining Cisco in the year 2000, Greg was with Coca-Cola in their treasury group. So without further ado let me turn the floor over to Greg. Congratulations.
GREG BROMBERGER: Thank you, Susan. I appreciate it. Thank you, all. So first off, a couple of housekeeping items. I fully realize that I’m probably the only thing keeping us from the open bar after I’m through. So I will keep my remarks short, hopefully no more than 15 minutes or so. But, you know, thank you, all. Honestly, on behalf of Cisco and our entire extended treasury team I’m very happy to accept this award for Overall Excellence.
And as we mentioned, I just want to recognize a couple of the folks who have joined me here today. Sean Folan, who you heard during the green presentation, heads up a corporate finance team, and Maryann Von Seggern, who leads our worldwide channel-financing program for Cisco Capital, which is Cisco’s captive financing arm.
So thanks to both of you. All your hard work for the submissions, but also for the contributions that you make to Cisco on a day-to-day basis. And also an important thank you to Donna and all the rest of theTreasury & Risk team, not only for this fantastic recognition but being such great hosts to us all in the course of this two-day event. We thank you.
And actually I have to say, after hearing a lot of the presentations earlier today, as well as meeting many of you in this room, I’m that much more appreciative of this award, given the high bar, the high caliber of excellence that’s demonstrated by our universe of corporate treasury peers. So thanks to you all as well.
You know, we’ve been a supporter of both the magazine and the awards now for over 10 years. The magazine, we stay in touch on a regular basis to try and keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the treasury arena from both an innovation and a best-practices standpoint. And then for the awards, every so often we make strong push like we did this year to try and recognize all of the hard work and the contributions and the results produced by what we believe is our world-class treasury team at Cisco.
And since our early participation in the awards, as I mentioned, over 10 years now, you might be surprised to learn that we’ve actually kept our head count flat at 30 people, despite the fact that our company has grown its revenues and its net income more than two-fold, as has the risks and the complexities inherent in the business that we manage on a day-to-day business.
For this year, there were three consistent and intersecting themes that were expressed throughout all of our submissions, irrespective of category. And these themes are important pillars of our overall philosophy, as well as key enablers to helping us try and keep pace with the growth and complexity of our business. And these three intersecting themes are collaboration, technology and functional excellence.
The first theme, collaboration, has been a really important and increasing focal point for Cisco over the last several years. Whether it’s working across treasury, finance and, in many cases, across the entire enterprise, we’ve worked really hard trying to rebrand ourselves from just a good business partner at Cisco to actually a value-added strategic partner.
And for example, as Susan was alluding to, by partnering with trade credit, Cisco Capital and the treasury portfolios, Cisco can now identify and manage credit, counterparty, financial risks across the enterprise’s entire $50 billion integrated portfolio.
And as an integrated team, we’ve developed and implemented a common risk vocabulary, methodology, systems, analytics, quantitative measures and, probably most importantly, risk thresholds that we actually report out to our senior management team on a quarterly cadence.
These are three different teams with three different chains within finance working together because we all recognize that we knew the risks that we didn’t know. And as a result we now can optimize and budget and allocate risks so we are, in fact, optimizing the overall integrative portfolio rather than each group working individually on three disconnected separate portfolios. And a big result and by-product of this is that we can now make sure that we are budgeting and allocating credit risk so that we are actually driving Cisco’s underlying business growth rather than again working in isolation on our individual portfolios.
And as Susan mentioned, also, our collaborative efforts have not just been internally focused. We partner very closely with our key external strategic relationships, as was evidenced by Clearwater Analytics and Credit Suisse, who just presented through their Solution of the Year category, for lot of the good work that’s been accomplished between our two teams.
And although those were two important examples, they were really just indicative of how we actually partner with all of our key strategic relationships, and that’s because we want to leverage their skill, their expertise, to help us actually manage the complexities I talked about, deepen our relationships, but really, also, that’s what’s enabled us to scale and keep that flat head count that I mentioned earlier.
And being one of the world’s largest technology companies, it’s not surprise that our collaborative efforts move beyond the boundaries of traditional teamwork. We, from the very beginning, internally at Cisco continue to eat our own cooking. We usually say dog food, but we’re also getting close to dinner. And we do that through rational experimentation and disciplined usage of technology.
And that was actually the second theme, our usage of technology. We talked a little bit about that earlier with Sean, but it really was a by-product, after spending years focusing on trying to achieve that holy grail of Web-enabled solutions for straight-through processing or decision support dash boarding, over the past 18 months or so, that’s where we’ve really focused on this idea of using Cisco’s collaborative technologies, everything from WebEx to what’s now become, hopefully, common in everybody’s parlance, but our video conferencing solution in 1080p, and that’s our TelePresence solution.
And TelePresence really is, I can’t tell you enough, changing the way completely that we do business at Cisco and within treasury. We can meet more frequently face-to-face with all our key partners. We get access to their subject matter experts when we actually want them, and we do it all to result in better, quicker decision making as well as actually more impactful and deeper relationships with many of our partners.
And Sean talked a lot about the different applications of how we use green technology, but one thing that we didn’t really cover is our most important asset, and that’s obviously our people. I mean, imagine your interview process and Cisco has 900 of these locations across the world. Imagine that there isn’t a situation where you can’t interview someone that’s going to be on-boarding onto your team and get that human face-to-face dynamic without having to fly someone in with all the associated travel costs and logistical challenges that come with that, sometimes for half a day, but sometimes for only an hour, to make sure they’re meeting with key folks on your team.
So even from the obvious treasury applications, there are also these other sorts of benefits on the softer side with the HR avenue.
And like I said, that’s just one example of how we’ve used TelePresence and adopted these collaborative technologies, but all-in-all now, over a cumulative three-year period, we’ve taken down our travel costs by 90%. If you include our banking partners we’ve saved hundreds of flights, tens of thousands of pitch book pages, all while being more green.
And as an enterprise, Cisco now has cumulatively, permanently taken $700 million out of our travel budget that’s not going to come back. So you talk about total cost of ownership for a technology and productivity solution, this thing obviously really has some teeth.
And for the final intersecting theme that I want to talk about, it’s kind of good old functional subject matter expertise and excellence. We consider that still to be a core ingredient in any successful treasury organization and we actually believe that our financial and operational risk management practices have never been stronger, which has been huge to us as we continue to manage through these difficult times, uncertain times, and obviously very volatile ones as well.
And this actually might be the most important of the three themes that I talked about, because if you don’t have good, capable, hard-working, highly skilled people, the other two themes of collaboration and technology are ultimately going to be sub-optimized anyway.
And at the end of the day, at least at Cisco, we feel that this is the asset that we can least afford to mismanage, our people. So we do all we can to create a challenging, productive work environment, but we also want to make sure that it’s fun and that people are engaged and they’re actually looking forward to coming to work on a daily basis.
And it’s a result of the treasury team that we’ve received this fantastic recognition, so just one more nod to them all and on behalf of everyone on our treasury team, I appreciate it and we humbly accept this award. So thank you, all.
SKERRITT: Okay, now we’re going to have an opportunity to ask Greg, Maryann and Sean a few questions. So I’m going to kick it off and let you think about what it is you want to ask them about. I mean, there’s so many different submissions that they have, and I know that we haven’t heard about all of them yet. Several of them are going to be discussed tomorrow. But you’re heard little glimpses of them, so you may want to follow up on them.
So let me start with asking a question of Greg, because that key piece of information he gave us at the beginning of his talk still startles me when I think about it. They have had a flat head count for a long time, for a decade, I think is what you said. So given the level of excellence that you’re achieved in the treasury group with maintaining an absolutely flat head count -- talk to us about how you do that. How do you find the resources you need to not just do your job, but go well beyond and out-perform?
BROMBERGER: Sure. Yeah, it’s not easy, obviously. We all know that. But what we try to do is just be smart about how we use our head count. So we have smart partnerships, as I mentioned, with our banks, especially. We utilize technology to gain as much productivity that we can get out of the system, and finally, I think it really comes down to having good people.
We’ve got a very seasoned treasury team. We work hard on making sure that they’re challenged, that they’re growing, that they’re developing. We do a lot of internal rotations to make sure that we’re continually raising the bar on each of our functions. But ultimately I think with a good team, with productivity solutions and great partnerships, it’s something that can be done.
SKERRITT: Very impressive, nonetheless. I also want to ask, actually, all three of our Cisco team members about collaboration because it is such an important component of being effective in a large organization. And certainly we find that as well. So I’d love for each of you to just comment on how collaboration, collaboration internally and externally, has helped you to perform. Sean, why don’t we start with you?
SEAN FOLAN: Sure. So our CEO, John Chambers, is talking about collaboration every day. It’s one of the hallmarks of our organization. In order for the treasury group, especially, to be successful, there’s no way that we can do it by ourselves. It requires partnerships. It requires knowledge transfer, and it requires team work.
So our use of collaborative tools and partnerships is essential for us to get anything done because everything we touch touches other groups. And to be successful, we need to partner with those other groups.
MARYANN VON SEGGREN: I would add on to that as it relates to what I do at Cisco, I develop the financial products that we offer to our channel partners and that also that our channel partners use to wrap around their solutions. And the collaboration is absolutely the most critical thing that I do.
I’m collaborating regularly with our six bank partners, with Cisco sales, with the channel partners themselves, to make sure that we really have the pulse and understand what’s happening to them out there. And then internally with organizations such as Greg’s and treasury, with tax, with operations, because everything we do has to be scaled tremendously to handle millions of transactions a year.
So collaboration is absolutely key and while you might initially create the idea, you get the real bang when you start to bring it to the different organizations within finance and sales and ops in Cisco. And also with our bank partners, to turn it into a real world-class product.
BROMBERGER: The only thing I’d add to that is that at Cisco, too, it’s a very top-down effort. I mean, collaboration is in our culture. It’s from John Chambers down; we’ve restructured a whole management approach from command and control to having boards and councils that are just by definition very cross-functional, very aligned.
Territoriality isn’t rewarded at Cisco and ultimately for our innovation and our excellence we actually are encouraged to take risks as well. It’s okay to fail at Cisco. Not on a trade or not anything on the markets, but internally in terms of trying to be creative, trying to kind of move the ball forward, we’re encouraged to take risks and are rewarded and recognized accordingly.
SKERRITT: You know, it’s interesting, we also have a video clip of Greg talking about how it’s okay to fail, but I didn’t think that’s what we’d want to have up here. And also I thought he could speak for himself, so.
BROMBERGER: Thank you.
SKERRITT: So let me open it up to the audience. What questions do you have for this excellent treasury team? There’s a question right here.
Q: Could you describe how you come to decide which you’re going to work on? Obviously you have a great treasury team but you can’t work on all the great ideas presented to you. What are the factors that went out? Is it the financial return? Obviously go green should be to the top. Right, Sean?
But what, when you get 10 or 11 ideas, what are the four or five that make it and why do they?
BROMBERGER: You know, for us, I mean prioritization is obviously important, so we try to be proactive and try to anticipate some of the things that are coming down the pike. For us it all kind of begins and ends with, I think for everybody in this room, for kind of economic risk, cash flow management, making sure that the nerve center of treasury continues to operate and we don’t need to do any diving catches.
Right from there I think it just becomes in a sense a democratic, collaborative process, not to be trite here on how we actually do come up with what it is we focus on. So I don’t know if that’s dissimilar to any organization out there, but it just seems to work well for us.
SKERRITT: Great. Other questions? Well, I have another question for you. You know, one of the things that some people may think [is] that you’re Cisco so it’s easy for you to apply really terrific technology. But in my experience it’s very difficult to get the attention internally for some of the applications that you want to apply when you are, in fact, eating your own lunch or dog food or whatever you want to call it.
So how is it that you can actually get your technology colleagues to actually pay attention to what is an internal group?
FOLAN: I’ll take that one. It definitely, for implementing technology solutions, it helps to work for a technology company. But technology companies often don’t, the technology folks often don’t understand treasury or finance. So we really have to make sure our voices are heard and we have to see an application that we think is useful for us and go out there, make a case on why we should we should be a test case for it, why we should get this technology before other groups, why we deserve to have this and the impact it will make to the bottom line of Cisco if we do have this technology.
BROMBERGER: And I guess the only thing that I’d add to that, too, is recently, through the use of our own technologies, really we’ve become much more of an evangelist and an advocate and a partner with our sales force to try and help many of our banking partners that we all deal with on a daily basis to test out, use the technologies and try and better their business.
So the fact that we’re taking that leadership role kind of helps us get higher up in line to try and develop those use cases.
VON SEGGERN: And I’ll make a pitch, because I’ve used the TelePresence capability and it is awesome. It really is awesome.
SKERRITT: Other questions for the Cisco treasury team? All right, well, please join me in congratulating, again, Cisco, on the Overall Excellence Award.