From the November 2010 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

Gold AHA Winner for Best Green Strategy

Treasury at Cisco responded to the company's call to cut travel budgets by chopping more than half a million from its travel expenses over the past three years. To do that, treasury turned to Cisco's own TelePresence technology, which uses high-definition cameras and large video monitors to facilitate meetings among participants in different locations, and WebEx, which allows the sharing of documents and files online.

Cisco's far-flung treasury ranges from its operations in the San Jose, Calif., headquarters to the group in Reno, Nev., that oversees the company's investments, to an office in Rolle, Switzerland, as well as staff in Atlanta, Amsterdam and Singapore. Using three TelePresence units, in San Jose, Reno and Rolle, Cisco's 30 treasury employers reworked their processes to cut back drastically on the amount of travel, while at the same time keeping up with the company's growing business.

While Cisco cut its carbon emissions almost in half since 2007, treasury slashed its carbon emissions by almost 90% over the same period. And treasury cut its travel expenses by an average of 40% each year since 2007, for a cumulative reduction of almost 90%. That translates into cost savings to date of more than $500,000. "It's not just being green for green's sake," says Greg Bromberger, assistant treasurer at Cisco. "We've gotten huge business results from this." And those results go beyond the savings in travel expenses, Bromberger says. "We can all do our jobs better, we can collaborate quicker, we can get to better results because of this technology."

TelePresence not only enables internal meetings, it also lets treasury executives meet with people outside Cisco, like the company's bankers. Amid the financial crisis, "it was just a huge productivity and performance benefit to be able to have this face-to-face interactive access to our banking partners," Bromberger says. (While meeting via TelePresence initially meant that bankers had to catch a cab to Cisco's New York City office to use a TelePresence unit there, many of them now have TelePresence units of their own.)

In 2006, Cisco's issuance of $6.5 billion in debt securities required more than 40 round-trip flights, and the company exchanged more than 2,000 pages of pitch books with its banks. In 2009, Cisco did two debt offerings, but there was no travel at all. Treasury managed the 2009 issuances using Tele-Presence and conference call meetings and exchanging information using WebEx. Treasury estimates it saved more than 70 round trips and 4,000 printed pages in executing the 2009 debt deal.

Treasurer Roger Biscay says all the interviews of candidates for treasury positions are now conducted via TelePresence, rather than flying candidates in for meetings. "We hired our head of EMEA and AsiaPac Treasury and did all the interviews over TelePresence," he says. "On the hiring front alone, there's not a week that goes by that I'm not interviewing someone over TelePresence."

Have all in-person meetings stopped? Biscay says it's still helpful to meet face-to-face with bankers when initiating a new relationship. And existing banking partners might still stop by the office when they're making a trip to the West Coast, Bromberger says, although he points out that such visits might not occur when Cisco most needs to meet.

"With TelePresence, we can get the face-to-face interaction and the access to the right people at the bank when we need it, when there might be a major market move going on, when there might be a major trade," Bromberger says. "That's the beauty of TelePresence--we get that interaction at the right time, when it adds value for Cisco and our shareholders."

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