Twelve months ago, the treasury team at Gilead Sciences, Inc., a fast-growing biopharmaceutical business that develops and produces treatments for some of the world’s deadliest diseases, faced some critical challenges. The company brings in close to $10 billion in annual revenue through operations in more than 30 countries. Yet its small treasury staff was spending more time on transaction processing than on analysis, and manual data entry put the company at risk for errors.
Treasurer Brad Vollmer decided to revamp his department’s technology infrastructure to automate many of his team’s core duties. He worked with Melissa Cameron, a Deloitte principal who specializes in treasury, to integrate cash management and foreign exchange (FX) systems from forecasting to settlement to accounting. Now many of the previously tedious treasury tasks are automated, reducing the chances of errors and freeing up Vollmer’s staff for more value-added work. Treasury & Risk sat down with Vollmer and Cameron to discuss the project and its results.
T&R: It’s clear why you wanted to improve your treasury processes. How did you get the ball rolling, though, on making a wholesale change?
BV: Well, when I arrived here, Gilead was in the midst of an ERP [enterprise resource planning] project, where we moved from JD Edwards to Oracle. As soon as that project ended, we wanted to start an automation project in treasury. At the very beginning, we got IT involved, as well as accounting and other areas of finance.
T&R: What kinds of activities were you doing in parallel that normally might happen serially?
MC: We used an agile approach to software development. We were very discerning about determining what Gilead really wanted, and what they didn’t need. And as we configured the Orbit solution, we would essentially be in design sessions with Orbit, with Gilead’s core treasury, accounting, and internal audit team. Meanwhile, parallel actions were going on around defining and cleaning up static data and contracting with the banks around SWIFT messages.