Treasurers can also play a role in speeding up the expansion process. At Tesco, the U.K.'s largest supermarket company with $4.2 billion in profits in 2005, the treasury function has developed a cookie-cutter approach to running its international back office, says Tom Gunson, a London-based partner with PwC and leader of the firm's financial effectiveness practice in the U.K. "They developed a kind of startup pack. Basically, if the business goes into a new market, there's a checklist of things they have to do as part of that –it's enabled them to open new stores far more rapidly than their competitors and has given them a strategic advantage." The company first ventured outside the British Isles in 1997. Today, roughly half of its store space is to be found overseas in markets from Hungary to South Korea and China.

Tesco's London-based group treasurer, Nick Mourant, says that while the business decided to leave the customer-facing part of the stores down to local tastes, the treasury team wanted to make the behind-the-scenes operations as homogenous as possible. The result is a standardized system called "Tesco-in-a-box." "It's a standard template for back office processing which covers cash management, reporting, ordering, ranging. It means we can effectively drop the structure into a new country relatively quickly and we always have the same version of the same numbers wherever we are," he says.

Not only does this make the business portable, it also makes it comparable. As a result, the company is able to spot when a store format used in one market is performing particularly well. Tesco has imported the idea of 100,000 square foot hypermarkets into the U.K. from Southeast Asia, while sending the U.K.'s convenience store format back the other way.

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