Financial professionals ‘get-up, get into it and get involved’ at the AFP conference, Boston

Financial professionals ‘get-up, get into it and get involved’ at the AFP conference, Boston

This year’s Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) conference was held in the city of Boston, US, home to stars such as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and famous for the Boston Tea Party. Aptly named ‘the Athens of America’, the conference was taking place against the backdrop of the Greek debt crisis.

The opening session of the conference was given by the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton. To a full auditorium, Clinton addressed the treasury and finance community of America in a cautious tone. He spoke about the lack of good infrastructural systems in the developed world, his concerns about the knowledge gap in the US and gave lip service to the European sovereign debt crisis.

He proposed that the current administration should open the borders further to allow even more immigrants in to fill the knowledge/labour gap. He also proposed that another liquidity repatriation programme should be initiated. This time, however, instead of using the funds to buy-back shares, corporations would only benefit from the tax holiday if new jobs were created.

The attendance level of 6,500 was the second highest in the conference’s history. This was the fifth time that Zanders attended the conference and the first time that we gave three presentations for the break-out sessions.

Zanders' Judith van Paassen along with Eduardo Boe, treasurer for the Americas at Akzo Nobel, presented the Akzo Nobel SAP Treasury, Payment Factory & IHC Implementation Project. With over 200 in the audience, interest was high and the Q&A session highlighted that these large-scale treasury transformation projects are ever-increasing.

Laurens Tijdhof co-presented the Celanese Bank Relationship Project with Chuck Kyrish, group treasurer of Celanese Corp. The presentation was well received as many of the audience spoke of finding themselves in exactly the same position as Celanese and now realise that major re-shaping of their banking portfolio is very possible.

Lane Silverman, group treasurer of JT International and I presented the FX Risk Management Project undertaken at JT International over the last year. Although there is always much discussion in the market around FX, the session's high attendance and the follow-up questions we received showed that it is still a major challenge for corporates.

One session I attended about corporate investment policies given by a global American bank questioned the current reliability of the European banking world with a slight air of caution. Notwithstanding this, the overall tone and feeling of the conference was one of positivity. In the closing session the AFP chairman, Michael Connolly, paraphrased the famous lyrics of soul singer James Brown, saying treasuries and finance departments must ‘get-up, get into it and get involved’. Maybe we Europeans should also dance to the James Brown rhythm.