Q&A with John Messent CFTP

Group Treasurer
Australian Gas Networks

Tell us a bit about yourself

I have been in my current role for 18 months and have previously worked with a number of organisations, including Ernst & Young, ANZ and Peoples’ Choice Credit Union.  Whilst my core background has been through treasury and finance related functions, I have also had responsibility for credit risk, business risk and operational delivery teams.  I have also spent a number of years as a Director of a NFP disability services provider which I found very rewarding.

Outside of work you will find me enjoying time with my family – we have 2 wonderful teenage girls who are growing up fast!  I enjoy cooking, tennis and British comedy.  I am also fortunate to own my late Grandfather’s 1955 Jaguar that has huge sentimental value for me and was our wedding car – I take it out as often as possible for a run or in historic car events.

Q1: What is the size of your team and what is the one thing you do well collectively?

AGN is quite a small team as our asset management and operational functions are delivered via APA.  There are two of us in Treasury and I think the key thing we do well is balancing key day to day tasks with longer-term projects – communication and teamwork are key.

Q2: In your career, what are the major changes that you have seen within Treasury in the past 5 years?

The continuing work-out of the GFC and QE have brought uncertainty and volatility.  In many ways, this is nothing new and for me, one thing the GFC did was reinforce and reward good risk management practices.  This includes the benefits of diversification, strong counterparty relationships and getting the basics right.  As always with events such as this is the regulatory response – the flow-on impact of this through many areas not least of which being bank balance sheet management that is permeating through in terms of pricing and a greater focus on risk-based product features.

Q3: What are the challenges and opportunities facing Treasurers both now and into the future?

I think the key piece (as always and this will never change) is building strong connections and mutual understanding within the business – this is the foundation of good treasury & risk management.  Around this is the increasing demands on business performance and responding to opportunities – increasing the need to be agile.

Q4: Roles are evolving and technology is challenging our way of working. Do you agree and how are you adapting to the change?

As with any tool, the key is how you use it.  Technology does not alter the fundamentals of what you are there to do.  I have never forgotten one of a number of sayings of a great Maths teacher many years back ….. “before you turn the calculator on make sure you have a good idea of the answer you are expecting”.  What technology has given us is the ability to interrogate vast amounts of information and provide broad access to this information – the challenge is to build the framework to filter and deliver the information effectively.

Q5Why did you get into Treasury?

I always had an interest in finance and banking.  I recall being recruited across into a Treasury role whilst being on a graduate programme at State Bank of SA and went from there – I have been fortunate to have worked with some great people at formative stages in my career.  I think that Treasury gives you a great perspective on the organisation and also some very transportable skills.

Q6: What are the three major skills that make a successful Treasurer?

A strong desire to understand the business – Treasury can never be successful if it is not connected with the business.

An ability to translate and communicate – to demystify and to some extent be a storyteller to explain key concepts and engage with others.

To be a good steward – be clear on the fundamentals that need to be protected to ensure that the business has a robust and flexible operating base.

Q7: On both a personal and professional level, what are you really passionate about?

I am a strong believer in how you conduct yourself in all dealings (personal and professional) – your brand and values are your most important asset.  I value and respect people who are authentic and consistent in their dealings and look to do the right thing.