I spent a fair amount of time over the Christmas holidays helping my eldest son prepare for his 11+ exams, so I was surrounded by words and numbers almost every day (we gave him Christmas Day and Boxing Day off!). At some point, in the midst of some long division, I started musing on the fact that whilst “numbers” and “values” have almost exactly the same meaning in Year 6 maths (a “unit” or “quantity”), they mean very different things in the context of a business, or more specifically, our business. And even though both are super-important, I have a clear preference for focusing on one over the other.
Numbers naturally play a vital role in our business. We deal in very large numbers every single day. Many of our clients choose to use our platform based on numeric returns. And a material part of our utility to issuers is helping them improve their own numbers. I’d also hazard a guess that all of our team probably love numbers, to greater or lesser extents (it’s OK, it’s cool to be a geek!) – I certainly find their purity, power and universal application endlessly fascinating.
More generally, numbers are also the principal metric by which folks outside of TreasurySpring judge our business and its performance. Indeed, for many people, we only exist in metrics, KPIs, dashboards… with investors and others using those numbers to approximate judgements on our success, or otherwise…
Sometimes numbers can be cruel, sometimes they can be misleading and often they can be easily manipulated. But whichever way you look at our numbers last year, they were truly stellar.
On our core key performance indicators:
- we grew AUM 2.6x year on year;
- total inflows for the year were three times larger than the already impressive figures from 2022. And we managed inflows in 50 out of 52 weeks (only missing a beat over Easter and Christmas); and
- onboarded and active client numbers each rose by roughly 80%.
There are many other metrics that we could celebrate from 2022 but I’ve just picked out a few more that demonstrate the breadth and diversity of our achievements last year (preferably to be sung to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas!):
12 months of revenue growth
11 conferences attended
10 market commentaries
9 new TreasurySpringers
8 tech unicorns onboarded
7 live currencies
6 thousand weekly Slack messages
5 HUNDRED MILLION in a month!
4 brilliant new women
3 hundred new products
2 new tech hires
And an OFFSITE IN EEEETALY
Which brings me neatly on to…
The unquestionable professional highlight of the year for me was our offsite in Mondaino. Of course I loved the setting, the fabulous hospitality, the food, the wine, the cycling, the inaugural TreasurySpring relay race, the tasks, the thunderstorm, the swimming… but what I loved most was just observing the interactions between a remarkable group of talented, ambitious, kind and thoughtful people who enjoyed each other’s company and clearly shared many of the same values.
I’ve always had a general idea of what I thought that the values of our business should be; and have known that Matthew, James and Henry shared those ideas; but we hadn’t ever felt quite ready to commit any firm values to paper. The offsite felt like the right time to try… so it was hugely pleasing to see that when we split into groups to write down our three “non-negotiables”, there was real unity of thought and purpose among the answers.
Having considered all the responses, the winners were:
Respect. Trust. Relentlessness.
For me, these perfectly embody the core fabric of our company, and here’s why:
This might feel like a concept that should be a standard for all but when done properly it can be less obvious than people first imagine. Beyond the essentials of not being rude or generally disrespectful, it can mean appreciating that every person in our business brings something different and unique. To recognise that no-one has the right to dismiss others out of hand or to lack in patience, irrespective of department, age or seniority.
We believe it’s vital, in fact pivotal to our success to respect alternative viewpoints as without divergence of thought it is impossible to find the truth. Conflict with respect is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal to build the best business possible.
We must have a healthy respect for the markets and the power of Central Banks (don’t fight the Fed!) and never take the current environment for granted, whatever that may be. As we have seen many times, even in the last few years, everything can change in an instant for a day, a week, or even years. We need to be prepared for those changes (however unlikely they may seem) and able to adapt quickly.
We must respect our clients and our counterparties. We need to deeply understand the issues that we are solving for them and respect the fact that we are only a small part of their daily business. If we can make cash investment and funding simple, seamless and valuable, they can spend more time on things that they may perceive as being of greater importance. Getting this right means they respect the value that we bring in doing so.
And, with equal energy, we must respect our competitors, whatever we think of their shortcomings – if they have some of our clients’ cash, they must be doing something right; and there is almost certainly something that we can learn from them.
It should go without saying that it is critical that our team can all trust each other. There are myriad moving parts to everything that we do. Nothing happens in isolation and we all depend on each other every day to drive the business forward.
We have to build trust in our teams, resisting micromanagement and encouraging and enabling everybody to flourish and grow.
To help foster that, we each need to make it clear that the broader team can trust us all, individually and collectively. Trust is earned, not gifted. It is built on history, actions and interactions. It can never be taken for granted and it needs to be worked on day after day, week after week.
If we’re going to achieve firm-wide trust, we all need to trust ourselves. None of our team would be here if they weren’t brilliant. They should trust in their ability, demonstrate their confidence, and the trust of others will follow.
Finally, it’s vital we have trust in our big picture vision for building the best cash investment platform on the planet. Now several years on from when we first conceived of FTFs, I am still yet to hear a reasoned argument for why we shouldn’t be able to build a global business, delivering great value to thousands of clients and managing many tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. The evidence so far suggests that is more than possible, so we must trust in ourselves to make that happen.
Maybe slightly more base than our first two non-negotiables, but certainly no less important, is relentlessness.
We must have relentless drive to deliver a better way for our clients to manage their excess cash; and for our counterparties to raise short-term financing.
We need to be relentless in our desire for individual and collective self-improvement. Getting better feels good and makes us all happy. We need to work on it constantly.
We must have a relentless focus on the little things, the details, the shadows. Often it is the small improvements that bring a smile to the client, that avoid costly errors, and that get remembered when showing value to an issuer.
As much as anything else, we need to be relentless in making sure that building this business is fun, exciting and rewarding for all of us. If we can’t do that, we shouldn’t be here.
The numbers are important. And they always will be. But they will only ever tell part of the story. If we all do our best to bring respect, trust and relentlessness to work every day in 2023, I’m certain that we will continue to build a remarkable, happy and committed team that can overcome whatever challenges we find ourselves faced with.
And the numbers will look after themselves…