Some of us shy away from responsibility. We’d rather leave the big decisions to someone else. Sure, getting credit for a project that goes well feels good, but being blamed when something goes wrong is not worth the risk.
Then there are those who thrive off of being the decision-makers and do their best work when held accountable.
As soon as I start talking with Sterling Seino, I know that he is one of these people. And it’s a good thing that he is. Working as the Treasury Manager at a credit union doesn’t allow for much hesitancy. His department currently manages 60% of their credit union’s assets. The impact he’s able to make is his favorite part about his job.
I got to speak with him about getting his start in finance, what treasury management is, and what students can do to get ahead in this industry.
Sterling attended the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and got his undergraduate degree in Finance Marketing and then his MBA in Finance and Management. As a student, Sterling pictured himself working as a financial analyst in a big city like New York. But when he discovered the treasury side of the industry, it appealed to him in a greater capacity.
What are some of the duties of a treasury manager?
- Oversee the treasury department at the credit union.
- Manage the fixed income portfolio using the policies and procedures designated by his credit union. These are investments made by the credit union in instruments such as bonds, CDs, and treasuries that provide a set return on the investment.
- Serve on the Asset / Liability Management Committee, measuring, mitigating, and controlling risk that may arise due to a discrepancy between assets and liabilities.
- Analyze the Net interest margin. Look over performance metrics. What are the results of the credit union’s investment decisions? How do the interest expenses fare against the amount of returns generated by investments? After looking over the numbers a treasury manager will have to decide what can stay the same and what needs to change.
- Present monthly presentations for senior management, board of directors, the treasury department, and the Asset / Liability Committee.
Most important lesson for entering the field:
If you want to enter into this field, Sterling has one piece of advice for you: Build your network. It’s competitive out there and building your network will not only allow you to hear about job openings, but it really helps you to build your understanding of the industry. It is through your connections that you’ll learn what really goes into your profession.
He recommends going to career fairs, talking with your professors, and being open to opportunities. Though he’s not sure that it’s still in practice, when Sterling was in school, he was introduced to someone in the industry and given the opportunity to chat about working in this field. This was a networking moment that really stood out to him. See if your school has any programs like this one.
Another great way to make connections is by interning. Sterling interned with American Express and was able to make connections through his work there that helped him later in his career.
What are some essential skills for working in this field?
First and foremost, Sterling says that you have to be able to think critically. With all of the analysis and risk management involved in this profession, it’s important to be able to make choices that will help the bank or firm you’re working for, not hurt it. You have to be able to look at a lot of numbers, determine what they mean, and then make a decision.
The second skill he mentions is public speaking. From our quick interview, I could tell that Sterling was comfortable talking with people and good at explaining things. An important part of the job is giving presentations to not only your own team but also senior management and even the board of directors. You have to be able to explain what you’ve been working on and the results of your analysis in a clear and compelling manner.
It’s also important to perfect your business/technical writing skills. You will use these in your presentations and other areas of your profession like writing reports or financial statements. When Sterling entered the industry he had to write press releases in order to get exposure for the bank he was working at. Writing is a lot more important in this position than you might think for a career in finance.
How can students excel in this industry?
According to Sterling, to really make it in this industry, you have to keep learning. The industry standards and rules are constantly evolving and changing and you have to stay up-to-date on all of the regulations. In order to do that, he is always taking classes, attending webinars, or reading about what’s going on in his field.
Does this mean you have to go to graduate school to get a job as a Treasury Manager? Surprisingly, no. Sterling got his MBA in Finance Management because his employer at the time wanted him to and paid for it.
“It definitely didn’t hurt,” Sterling says of furthering his education. But he doesn’t think it’s the only path to take. Instead, he recommends finding a way to continue your education that works for you. Whether that be returning to school, taking online courses, or studying and taking the CFA exam, the only thing that really matters is your constant pursuit of knowledge. Never stop learning.
Homework time! Sterling says that one of the most important parts of finding a job in this industry is building your network. His school offered informational interview opportunities to their students. See if your school offers something similar. If not, check out this post about finding people to chat with about your industry.
Also, it’s important to develop the hard skills required for your career in finance, but it’s just as important to develop soft skills like critical thinking and public speaking. Look for opportunities to develop these skills both in your regular academic work and through your involvement in clubs and volunteer work.