Challenging the future

On Monday 30 September, the great and the good of the finance world came together to celebrate the achievements of the winners of the ACT Middle East Treasury Awards 2019, in a glamorous ceremony also at the Madinat Jumeirah. The awards recognise innovation, hard work and dynamic approach that we see so much of in the region and among those honoured was His Excellency Ahmed Al Sayegh, who was presented the ACT Middle East Treasury Committee Chairman’s Award for his significant contribution to the treasury community.

This year’s ACT Middle East Treasury Summit proved an enormous hit with everyone who came through the doors of the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. And come through they did with our largest ever number of registrations – over 800 – and record-breaking attendance of almost 600.

The theme of the event could be described as technology 2.0. When the ACT began 11 years ago to run events in the region, the understanding and use of treasury and financial technology was limited to a small handful of corporates and sectors (aviation, some retailers). Boy, has that changed!

The presentations, panel discussions and workshops during the conference made clear that the demand for technology-driven treasury management systems, foreign exchange (FX) dealing platforms, global cash and liquidity management and working capital and trade finance products is substantial and increasing rapidly.

In addition, some regional treasurers are making use of even more advanced technologies becoming early adopters of blockchain/distributed ledger technology (DLT) systems for trade finance and supply chain management and machine-learning for secure payments processing. The nuts and bolts of treasury were far from being ignored however especially for small and medium-sized corporates looking to scale up their operations regionally. The issues of cross-border FX, trapped cash, overseas equity and M&A activity were key topics for discussion.

The rise of treasury to a strategic role in organisations was equally recognised with keen interest in the ACT’s latest edition of our research, the Business of Treasury and a very well attended panel discussion on Women in business leadership. The growing importance of ESG in business was highlighted with green finance being a focus but recognising the full impact of social and governance concerns for investors, ratings agencies and other stakeholders.

The beating heart of any ACT conference however remains the enthusiasm and willingness of treasurers to share experiences, to help others with their personal growth and development and to offer a consistent voice to regulators and legislators. Delegates who have supported the growth of the ACT Middle East to a network of over 4,800 individuals were thrilled to see the profession in such rude good health. One or two confessed to having had doubts that the growth would be so swift and There’s more to do to raise the profile of treasury further but there’s no doubting our tremendous progress in such a short length of time!

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