How Worldpay Inc’s Joanne Bates is securing synergy
17 May 18
How do you tackle a major integration amid the dynamic flow of the payments industry? Joanne Bates provides her insights to Ben Poole
Joanne Bates, co-treasurer at Worldpay, Inc, first discovered the world of treasury in the second-year placement of a graduate management accountant training scheme at Cable & Wireless.
“In comparison to the first year in management accountancy,” she says, “I found treasury quite challenging, but I really liked the fact that, as someone who was quite young, I was dealing both with senior people in the organisation and with large sums of money.
“The impact you could have in treasury felt like so much more than just doing management accountancy.”
Another placement followed in corporate finance, where Bates worked for a couple of years. Despite this being with largely the same team, she says that it gave her an appreciation of the decisive nature of treasury.
“In corporate finance, you spend a lot of time looking at a deal only for it not to happen,” she explains. “I found that incredibly frustrating. When the opportunity came up to be deputy treasurer of Cable & Wireless Communications [which is now part of Virgin Media], I jumped at the chance.
“I was really young, only about 26, and it was a great opportunity.”
Stepping up in payments and treasury
Bates joined Worldpay as deputy treasurer in June 2012, having never worked for a company in the payments sector before.
“I love working in payments, because treasury is part of the product. People in the business will ask what I think about potential new products they are considering.”
When Bates first joined Worldpay, the treasury team was just three people. Over the years, the size and reach of the function has grown, something that she has continued to push further since becoming treasurer.
“There are certain items that are now on everyone’s agenda,” she says, “whether they be the head of our e-commerce business or someone who is part of our collections business. I have deliberately set out to do that.”
In her role at Worldpay, Bates is responsible for areas such as debt and capital management, working capital, cash forecasting, FX and risk management. In addition, she is also involved in strategic initiatives in the business.
We need to be clear on how we can make the integration a success, while maintaining our daily business
“We have a board that I am on that assesses new initiatives coming through the business. I also work on the capital review board, assessing projects that may impact working capital or capital.”
Having achieved the AMCT qualification back in 2001, Bates is a great example of where a passion for treasury can lead to in a career. At the time of writing, she is due to speak at the ACT Annual Conference 2018 in Liverpool.
“I appreciate the connections that the ACT brings,” she says. “In Liverpool, I’m going to be part of a panel discussing cash management. Given that we have around $4bn that goes through our bank accounts every day, I think I am quite well positioned to speak on that.”
On the subject of gender, Bates is a passionate advocate of improving the representation of women in senior roles.
As a lead sponsor of the Women of Worldpay (WOW) network, she regularly joins colleague-led panels and discussion forums, as well as mentoring several more junior members of the business.
“Success cannot be achieved by standing still and never being prepared to take risks,” she comments. “Some of my best performers have been those who said they were not ready for the job, but we promoted them anyway.”
Global payments provider
On 16 January this year, it was announced that US-based payments processor Vantiv had completed the acquisition of Worldpay Group, creating the combined global payments provider Worldpay, Inc.
As part of the combined organisation, there are now two co-treasurers: Bates in the UK and her US counterpart, Timothy Cooper.
“Tim understands the US business and what drives that, and I understand the international business – including all the FX complexity that the US business didn’t have,” says Bates.
“We complement each other and also get on really well, which is important, as the integration is a big extra part of our job this year.”
Bates and Cooper have put a lot of time and effort into creating a new treasury team structure for the organisation. “We have deliberately tried to mix people up,” Bates notes, “because we don’t want people working in silos.
“For example, out of my three direct reports, two are new and are based in the US, and Tim has the opposite on his side.”
When the two businesses were brought together, they told the market that they would make $200m of synergy savings. The whole business has been given targets to get to that point, which of course includes a treasury target working towards that goal.
“We also have projects that are specifically looking at integration of the business,” explains Bates. “If you think about governance, we have our policies and they have theirs; we need to bring these together and they have to go to the board.
“Then we have got a project that is looking at our technology, as both parts of the business have different treasury management systems, so we need to establish which one we are going to use.”
The people part of the equation is vital, too, Bates points out.
“We need to be clear on how we can make the integration a success, while maintaining our daily business,” she says. “If we need extra people, what level of person do we need? Do we take people out of the current team and move them into a project, and backfill there, or do we do it the other way around?
“We are currently trying to get to the position where we can outline what we need to achieve by the end of the year, and then to ensure that we get the approval to do this.”
Worldpay’s traditional business covers in-store credit card transactions, and it also has a global e-commerce business unit as well.
The global nature of the e-commerce division creates a level of complexity, from the wide variety of currencies to the different bank accounts all around the world, for example.
As such, the treasury team is split more onto the e-commerce side of the business.
“I’ve got a person who just closes off positions – mismatches between the currency that comes in to us from schemes and the currency that we pay merchants,” says Bates.
“Obviously, the corner shop down the road in London doesn’t want dollars. The money that comes into us from schemes won’t necessarily match what we are paying out, so we have to trade the FX on that.”
Worldpay has traditionally had three regulated businesses in the UK and one regulated business in the Netherlands, which has a major impact on cash management in the company.
Part of the regulations require the business to keep all merchants’ cash completely separate by legal entity. This prevents treasury from making the usual move of sweeping all cash into one central pool.
“We have to keep cash separate, so it is forecasted separately and funded separately,” says Bates. “Those flows are very dependent upon how much is being spent on the high street and online. We have people that forecast on the merchant side, very short term.
“Because we have money that comes in all over the world,” she adds, “we have to make sure that we have got money in the right place to make payments and FX trades.
“We have a team of people that just does that, and then I have someone who does the long term – what you would think of as the more usual corporate cash forecast – how much money can we spend on our next acquisition, for example.”
The team also includes three people who manage the bank account management, KYC and anti-money laundering. Having accounts with more than 100 banks and over 2,000 bank accounts around the world is a particularly important role when your business is to make payments.
“Worldpay processes for other companies, so it is not just our own flows that go through our bank accounts,” says Bates.
“Banks are obviously very careful about that, and we go through some detailed AML questioning. Different banks have different risk appetites, rules and regulations, and we have to keep on top of all of that.”
Treasury staff also work with technology, operations and the business to ensure that products are being designed in the most efficient way from a treasury perspective.
If something is not working from a treasury perspective and that thing is operational, these members of the team act as a bridge between the specific department and treasury.
Assessing the landscape
While the low interest rate environment persists in Europe, the same cannot be said about the US, where the Federal Reserve recently raised rates. As a result of the merger, this is news that has a direct effect on Worldpay.
“As a company that is now listed in the US where a lot of our debt is in US dollars, one of the things that is high on our agenda is raising interest rates,” says Bates. “The Fed put rates up in March, plus there are two or three more priced into the market for this year.
"The Fed is giving signals that will happen, although obviously things can change. For years, nobody has ever really thought much about the fixed/floating mix, and whether they are happy with it. We are looking at that actively now, as I think a lot of US companies are.”
Closer to the London offices that we are speaking in, Brexit is a topic that looms large, particularly for a payments services company such as Worldpay.
Bates, who sits on the company’s steering committee for Brexit, says: “Our Brexit steering committee is in place to make sure that we are in a good position in a year’s time.
“We can’t wait until this time next year to make changes – we need to plan how we will respond to a variety of possible outcomes now.”
In terms of regulation, the second payment services directive (PSD2) is a key priority for Worldpay this year. The company currently accepts more than 300 payment methods, and yet PSD2 could lead to a whole host of different payment methods.
“When things like PSD2 happen, we have to adapt as a business,” says Bates.
“That’s part of our big selling point to the global merchants – they only need to come to Worldpay, they don’t need to go to somewhere in the Netherlands to do iDeal and somewhere else in China to do Alipay, for example. PSD2 is a big opportunity for us.”
Joanne's words of wisdom
What I value most about the ACT is… The various levels of qualification that the ACT offers. Once you are a member of the ACT, the resource materials on the website are extremely useful and a great starting point. The knowledge that the ACT gives to treasury professionals is invaluable.
The person who has most inspired me in my work life is… There have been two exceptional women during my career: Jackie Giles was group treasurer at Cable & Wireless – she was a no-nonsense sort of person, yet really cared about her staff; and Ruth Prior, who is now the CFO of William Hill, but was the COO of Worldpay. She was the only female executive at the time and her approach brought a different view at board level.
What I like best about treasury is… The problem-solving. Making sure that a hedge works from an economic, business, accounting, tax, legal and regulatory perspective is no small ask. People forget how complex the problem-solving is; you need an eye for detail while considering the bigger picture.
The work challenge I would most like to fix is… The integration work following the merger with Vantiv. If I could wave a wand and get everything with our integration all done and the newly expanded team working well together, that would free up our time to really add value.
2018-present Co-treasurer, Worldpay, Inc
2016-2018 Group treasurer, Worldpay
2012-2016 Deputy treasurer, Worldpay
2011-2017 Company secretary and finance director, Supporting Adult Independent Living/Supporting Homeless
2010-2012 Treasury consultant, Rentokil Initial
2010-2011 Treasury consultant, Ecclesiastical Insurance Group
2007-2009 Senior treasury manager, Aegis Group
2004-2007 Career break
2000-2004 Deputy group treasurer, NTL Inc (now Virgin Media)
1998-2000 Deputy treasurer, Cable & Wireless
1996-1998 Manager international corporate finance, Cable & Wireless
1994-1997 Finance graduate programme, Cable & Wireless
London Business School corporate finance evening course (1997)
Qualified CIMA (1996)
BA (Hons) Business Studies Upper Second, University of Wolverhampton (1994), gaining the final year CIMA prize for best management accounting paper
About the author
Ben Poole is a freelance writer and editor, specialising in treasury and transaction banking