Rebuilding the house – how to digitalize treasury in a transition phase

Imagine you are the CFO of a listed, matrix organized company. You get acquired by private equity owners who commission the group to restructure into three independent business units. One of the missions you get: Fix and digitalize all operations in 15 months.

How do you get the work done? Åke Bengtsson, CFO Gunnebo Group, has the answers. “Digitalize and get control of your data”, he states as he just has finished such a transition.

Åke Bengtsson, CFO Gunnebo Group, on digitalizing your treasury.
Having software and tools in place with accurate data were necessary, Åke Bengtsson, CFO Gunnebo Group, states.

Gunnebo Group, a global company within the industry of safety and security products, has been under transition since the end of 2020. It was then delisted from the stock exchange market, acquired by the private equity firms Altor Equity Partners and Stena Adactum.

The transition has involved a number of challenges, including establishing three independent business units within the group, simultaneously running the ongoing business. As this was not enough, the transition had an objective to divest one of the three business units.

From a treasury perspective, this process set high demands on flexibility, accuracy and not least speed on everyone involved. The time frame of 15 months was, in these contexts, tight.

“The major challenge was the short, aggressive time frame from being stock listed to establish three separated business units,” Åke Bengtsson says. “We had around 70 legal entities during this major transition. It was a complex process.”

Establishing a project management office

The first thing Åke Bengtsson and the management did was to establish a project management office.

“This was one of our core successes. From there, all activities related to the transition were managed. That made it possible to have the ongoing business as a separate task,” Åke Bengtsson explains. “Week by week we ensured that everybody was updated on what was happening and that there were cross interactions between the different consultants.”

Rebuilding the house

Gunnebo Group CEO, Stefan Syrén, has described the change as rebuilding the foundation of a house. In this refurbishment Gunnebo established the three independent business units Entrance Control, Safe Storage and Cash Management, completing the transition with the divestment of Cash Management in March 2022. Åke Bengtsson agrees with the metaphor.

“Gunnebo was coming from an old matrix organization, heading into an end-to-end structure. In this context, getting the right people with the right skills onboard were key tasks to manage.”

In what way do you consider digitalized treasury a part of the change?

“Gunnebo is present on so many markets and we established several new legal entities during the transition. So, having software and tools in place with accurate data were necessary to manage the ongoing operations and to support the transition.

You closed your treasury operations in Switzerland and moved it back to Sweden. Why would you say that was important?

“We were facing a major change. What we needed were, again, software and tools that were up to date, connected and met all the new functionalities we needed to manage the transition. We were simply forced to digitalize our treasury structure. We also needed a partner who were able to scale up and make a lot of things happen in a short period of time. I found that in Core Process and the Coupa Treasury system.”

Do you consider you have an end-to-end solution with a digital interface now in your treasury?

“For sure. We have set up a new digital arena for all the legal entities. The ERP systems are changed and implemented in the companies, connected to the Coupa Treasury system. In turn, Coupa Treasury is connected to our new bank partner, giving us an end-to-end solution.

Why was it important to implement a global, digital treasury system for the entire group?

“First of all, we needed to have accurate data. Cash flow had a growing importance during this period with new ownership and new financing. But it was also important to collect information from all the different banks. We needed the ability to plan, forecast and manage cash in a necessarily more efficient way. The learning is to have all your information collected in the right place. With Coupa Treasury we have digitalized all documents needed for the treasury operations.”

Do you regard the Cash Management unit was ready to exit as an independent business unit, thanks to using a global platform with an open, web-based system?

“From a treasury perspective, yes. I think we succeeded because of the way we planned and designed it in the treasury system, from knowing we had a divestment in front of us.”

One of Core Process’ assignments was to implement Coupa Treasury. How did you experience this process?

“As always when you do transitions, planning is a key. We spent a lot of time together to plan and set up the system before the change. This was a key for the successful transition. And what we talk about is a full-fledged treasury function. From a system perspective, you need an open system landscape. From a consultant and advisory perspective, you need an advisor who can meet up to what we need on all levels.”

Can you elaborate on that, which were these demands?

“A transition project means working close to the owners and the board, knowing their requirements and needs in terms of information. It also means knowing the needs further down the line, supporting the daily business within the full scope of treasury. I needed a partner who could work and cover all aspects of treasury.”

The project was delivered in the middle of an accounting year. What challenges did that bring you and the organization?

“First of all, if I had the choice, of course I would prefer to do it in the beginning of an accounting year, as you then have the full year data. But we have now proven that this is possible to do during the year. It is again depending on good planning, collaboration and a decision on what data and what level of data you need.”

This is a summarized version of our Treasury Insights talk with Åke Bengtsson. Do you want to take full part of Åke Bengtssons insights?

Watch our Treasury Insights video “Rebuilding the house – how to digitalize treasury in a transition phase”.

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