Creating an NPP Payment File using ISO20022

Throughout 2018 we have gradually seen more ADIs providing their customers (or members) with the ability to make payments through the New Payments Platform (NPP).  Commonwealth Bank of Australia and a large number of Mutual Banks and Credit Unions such as The Mac were the first to go live, however we have now seen all the major banks provide access for their customers to the platform.

While access to date has been mainly for retail customers (Mums and Dads), it is important for Corporate Australia to recognise the benefits that the NPP can give them.  As the NPP begins to accept larger payment sizes it will be possible for large customers who would normally settle by Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) to move to the NPP.  The NPP is significantly faster, cheaper and more reliable than making a settlement through RTGS.

In addition there are further potential advantages for Corporates.  Corporates typically release payroll payments a working day before they fall due, resulting in a funding cost of anywhere up to five additional days.  There is good reason for this: payroll is typically paid via Electonic Funds Transfer (EFT) which settles overnight.  That means if there are any problems in the payment process the payroll team can still correct it the following day and still pay their employees on time.

However because NPP payments settle in true real time, it would now be possible to schedule a payment in the early morning on the day the payroll falls due.  This saves the additional funding days whilst still allowing a payroll team to have multiple opportunities throughout the day to correct the payments if there are any problems.  Employees still have access to their money at the same time, but the interest benefit flows to the Corporate.

The following example shows how a much an NPP payment would be worth to a Corporate who moves from releasing a payroll payment ahead of the contractual minimum to the actual day.  In this example as long as the NPP payment didn’t cost 68c more than the current EFT payment then a saving will be made.

Example of Saving

There is still one uncertainty in this process however.  Many of the banks are still determining what they will charge corporate customers for NPP payments.  It will be more expensive than an EFT payment but hopefully a combination of the potential interest savings plus the ability to send payslips electronically would compensate for some of this cost.  In addition the more Corporates who move to making payments by the NPP, the more that the banks will be able to pass on the volumetric savings to their customers.  Hopefully a win for everyone concerned.

It is now time for Corporate Australia to start thinking about how they can make the NPP work to their advantage.  However to truly extract the benefits, it will be necessary for them to start working with their software providers to automatically transmit electronic payment files to their bank.  This will involve requiring the software provider to start programming the NPP payment format file ISO20022 so that it can be sent directly to their bank.  The objective of this article is to try and show how easily this can be achieved.

Until now, employees or suppliers have always provided BSB and Account Number in order to be paid.  However now it is possible to use a PayID to pay to a customer (see below for the different options).  To be able to offer the full functionality of the NPP payments, systems will need to be adapted to capture PayIDs as an alternative to BSB and Account No.

The precise format of how each bank will make this file work are still being finalised.  However for this article I am choosing to use ANZ’s file format.  Why?  Simply because ANZ were the first bank to make the format available.  My aim here is simply to show how the ISO20022 file works and how good that file format is.  Hopefully that will give all Corporates the incentive to start talking to their own bank and beginning development of their files.

For those of you familiar with either the standard Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) file format for EFT payments or even the SWIFT MT101 message, the ISO20022 file is completely different.  It uses an XML format.  While this does make for a much longer message, each line of data is wrapped between a tag opening <tag> and a tag closing </tag>.  This gives complete certainty over the data – no more having to line up an exact number of characters on a single line or concatenate multiple fields together.

To get the best out of the rest of this article, I suggest that you download an Excel file which I have created which easily turns standard payment data into the required XML format at the click of a button.  Remember that the NPP gives four different payment options, and one ISO20022 file caters for all of them:

  1. Pay to a standard BSB and Account Number combination
  2. Pay using a Pay ID which can be
    • A registered e-mail address
    • A registered mobile phone number
    • A registered organisational ID such as an ABN

ISO20022 Download Button

The file is an xlsm file – ie an Excel file which contains macros.  That macro (Output_XML) will create an ISO20022 file when run.  There are a few things that you need to do before running the macro for the first time:

  1. Ensure that macros are enabled
  2. Add a valid directory on your PC in cell B8 to output the file to
  3. If you want change the name of the file change cell B8 (keep the .txt file extension)
  4. If you want to output a different file each time with a datestamp then change cell B10 to Yes

To run the file, simply click on the Output XML button at the top of the page.  A full output file to the directory and filename specified.  By being able to play around with and manipulate the file you can get a sense of how ISO20022 works.

It is noted that this is the first draft of a file format and may be subject to change in the future as functionality develops.  Note given that ISO20022 for NPP is very much in its infancy, it has not been possible to test that the spreadsheet works totally correctly.  It is merely designed as a learning tool to show how easy this can be developed, so that Corporates gain the confidence to go and look at this as a project with their own bank.

ISO20022 for NPP has four core components to the file structure.  The remainder of this document will make most sense if read in conjunction with using the spreadsheet.

A. The Group Header <GrpHdr>

This is fairly routine and contains information about the whole file such as a message ID with the creation date and time of the file.  The key part of the file is the number of payments to be processed (<NbOfTxs>) and the batch total of all the payments in the file (<CtrlSum>).  The ANZ file format also contains an additional line around authorisation of the transaction (<Authstn><Prtry>) which allows the file to either be authorised in internet banking or allow straight through processing.

The static variables are contained in rows B12-15 of the spreadsheet.

B. Payment Information <PmtInf> split into three parts

Part 1. Further information about the transaction

There is some repetition of information here such as the batch totals and payment numbers, however a unique reference is required for the file (<PmtInfId>).  The key field here is the ability to set a value date for the file to be processed (<ReqdExctnDt>).

The static variables are contained in rows B17-22 of the spreadsheet.  Requested Execution Date is the only non-static variable.

Part 2. The bank account to be debited <DbtAgt>

The bank account to be debited is contained within the tags <DbtAgt> with the key fields being BSB and Account Number.

The static variables are contained in rows B25 to B29.  Note it would appear that only one bank account can be debited in each file.

Part 3. The payments to be made <CdtTrfTxInf>

One <CdtTrfTxInf> tag (open and close) is required per payment.

Each payment requires a unique transaction reference (<InstrId>) in the spreadsheet I have done this by putting a combination of date and time with a transaction number, however if programming in an ERP or treasury system this would likely be able to have their own unique reference which could be replicated.

The amount to be paid is in the <Amt> tag.  The only currency available in the NPP currently is AUD, so the second tag can read <InstdAmt Ccy = “AUD”> then the Amount in dollars and cents.

The final part is the information about the creditor themselves.  This is the only part which varies according to whether BSB/Account number of PayID is being used.

For BSB and Account Number payments the BSB goes in the <FinInstnId> tag with the account number in the <CdtrAcct> tag.


However where a PayID is used the only information required it the PayID itself and the type of PayID being used using the <CtctDtls> tag.  For example where an e-mail address is used the tag if <EmailAdr> and then the type of PayID is shown between the <Othr> tag.


When using the spreadsheet, the variable data used for each payment begins at line D7 and goes through to line D21.


Although the ISO20022 file appears to generate a very long file just to make a single payment, it contains excellent flexibility thought the use of XML.  The functionality of this file is also adaptable in that new tags can be added in the future.

Given the benefits of the NPP, I would recommend that Corporates start to consider the benefits of using the NPP to make all payments.  It will take time to plan this out and time is still required for the NPP to increase volumes and transaction size, however given the functionality this is an investment that all Corporates should start to make.

About the Author


Alistair McLean is a former Non-executive Director of The Mac (a credit union who implemented the NPP on day one) and the former Group Treasurer of Metcash Limited.  Alistair is currently taking a [very] short break between jobs.  Alistair is a Fellow of the Association of Corporate Treasurers, a Fellow of the Finance and Treasury Association, a Chartered Management Accountant and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.



IFRS16: How to make the financial mathematics work

As a treasurer, I have always found that financial mathematics underpins the way in which any treasury works. One of the first questions I always ask an interviewee is how they would accrue interest on a loan or deposit – if you can’t answer that, your treasury career is going to be short-lived. Financial mathematics range from the simple (accruing interest) through to the mind-blowing (valuations of exotic derivative products).

This is why the new lease accounting standard, IFRS16 is so fascinating. It sits somewhere at the lesser end of complexity using core treasury mathematics such as accruing interest, discounting cashflows and setting up loan (principal plus interest) repayment schedules. The great thing however is that all the calculations are interconnected.  I’m going to try to focus purely on the mathematics in this blog.  If you are looking for lots of technical references to accounting standards then this probably isn’t the blog for you.

IFRS16 comes into effect for lessee accounting for accounting periods beginning on 1 January 2019 or thereafter. Whilst some treasurers may believe that this is one for the accountants to sort out, I would disagree. For anyone with a substantial lessee position you are going to have to manage a significant increase in both assets and liabilities plus some large timing differences in the profit and loss account. For companies who are lessees, their treasury team will be instrumental in determining the incremental borrowing rate (where a borrowing rate is not immediately observable) to be used in the calculations.


There are a lot of really good publications on IFRS16 which have been released by the major accounting firms. Many of them are worthy of a read (see end of the blog) however all of the examples contained within them are based on annual examples. These are great to conceptually demonstrate how the standard works, however in the real world there aren’t many leases where payment is only made once a year.

All of the annual examples work brilliantly.  However if you try to apply exactly the same mathematics to an example where there are more frequent cashflows you will find that it doesn’t work.  If you use the same incremental borrowing rate for discounting and accruing your principal and interest schedule it will not pay down to nil by the end of the lease.  If that doesn’t make sense now, it should later.

Remember that different auditors have different interpretations on the way in which the accounting standards should be implemented.  Before beginning any new methodology to implement IFRS16 it would be wise to check with your auditors first.


  • Annual rent of CU1,000,000 payable in equal monthly installments
  • Payments are made 2 working days before month end
  • No bank or public holidays
  • 10 year lease term from 30 June 2017 to 30 June 2027
  • Expected life of the lease is exactly the same as its term
  • For this example transition to IFRS16 is on 1 July 2017
  • Calculated using a standard month end financial calendar
  • Annual discount rate = 8%
  • Basis = 365 days
  • No impairment of lease or prepayments
  • Transition method: modified retrospective
    • Lease was previously classified as an operating lease
    • Where the Right of Use (ROU) Asset is made equal to the Lease Liability

Each part calculation methodology is abbreviated in the interests of space.  On many of the tables below you can click on them to see the full calculation.

1. Calculate the present value of the lease liability and right of use asset

This is done by discounting all of the cashflows back to the commencement date of the lease.  In this example, although the lease started on 30 June 2017, this was before the transition date of 1 July 2017.  Therefore 1 July 2017 is the commencement date with the days calculation in the discount formula based on number of days from this date.


Basis usually depends on the standard for that currency.  Whether you use a 360 or a 365 day basis, as long as it is used consistently in all calculations the methodology will work.


Because we have elected to use the modified retrospective transition method where the ROU Asset equals the lease liability, the following accounting entries are generated on commencement date:


2. Calculate the depreciation schedule for the ROU asset

This is a fairly simple calculation to do.  The ROU asset is depreciated over the expected life of the lease according to the number of days in each accounting month.  This will depend on the accounting calendar which you are using.  Remember to adjust the first and last months by the number of days in the month where the lease was not in existance.

As the depreciation is straight line the same amount is expenses in the P&L through the life of the lease in the months which have identical day count.

The number of days which is used in this calculation (3,651) should be exactly the same as the number of days calculated in part 3 (interest expense).

This generates the following accounting entries in the first month


3. Calculate the principal and interest schedule for the lease liability

This requires the setting up of a standard principal and interest schedule as if the lease was a loan from the lessor. In the modified retrospective option the starting lease liability is the same amount as the right of use asset which was calculated in part 1. The loan is then repaid by making a rental payment each month which reduces the principal amount of the loan.  This is one of the conceptual parts of IFRS16 which you need to get your head around – rental payments are no longer expensed through the P&L, they are an entry to the balance sheet.

Interest accrues on the loan on a daily basis. IFRS16 requires that the rate used for accruing interest is the same as the discount rate. There is one problem here. As we know from the principles of compound interest an annual interest rate is not the same as a monthly interest rate.

To get around this problem it is necessary to adjust the interest rate from an annual rate to a rate for each period depending on day count. This is done using the following formula.


So an 8% annual rate is adjusted to 7.719682% for a 29 day period. This rate is then used to calculate the interest accrual.


The interest accrued is then capitalised back into the outstanding liability balance each time there is a cashflow or at the end of each accounting period.


The important thing about this schedule is to ensure that the outstanding principal is paid off to nil by the end of the life of the lease. If you get this calculation right in the above schedule the carried forward amount on the last day of the calculation is nil. As you see above the balance is CU1. This is a result of rounding to 2 digits for cents in each line of the calculation.  Don’t worry if you are a few CUs out at the end, but it shouldn’t be more than a few.

Also note that the number of days interest accrued in total (3,651) should be the same as the depreciation schedule.

On 30 July 2017 the first rent payment is made, this has a negative cashflow and reduces the operating lease liability.  On the same day the accrued interest expense is capitalised into the liability balance.  On 31 July 2017 accrued interest expense is again capitalised because it is a month end,



  • Interest Accruals

The day count is calculated based on the number of days, based on start date, which fall in the same month. This is the normal practice for calculating accruals in accounting. In the above example there are 31 days in which interest accrues in the month of July. Even though you see the interest end date in July 2018 as being in August.

Whilst this is the correct way to accrue if you accrue on the basis of end date rather than start date the differences are minimal.

  • Financial Calendars

Whilst many companies use a calendar month as their month end day, some companies use weekly cycles for month ends (eg a 4+5+4 week cycle where there are 364 days in a financial year which is caught up with a 53rd week periodically).

By using the method of capitalising the accrued interest at cashflow dates and month end dates the interest expense over the life of the lease will the same irrespective of the month end convention used.

  • Discount Rates

To make the calculations works perfectly it is best to use an annual discount rate. This may take a bit of conversion depending on the quoting convention of each element of the discount rate.

If a company has an equivalent traded debt instrument with tenor the same as the expected life of the lease then this is pretty easy: use the current all-up market yield on the debt instrument. Remember that if the debt instrument pays interest on a frequency other than annual it must be adjusted back to annual.  The same methodology for adjusting interest rates as per part 3 above can be used to convert to an annual interest rate.

However for a company which may not have a debt instrument of equivalent tenor to the expected life of the lease then some derivation of rate may be required. For example the base rate at which a company may borrow for 10 years at commencement date of the lease may be the fixed swap rate for that tenor. However these may be quoted on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual basis and must be adjusted back to annual.  In addition a credit margin could also be quoted on a basis of other than annual.

Profit and Loss

This table shows the effect of IFRS16 relative to the current accounting standards in the profit and loss. Currently rent is expensed as incurred on cash basis, meaning that the profit and loss is consistent at CU1,000,000 per annum.

Under IFRS16 however the profit and loss is the sum of the depreciation expense plus the interest expense. This means that the profit and loss is significantly higher in the early years of the lease, but gets significantly less towards the end of the lease.  Over the life of the lease the overall profit and loss effect will be the sum of the rental cashflows (ie CU 10,000,000).  However there is now a timing difference in the way that the IFRS16 P&L is recognised compared to previous standards.

The aim here is to try to create a level playing field between buying and asset and leasing it. If a company buys a fixed asset then the fixed asset is depreciated and the company must fund it. Assuming that the company funds from debt then there would be an interest cost to doing so.

If a company enters into a lease agreement then the right of use asset is depreciated and IFRS16 deems that the lease is funded as if it was debt, hence the interest cost at the company’s incremental cost of borrowing.

Does it really create a level playing field? Sort of, but it’s not perfect. When buying a fixed asset the initial asset value is what was paid for it.  In leasing it is the present value of the future cashflows for the expected life of the lease at a derived discount rate. A fixed asset may be funded from operating cashflows, debt or equity and may not necessarily give rise to an interest cost. A lease liability, however, will always give rise to an interest cost.

If there are no changes to the structure of the lease (eg a change in the expected life of the lease) then all the accounting entries for that life are known on day one.  Depreciation expense is straight line so it is only increases in leap years.  Interest expense is higher in the early years are more of the rental payment goes to paying off interest rather than principal (this is exactly the same concept as how a home loan works).  Monthly figures can be seen by clicking on the table.


The graph below shows these same values.  In the early years the overall profit and loss expense is about 20% higher than under current accounting standards.  However by the last year it is almost 30% less.

The interesting line is the cumulative effect which shows that by the middle of the lease the total expense under IFRS16 is CU5.6m compared to CU5.0m under the old standard (ie 56% of the expense is taken in the first half of the lease and 44% in the second half).  This effect does change slightly as discount rates and tenor varies, however the impact on total expense is less signficant than one might expect.


Balance Sheet

Because the ROU asset reduces on a straight line basis but the lease liability reduces on a capital repayment schedule basis, the value of the liability will be greater than the asset over the entire life of the lease.


This differential peaks at CU0.6m in the middle of the life of the lease (which is the same as the cumulative difference in profit and loss expense).

Alternative Methodology: Continuous Compounding

This is largely a variation on the above, however this is the only way I can think of where the rate used to discount (step 1) is the same rate which is used to accrue (step 3).  However it gives exactly the same numeric result as the methodology above.

Continuous compounding is something which I learned in my ACT exams about 15 years ago and could never find an application for its use.  It uses a principle that interest accrues daily and is immediately capitalised into the principal.  This means that a continuously compounded rate is much lower than the equivalent annual discount rate.

Remember in the discussion around the interest that I explained that the discount rate needed to be an annual rate.  This same annual rate can be converted to a continuously compounded interest rate by using the formula.


Where e is a constant = 2.7182818 (this can be found on your calculator)

Using the above example an 8% annual interest rate can be converted to a continuously compounded rate as follows:


Part one of the above methodology is where r is the continuously compounded annual interest rate of


In part three of the above methodology the accrual


Mathematically you get exactly the same result as the main methodology.  However you can at least say that you used the same rate for both discounting and calculating the interest (even if there is some mathematical slight of hand in saying this).

Is it possible to use the same interest rate for both Step 1 and Step 3?

Yes where the cashflow on the lease only occurs annually, however in practice this rarely happens.  However for anything other than annual flows this will never work.  This is result of the discounting using a compounding methodology whilst accruing interest is a linear methodology.

Further Reading

If you’ve made it this far then you might be the sort of person who enjoys further reading

About the Author


Alistair McLean is a Non-executive Director of The Mac and Group Treasurer of Metcash Limited.   Alistair is a Fellow of the Association of Corporate Treasurers, a Fellow of the Finance and Treasury Association, a Chartered Management Accountant and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Between 2003 and 2005 Alistair designed Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s hedge accounting system to comply with IFRS39.  IFRS16 would appear to be a similar challenge which will require good systems to be able to handle the quantum of calculations involved.

The opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of either Metcash Limited or The Mac.

What is the reference to Zona Dorada: The US town with a ZIP Code of 91516 which links to the same 3 accounting standards which the financial community are currently implementing (IFRS9, IFRS15 and IFRS16)

New Payments Platform Blog for the Association of Corporate Treasurers

I am delighted to have written an article for the Association of Corporate Treasurers (of which I am a long term member and fellow of the Association) on the benefits of Australia’s New Payments Platform (NPP) for the international treasurer.

The article can be accessed on the ACT’s Blog.


The First Day of a Revolution in Australian Payments

I’m not sure whether you were as excited as I was yesterday, however at 12.01am a revolution in Australian dollar payments began as CUSCAL launched the New Payments Platform (NPP) on behalf of 40 Banks and Credit Unions.  Launching under the Osko by BPay brand, the NPP will offer a genuine real-time payment system.  In a world where all the hype is about blockchain, this significant investment in technology will put Australia at the forefront of real-time payments for many years to come.

I had hoped to be one of the first people to make a payment using the NPP, however not all ADIs were able to accept payments on day one so I had to settle for registering my PayID.  A PayID allows both individuals and corporations to register an e-mail address, mobile phone number or even an ABN with a nominated bank account.  Over time it will become commonplace to pay to a PayID rather than having to remember the BSB and account number of the bank account you wish to pay to.

As a non-executive director of The Mac (The Macarthur Credit Union) it was great to see an ADI with $250m+ of Assets launch this product ahead of many of the larger players in the financial services market.  It appears that a Corporate Treasurer was not the only person who wanted to be part of the new technology with a significant number of The Mac’s Members embracing the NPP and making payments.  Congratulations are due to not only the hard working team at The Mac, but also to all of the ADIs who launched the NPP yesterday.

Registering my PayID with The Mac’s online banking app was a very simple process to do.  As your financial institution rolls out this functionality, you should consider registering your e-mail address and mobile phone number to a PayID.  It might just encourage a mate to repay that long standing debt they owe you.

The question now becomes where can the financial community take the NPP too?  The launch of the NPP is initially being done slowly with little fanfare.  Howeve the speed of the rollout will increase over time as more ADIs make the functionality available to their customers.  It is my opinion that eventually the NPP will supercede the two existing payment systems: electronic funds transfer and real time gross settlement (or as I’ve always referred to it – the world’s least real time, real-time payments system).  The NPP offers faster settlement than both systems with significantly more functionality and will be significantly cheaper than RTGS.

There is one important piece of the jigsaw which is missing on day one.  For the NPP to achieve universal acceptance among customers as the payment network of choice then it is vital for Corporate Australia to embrace the network.  The best form of advertisement would be for corporations to migrate their payroll and creditor payments to the NPP.

It’s going to take a bit of time to do this.  The larger financial institutions have only just begun providing specifications for electronic transfer of data and it will take time to upgrade software so that they understand PayIDs as well as bank account details.  The big question however is still what will a corporation pay for a NPP payment?  To accelerate the acceptance of the NPP it is vital that this be priced at a near equivalent rate to an EFT payment.  I look forward to seeing where the larger ADIs elect to price this service in the future.

I end the day as excited as I was this morning and look forward to eventually making my first NPP payment…….

About the Author


Alistair McLean is a Non-executive Director of The Mac and Group Treasurer of Metcash Limited.   As a corporate user of both the EFT and RTGS networks for the last 10 years, he believes that the NPP offers a bright new future for Australian dollar payments.

About The Mac

The Mac is a Credit Union with branches in Narellan, Camden, Picton and Tahmoor.  From humble beginnings this proud mutual exists for the benefit of its 13,000+ members and the community, offering competitive rates on home and personal loans and deposits.


The opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of either organisation.

Finance and Treasury Association Conference 2017: A Retrospective

It’s not the easiest job to try and condense everything which happened at the Finance and Treasury Association’s 2017 Conference into my first blog post. Having being a member for 15 years it has been a great experience to be able to contribute something back to the Association through being part of this year’s Conference Committee.

When we began planning the Conference at the start of the year, hopes were high that we could build on last year’s event at the Gold Coast. We aimed to put together a conference agenda which suited the changing needs of our Members, Exhibitors and Sponsors.  The theme 30 Years and Beyond: Managing Risk in the New World was a nod to the past as it was the 30th edition of the conference but also also an acknowledgement of the future as our Members adapt to an every changing risk landscape.

The conference acts as the acid test of the mood of the Australian treasury community: be they corporates, financial institutions or service providers.  I certainly took a sense of optimism from the conference.  Funding markets are probably at the most favourable point for borrowers since the GFC and, whilst treasurers are naturally cautious in their predictions for the future, there is a feeling that these market conditions may remain in the short to medium term.

Certainly with continued improvement in deal quality in the Australian domestic bond market, in terms of both volume and longer tenor, this optimism is not misplaced.  This was borne out by 67% of the audience of the audience in the debt capital markets update responding that they were moderately confident that the global recovery around the world was sustainable (by contrast 10% were very confident and 23% not confident).


Panelists at the Plenary Session (L-R): Mandy Drury, Tony Nash, Colin Storrie and Steve Sammartino

This conference is made or broken on the basis of its opening plenary session.  Putting together a panel as diverse as a bricks and mortar retailer (Colin Storrie, Group Director, Woolworths Limited), an online retailer (Tony Nash, CEO, Booktopia) and a futurist (Steve Sammartino) was always going to have a wide range of thought provoking ideas. Master of Ceremonies Mandy Drury (Journalist and News Anchor, CNBC) allowed each speaker to bring their individual vision to life yet cleverly weavin the narrative together between the past, present and future.

I was struck by the honesty and openness which each presenter offered to the audience.  Colin Storrie was able to demonstrate how developing a robust capital management framework has been critical to his success in each of his executive roles.  He gave personal insights into decisions made during his time at Qantas, AMP and now Woolworths.  His framework is applicable to any organisation who is seeking to increase shareholder [or Member] value:

  1. Maintain Financial Strength
  2. Provide for sustainable levels of investment and growth
  3. Offer strong returns to shareholders
  4. Optimise cost of capital, funding costs and liquidity

Tony Nash’s talk Once Upon a Time there was a $10 Note referred to the daily budget his brother gave him to run Booktopia when it was initially founded in 2003 where in Tony’s words it had no plan and no vision. As an entrepreneur Tony thinks differently to the average treasurer but the learnings are definitely applicable to any finance and treasury professional. Everyone in the room is an entrepreneur even if they work for someone else and that trusting gut feeling and intuition is an important part of being an entrepreneur.

Steve Samartino’s talk Technology is the New Finance was a high energy look into the future. The smartphone has now given the consumer a world of infinite choice, so they way that you feel about the company providing that service is why you choose them. Steve looked at how quickly the world is changing: when new technologies arrive then things get solved in innovative ways.

As treasurers we need to change the way in which we think and behave in order to adapt as well. Steve made two predictions that I will remember: there will be no petrol cars in 10 years time and that each home will soon be capable of being self sufficient in energy as battery technology improves, something which Kurt Smith, Treasury Manager at Western Power, noted in a later session would put him out of a job in the future.

When I first attended the FTA’s conference some 10 years ago, the agenda was dominated by technical issues.  Technology is successfully meaning that this type of material can be moved to webinars allowing the conference to concentrate on provoking each delegate to think about issues differently.  This makes for a much more accessible agenda.

I’m going to apologise in advance at this point for not being able to mention every session which went on at conference.  With two streams running in parallel it is not possible for one person to attend every session.  However I would like to acknowledge the cumulative wealth of knowledge which was shared by every participant in the panel sessions and the work of each chair in putting these sessions together.

Ben Price Compare and Master of Ceremonies at the NAB Gala Dinner

Day 2 began with Adam Spencer speaking about Random Thoughts for an Equally Random Mind.


I had written in the Programme Welcome that I was sure that Adam would make the Black-Scholes model look like a primary school maths test but was I was surprised when I was able to follow Adam’s love of the largest known prime number.  If you have time to listen to his TED talk, it is worth it.  Adam’s comment at the end of the talk that the smartphone would soon be capable of breaking down linguistic barriers for business, rendering the need for a human to translate obsolete .  This certainly resonated with me: I would love my kids to be able to speak another language but this ultimately could go the same way as the chance of them needing to sit their driving test once driverless technology inevitably becomes commonplace.


Adam Spencer and Fiamma Morton from CBA

It was great to see diversity on the agenda for the first time at an FTA Conference with insights from Steven Asnicar, CEO, Diversity Australia.  Whilst corporate Australia is making good headway in addressing issues of diversity, inclusion and equality you still cannot solve this issue without putting each company’s culture right first.  If what you see on the surface is different to the culture then it will not be possible to succeed.  I was also not aware before this talk that age is the most significant bias in the workforce today.

We also did something new at this year’s conference. A session devoted entirely to the Risks and Rewards of LinkedIn – Uncovering Financial Treasures facilitated by Sue Ellson. Whilst LinkedIn has been around since 2003 (and Sue was one of the first 80,000 people to join) many of the audience were not aware of its networking and educational capability, simply viewing it as a huge database for recruiters. By taking the audience through both the basics and some of the more advanced opportunities, Sue seemed to engender much discussion amongst the audience whilst people hastily updated their profiles on their devices as she spoke.

Sue did an excellent evaluation of Treasurer Cale Bennett‘s online profile. Indeed this article is a promise that I made to Sue that I would look to write my first article on LinkedIn, something that I would encourage all members of the FTA to do to share their knowledge with a wider audience. Finally, in spite of it being the basis of her business, Sue recommends that you shouldn’t spend more than 20 minutes a week on LinkedIn.


Alisa Camplin

The final keynote speaker of the conference was Alisa Camplin who gave an engrossing talk on Creating Success in Sport, Business and Life.  From the outset of this talk I was captured by Alisa’s determination to succeed – she knew in 1994 that she wanted to make the team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in spite of not being able to ski. She showed how planning + hardwork + attention to detail was key to everything that she has and will achieve in life whether that be in sport, business or family life. She also taught an audience of treasurers how to do a triple twisting, double somersault in 3.5 seconds. I don’t want to spoil the power of Alica’s story for those who may be fortunate enough to hear her speak in the future, however the work she and her husband Oliver have done to found Finnan’s Gift is inspiring.


The author and Alan Huse from ANZ at the Welcome Drinks

The choice of the Sheraton Grand Mirage on the Gold Coast for this year’s event was a deliberate ploy to take both Melbournites and Sydneysiders away from their home turf.  In the conference welcome I urged delegates to leave the office behind, disable their technological devices and immerse themselves in the conference programme.  Judging from the participation in each session and the level of networking, this message seemed to be embraced.  If anyone is having trouble justifying to their boss why they shouldn’t be allowed to attend a conference a stones throw from one of the world’s best surf beaches then ask them to read this blog before making their decision.  It is also the healthiest conference I have ever been to with many delegates taking advantage of first light at around 4am to swim, run or walk before the morning’s agenda began.

The CBA Juice Bar

Details of the 31st Annual Conference will be announced on the Association’s website soon.

About the Author


Alistair McLean is a Corporate Treasurer and a Non-executive director.  He has been a member of the Finance and Treasury Association since the day he emigrated to Australia 15 years ago.  During 2017 he was the Chair of the Conference Committee, which was responsible for organising the 30th Anniversary Conference.  He blogs on


Thank you to Tian Jay of KE Creative for kindly providing all the photos for this blog.