What is corporate treasury? As explained to your mother/father-in-law
Your mortgage, credit card, holiday money and current account have business equivalents. They are managed by corporate treasurers. The title question, or variations, is one I have to answer quite often. Even more around the holidays, when I always meet my relatives. I am tweaking the answer constantly. Connecting private and business is my current strategy. Perhaps you (expert in the field or layman) can let me know if this explanation works for you.
You have a current, savings and perhaps other account. You pay the rent, groceries and a beer. You use a debit or credit card, cash, a cheque, paypal or other channel. You take care only you and the people you trust have access to your money. Corporate treasurers build and maintain a banking infrastructure that allows payments. They think about who is allowed to make payments (often they are), who can authorize (not a payment person), what bank to use and potential other payment channels.
You have a mortgage or personal loan so you could buy a house or pay for groceries when at the end of your paycheque the month did not come to an end yet. Corporate treasurers find funds necessary for their company and have a wider set of products available like bank credit facilities, bonds or new equity.
You feel fluctuations in interest and currencies, when you cross the border to another currency country. Your mortgage, current account and credit card come with an interest. Both currencies and interest change over time: financial markets are not stable. Many of us just accept these changes. Corporate treasurers think and manage these risks: they think about the currencies in commercial contracts, about the length & price of various funding products and about mitigating the risks, for instance using derivatives.
Of course the above description is an oversimplification of the position. Treasurers have many other tasks and the complexity in a corporate environment is higher than a standard household situation. Furthermore I want to stress is that treasurers are not bookkeepers or controllers: they do not send or receive invoices and do not write the annual report. They manage actual money flows.
I hope you will be able to properly inform your mother/father-in-law about the job this year. Enjoy the holidays!
Pieter de Kiewit