The Treasury Update Podcast by Strategic Treasurer

Episode 163

Linking Treasury to Organizational Vision

On this episode of the Treasury Update Podcast, Host Craig Jeffery interviews Stephanie Villatoro, Global Officer of Treasury at International Justice Mission, on linking treasury to organizational vision. She shares an overview of her career journey to the non-profit world, the powerful mission of the International Justice Mission, and the opportunities and challenges treasury is facing today. Listen in to learn how to better position yourself for success and fulfillment in treasury.


Craig Jeffery, Strategic Treasurer

Craig - Headshot


Stephanie Villatoro, International Justice Mission

Stephanie Villatoro
International Justice Mission

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Episode Transcription - Episode #163: Linking Treasury to Organizational Vision

INTRO  0:07   

Welcome to The Treasury Update Podcast presented by Strategic Treasurer, your source for interesting treasury, news, analysis, and insights in your car at the gym, or wherever you decide to tune in. On this episode of The Treasury Update Podcast host Craig Jeffrey interviewed Stephanie Villatoro global officer of treasury at International Justice Mission on linking treasury to organizational vision. She shares an overview of her career journey to the nonprofit world, the powerful mission of the International Justice Mission, and the opportunities and challenges treasury is facing today. Listen in to learn how to better position yourself for success and fulfillment in treasury. 


Stephanie Villatoro  0:57   

Stephanie, welcome to The Treasury Update Podcast. 


Thank you, Craig. It’s great to be here today. 


Craig Jeffery  1:03   

Since our topic is linking treasury to organizational vision. I think there’s a couple things that would be good to start with one would be your journey in treasury and then second up familiarity of what IJM does but maybe make a start with your career journey in treasury. 


Stephanie Villatoro  1:22   

I’m probably one of the few people that you’ll meet that actually has never worked anywhere else but treasury. I’ve been work in in treasury since, well for 20, some years. But since 1997, right out of college, I joined as a treasury analyst with an Atlanta company that was in the healthcare business. And since then, I’ve worked either as a practitioner in treasury, or as a treasury consultant, throughout my career, so it’s about split between consulting and practitioner. 


Craig Jeffery  2:00   

Thanks for the quick overview of your journey and you’re right, there’s many people move into treasury at some point, and decide to stay there and you have that interesting background of going back and forth between consulting and being a direct practitioner. I have known you for quite a few years and we’ve worked together in two different companies three different times, like consulting side, so this is this is fun to continue that dialogue. The mission of the International Justice Mission is really pretty, pretty interesting, and worth exploring. I really didn’t hear much about it until you said you were taking a position with them. When you’re with the firm and I’ve since become more acquainted with what they do but I don’t know how many people know about IJM, and maybe you could give us an overview maybe start with some statistics, or what’s going on with IGM just as we talked about, so as we move to the linking treasury to organizational vision, we know what the vision is and the missions is of IJM.  


Stephanie Villatoro  3:09   

Certainly, Craig. I’ll start with just a high level of why IJM exists and move into some of the vision that we have as well. So IJM is around, and it started just because of violence is an everyday threat for people that are in poverty. It’s as much as a part of poverty as hunger is when you think of violence and hunger. This is not violence like war, genocide, but it’s common criminal violence that’s already against the law, and it’s crimes like slavery, violence against women and children, and police abuse of power. Our partners and I with IJM, they protect people in poverty against this violence. We collaborate with local justice systems and build communities where all people can expect to be safe and protected. An example of a specific example is a young boy and Ghana named Coffee. He, about four years ago, he had lost his, his father and he was living in poverty in in Ghana, with his grandparents, and a man came to, to ask if he would like to, you know, go to school, and his grandmother, they are couldn’t afford to go to school, to send him to school so this man promised him that he would be able to send them to school. And it was a lie. He took him into the fishing industry on Ghana’s Lake Volta and was enslaved there. And Lake Volta is one of the areas in Ghana where they enslave young boys in the fishing industry. So this was, this went on for a very long time, and I won’t get into the great details of it but this is an example of what we consider slavery around the world. But he was on the lake for two years in very dangerous conditions and a lot of boys lose their lives on these fishing boats trying to untangle nets and things. But he’s been rescued, and that’s one of the things that we do. When we think about our vision, at IJM, our vision for 2030 is to see that 500 million children, women and men are protected from violence. So that is our goal. That vision is driving all of our goals down to even back-office finance with treasury. 


Craig Jeffery  5:38   

500 million that’s a significant percentage of the world’s population. What, what does that look like is that I mean children, women, and men that’s, I think that counts for everybody, you know, the goal is 500 million. Where does that come from? 


Stephanie Villatoro  5:56   

The 500 million? So, just to give you an example of some statistics of things that we track. I’ll start with some of the sex slavery in the Philippines so one of our partners, which was the Gates Foundation, wanted to combat children from sex trafficking. And we started in the Philippines and it’s like brothels and bars in the cities like Saud where they were crowded with children being trafficked for sex. So this was something that they, along with us, wanted to change. So, the goal from the partnership was to see a 20% reduction in the prevalence of children being sold for sex. So, from ’06 to ’10, the team worked alongside local authorities to rescue and restore survivors of trafficking and hold the criminals accountable for it. And the team collaborated with the local authorities to design and implement powerful improvements in the justice system, so it was the underlying justice system. And then it was time to see if the children were safer than before, to actually quantify that. The result was a 20%. It surpassed the 20% goal, and we saw a 72% reduction in children being trafficked in bars and brothels. They took what they learned from there. And then two other cities, Manila and Pagadian, if I pronounced that correctly. We saw a 75% reduction, they took the same thing they learned and implemented it in Manilla, and it was 75% reduction. And then in Pagadian, we actually achieved 86% reduction in children being sold for sex trafficking. So that’s some of the statistics. 


Craig Jeffery  7:52   

The statistics that percentage reduction sounds fantastic, but also disconcerting to know how much was there in these cases. So, that’s an example so you gave an example of a young boy in Ghana on fishing boats enslave for a couple of years. And you talked about some of the sex trafficking, and some of the Philippine cities. What are some other examples? I remember you…when we talked earlier you talked about …. that I’m out there’s other examples that would help round out the picture of this area of justice. 


Stephanie Villatoro  8:32   

Yes. In Uganda, we partnered with some community leaders there for a five-year project as well to address the violent land theft against widows and orphans, and it was in …. So, this is where we worked with the local justice system, police, prosecutors to kind of address the cultural norm of allowing lands theft communities for these individuals and it was more geared toward you know widows, women, and children, when their fathers and husbands passed away. And what we saw there was a reduction of 49% of land theft. 


Craig Jeffery  9:17   

So, this would be somebody dies and then the widow has land and it’s stolen by deeds or just people kicked off and there’s no enforcement or is it everything?  


Stephanie Villatoro  9:30   

A little bit of both. It’s just a cultural thing of women, owning land in these areas of the world. It could be a neighbor, it could be another family member, stealing the widow’s land. 


Craig Jeffery  9:47   

So, this has been really good background on some of the things that IJM does, and the stories really highlight some of those items. And that, in turn, you know, turn to Treasury return to Treasury at IJM. So, as you think about the purpose of treasury and what you do to support the organization, how would you describe that? It’s different from working for a non for-profit organization, nonprofit has a different focus in some regards, there’s obviously some of same types of emphasis, but how do you how do you describe that? 


Stephanie Villatoro  10:30   

It is very different Craig, and I think it’s been a challenge to switch my forethought of thinking in the concept of your bottom line versus more money for a mission. So, we look at our you know our 2030 vision to protect 500 million, how do you take global treasury, and create a 10-year plan to support the vision of the organization so that in itself is a challenge. But in general, the treasury is new to the organization. In regard to actually have in a separate department just for treasury. It was something that was handled locally by each of the field offices and advancement offices. They did their own banking and reporting to headquarters. So, this is a different challenge in itself of making sure that we as an organization are looking at how do we promote from a strategic standpoint, support the mission, so that they don’t have to think about the back office of treasury. 


Craig Jeffery  11:39   

You lift that off of them. You mentioned the field offices and the advancement offices, you want to just describe the two different roles that those have? 


Stephanie Villatoro  11:48   

Yes, the field offices, I apologize, but as IJM terminology, field offices are where we do our work. So, that’s where we’re doing the rescues, and the judicial work, trying to change the laws, the local laws. That’s where we’re doing our, our work, whereas an advancement office is somewhere in the world where we’re fundraising. 


Craig Jeffery  12:12   

Right, to support all this activity. So, so yeah, you’re not focused on making money but you’re focused on being efficient, so that there’s instead of returning more profit or being able to invest in other profit making ventures it’s having more money, geared towards the towards the mission. How does that look any different in what you do is it just is it more of a mindset change? 


Stephanie Villatoro  12:39   

It’s a little bit of a mindset change, and to some degree, but I think on the how you fundraise and the way you fundraise and how you accept different forms of donations is different. When you’re working for a for profit organization, you’re not typically in the business to accept land as payments, or property, where we will accept any form of property and assets for the mission. So, your forms of payment for your forms of donation are very very different. 


Craig Jeffery  13:18   

Great. So, you know, on this idea of it’s a new group it’s a new treasury it’s, it’s been moved out of not all local offices trying to do this, perhaps off the side of the desk if they have finance, we eat in those offices, there’s, there’s been a lot of it’s probably quite different, taking over those roles and looking at it globally. What are you what are you learning about in terms of setting up a new Treasury Department for this type of organization? What’s been easy what’s been hard? 


Stephanie Villatoro  13:55   

So, walking in, I think the challenge was the global rollout of a new ERP system where we have all of the local finance departments still utilizing one system that is inherent just so that office, and we are trying to put them all into the new ERP system. And that global rollout is underway right now. We only have headquarters on it, and we have a two-to-three-year plan to get everyone globally on it. So, that’s a challenge when you’re trying to implement something new, but all resources are really geared toward another huge rollout. So, time, the goals for Treasury, whether it’s visibility, payments or just a global banking strategy into this other global rollout to make sure it’s the most efficient that meets the goals, not only of treasury, but also the organization as a whole. 


Craig Jeffery  14:59   

So, are you really active in the ERP rollout or is it more of you’re going to use this for you know for using the data in the system or do you have to help with this process? 


Stephanie Villatoro  15:11   

I’m doing this, yes. So, I am a leader in the global rollout, as a user, and for treasury, as well as helping with the data and the reporting developments for how we structure things. So, whether it’s how we organize the company structure that could impact our banking structure or looking at different reports and capabilities of the system to see how they fit into my world, into treasury, and not just accounting. 


Craig Jeffery  15:47   

So, you mentioned payments, collection, I think you mentioned banking, maybe we get start with collection. I think you said something about, there’s some, I don’t know if you used the word nonstandard or if you use the word different but what are some of the challenges on the collection side? I’m assuming this is primarily on the advancement side if you have these offices. What you would call fundraising are not across the, across the globe. 


Stephanie Villatoro  16:17   

Yeah, so collection some of the challenges there, first and foremost is the, the systems and the capabilities and the systems, being able to track foreign currency, and being happy and having visibility into those different risks that we have, those inherent risks whether we’re collecting in the US and we’re accepting euros, or if we’re accepting maybe a Philippine peso card transaction, but everything settled in US dollar. So having visibility into the foreign currency is one of the challenges for any type of transaction, whether it’s a wire, ACH, or a card. On the other side of the non-traditional payments that we are developing or rolling out one is annuity giving, someone who has an annuity later in their years and they don’t need the funds but it’s getting paid out, they can make us the beneficiary of that annuity, and we’re rolling that one out, and the policy for that. Another one is cryptocurrency, in a few different ways just your flat-out cryptocurrency, or could be the creation of a cryptocurrency where we get the benefit of the trade, part of the fee to land or condos and cars to any other form of payment. 


Craig Jeffery  17:44   

Any asset that’s out, there probably ones that have appreciated or wanting to unload it and do good at the same time. Interesting the whole, the whole crypto cryptocurrency. I have this desire to ask questions and the desire to not ask questions about that at the same time. The cryptos become so important lately for people with the rise of value as well as the decline or partial pullback, any anything about crypto that you want to mention? 


Stephanie Villatoro  18:19   

We’re in the early stages of putting the policy before we accept it. We do have interested donors. So, we’re just trying to fit the back office in place before we accept our first crypto donation. The others, where we would get started talking about the fees, where we would be a beneficiary of fees that’s still underway. 


Craig Jeffery  18:42   

So, a wide range there. You know the challenges on the banking side if everybody was running things locally, that may be very disparate in terms of what’s going on, what, what are the challenges and how are you changing them on the banking side? 


Stephanie Villatoro  18:59   

The challenges on the banking side lines with our field offices where they’re doing the work, whether they’re doing a rescue or doing some prosecution work. Their needs, look we are very different from a for profit entity, where everything is electronic. So, from, from a headquarter standpoint we are 100% electronic. We do no checks, but maybe looking at local fill offices, they need to have a need for cash, credit cards or corporate cards, as well as the local payments. So, that’s become the challenge. What are the needs, locally, from a cash standpoint? And trying to implement a global bank that can provide that is my biggest challenge. 


Craig Jeffery  19:53   

In all these different countries across the globe. 


Stephanie Villatoro  19:56   

And they’re not typically in large cities where, you know, the large global banks may, may or may not have a presence. 


Craig Jeffery  20:06   

So, so what are you what are you what are you doing to help, help out? 


Stephanie Villatoro  20:11   

We’re looking at different options and I’m talking to. I’m working on a global RFI to actually look at different ways that we can maybe help them with the electronic payments side, centralizing that, maybe minimizing the cash in the local account for their petty cash. 


Craig Jeffery  20:29   

Stephanie, I’d like to just share a little bit more on the banking side of things as you look at handling, whether it’s cash or different payment types and you’ve already mentioned a few things about the ERP What does what’s the banking side how is that, how is that progressing? 


Stephanie Villatoro  20:49   

Some of the banking side, some of the things that we have implemented in the last six months since I’ve been here is the ability to open accounts for our field offices where that was done locally, utilizing third party legal Services in country to not only do the registration, but also open bank accounts on our behalf. So, the nice thing here is I’ve been able to establish relationships with global partners, where this process is much more streamlined, where I can actually open the accounts on their behalf and have visibility into the bank accounts, from a headquarter standpoint. 


Craig Jeffery  21:30   

Very nice. That sounds like what we’ve always done on the for-profit side right owning cash means opening accounts and getting visibility to them. So, same thing a different, type of organization. And then on the payment side or, you know, are you doing payments through different types of tools is that part of the ERP plan or is that can I continue to be handled locally? What are you doing there? 


Stephanie Villatoro  21:58   

That’s still under development for the five-year plan of the ERP system as well as for treasury. So, my first process is just to have visibility into our cash around the world, because that leads into my next phase of treasury, which is risk management, being able to see what currencies, we have what our balances are, and came up, you know, what are, what our fundings are so we can keep simple potential hedging, Or maybe some natural hedges. Looking at for advancement offices as well different forms of incoming payments, maybe having something that’s more plug and play so they don’t have to read the bill of everything, every time we open a new entity around the world. That’s an advancement office or a fundraising office. So, looking at different ways to be more strategic, being that service center, to our offices around the world. 


Craig Jeffery  22:55   

Is there anything else on treasury that’s on your shorter-term roadmap for maturing or developing as an organization grows and treasury is new. Anything else on that front? 


Stephanie Villatoro  23:08   

Still in the early stages of the developing a three-to-five-year plan but we’ve talked about the ERP rollout and global banking structure services, policies, and procedures actually to support that. And then also, you know, we’ve talked a little bit, just being that service provider to our internal customers. Later on, down the roadmap is more technology to enhance us to be prepared for the future that now I think we covered quite a bit. 


Craig Jeffery  23:37   

So, Stephanie as we as we come to the final thoughts section, I was hoping you could explain or think about what you would give, what advice you’d give to Stephanie yourself, early in your career or to someone else in their career? What do we what do we need to think about early on their careers, could be a mindset or perspective, but what would you tell an earlier version of yourself or someone like yourself in treasury? 


Stephanie Villatoro  24:08   

Whether it’s an earlier version of myself or someone that’s actually looking to have a career in treasury. Treasury is something that I think of when you compare it to accounting. Accounting, you know things have already happened in the past and you’re just accounting for it, or you’re preparing for different things that, that you’re putting in place, whereas treasury is more real time. And you have to be open to that change and that flexibility in real time, as well as, you know, preparing for any type of risks that could occur. So just being open to change, flexibility for any area of treasury, whether it is payments which we’ve discussed quite a bit, but also technology. Driving the change in the organization because treasury is real time and needing access to real-time, things that are going on, whether it’s your, your bank accounts and your transactions versus your risk management or your currencies. These are all different things that are always flowing and always changing, so you need that ability to be ready to be flexible, but also to be to have to be able to drive that change in organization. 


Craig Jeffery  25:34   

So, for the ability to drive that change. Any pointers to people? How do you drive a change across those areas, whether it’s payments, risk, tech? How should people be looking at the actual driving event change? 


Stephanie Villatoro  25:54   

People in treasury, you know your service center to the organization so it’s understanding the business, it’s understanding how you can help the areas of the business, internally. Being mindful and not knowledgeable of what is in the marketplace and the evolution of the changes. Being able to present that to your senior management as well. So, having that knowledge, being able to present on how it will help the organization. And then also the communication of that, to everyone so being able to communicate upwards as well as downwards in the organization. 


Craig Jeffery  26:38   

What’s out there that’s available, how does that apply to the business requirements, bring those together and then make sure people understand that’s really, really helpful. Yeah, Stephanie, thanks so much for talking about your career, IJM, and just some of these thoughts on technology and what you’re doing. Wish you great success and continuing to move IJM forward on the treasury front. 


Stephanie Villatoro  27:03   

Thank you, Craig. It was a pleasure being on The Treasury Update Podcast again. This time I was external party and not an internal party, but it’s great to hang with you a little bit again. 



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