How We Serve: Treasury Management

Sarah Scherm, Basin Electric vice president and treasurer.

Employees at Basin Electric understand their roles as stewards of service to the members of the cooperative. The “How We Serve” series highlights an employee and their work group and explains how they serve our members every day.

Sarah Scherm began working for Basin Electric in June of 2023 as vice president and treasurer. At that time, Scherm moved to Bismarck from Colorado where she worked for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a Basin Electric Class A member, as their senior manager of financial planning.

Scherm shares more about her role and the relationships she has with her team, and how together their purpose has strengthened Basin Electric’s commitment to serving its member-owners.

As vice president and treasurer, Scherm leads a team responsible for managing the cash position of Basin Electric and its subsidiaries, overseeing commodity risk management, providing financial analysis support for major projects, and raising capital through the debt markets. The team includes financial operations, commodity risk, and investor relations and financial analytics. 

The financial operations team focuses on the management of Basin Electric’s cash. “This team responsibly manages cash investments that regularly exceed $1 billion,” Scherm says. “They are also responsible for daily cash functions and in 2023 processed more than 40,000 transactions.” 

The commodity risk team plays an essential role in protecting Basin Electric’s financial position and works closely with the energy markets and commodity trading teams to support risk management efforts in those areas. “They negotiate contracts used for trading activities, review the credit risk of trading counterparties, and monitor for compliance with Basin Electric’s commodity risk manual,” Scherm says. 

The investor relations and financial analytics team has two main objectives. “First, we prepare in-depth financial analysis in support of major projects and initiatives throughout the company.  Secondly, we are responsible for raising funds in the debt markets to pay for those projects,” Scherm says. Maintaining relationships with numerous banking partners, investors, and the credit rating agencies is essential to this process.  

The work the Treasury team does is essential in providing competitive rates to the membership. Additionally, as a specific example of their interaction with members, the financial operations team works directly with members through management of the member investment program. This program allows members to invest their extra funds with Basin Electric while earning interest at a competitive rate. Outstanding investments in this program average $300 million. 

Integrity is one of Basin Electric's core values and is key to the work that the treasury team does. “Our team is tasked with keeping the investments of the cooperative and members safe, and we often have access to confidential information,” Scherm says. “It’s essential that each member of the team holds their own integrity with high regard, as well as being able to trust in the integrity of our teammates.”

Scherm has worked for electric cooperatives for over 16 years. “I’ve always appreciated that the focus of the organization is on serving the customers at the end of the line and not on maximizing returns to shareholders,” Scherm says. “As a member of one of Basin Electric’s member distribution cooperatives, I see the value provided by Basin Electric employees in the work that they do to provide reliable and affordable power every time I turn my lights on at home.”

Going forward, given the growth that Basin Electric is continuing to experience and the needs for additional generation and transmission resources, Scherm says the investor relations team will spend time in 2024 exploring options to borrow money in markets that previously haven’t been utilized.

Scherm has only been with Basin Electric for a short time and knows that there is still plenty to learn, but there are two things that she learned pretty early on that still hold true. “The first is that this is an incredibly complex organization. There is no shortage of new projects to work on or new things to learn,” Scherm says. “The second is that Basin has some of the best people I have come across in my career. I’ve been amazed by how helpful and welcoming everyone has been!”

Related Videos