The role of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer), has undergone a radical transformation in the last few years. The times when financial officers crept away into their offices and limited themselves to the administrative “mandatory programme” are definitely a thing of the past. Today, the CFO of a company is in fact the designer, the challenger, and the financial conscience. I am made aware of this anew every day with my work at Hirschmann Automotive; I view the linking of “finance” and “operations” as being at the forefront.
Especially in international companies, meaningful figures on corporate management are vital. Key figures enable – with the help of innovative IT systems – a constant overview of all functions and sites. This data has to be regularly evaluated, analysed and interpreted.
Here, as is often the case, it is communication which is the key to success. Malicious gossip has it that the “financers”, in comparison with “salesmen”, generally have a lack of intuition for this. Thus I was all the more delighted with a statement from my management colleague, Volker Buth. He told me a few years ago that, in his eyes, I am not your typical Chief Financial Officer, and that I would also be suited to sales. And, in actual fact, parallels can be drawn between my position and sales: my customers are the departments, and my product is the “vital” figure. It is precisely this which needs to be “sold”. The production of sober facts and figures does not achieve the desired objective. What is absolutely essential is the linguistic and graphic preparation. My goal with this is to create responsibility and transparency where the figures are developed – in the operative areas. In short: I hold a mirror up to the different areas of our company.
Of course, as the CFO, it is also my task as a critical observer to demand jointly-defined objectives and to intervene in case of deviating figures. Here, it is the readiness to communicate and a stable network within the company which are necessary. Because in order – with Controlling – to actively contribute to corporate management, you need more than just numerical reasonining; psychological skills are also a prerequisite.
The extent to which close cooperation with the various departments is both positive and important is demonstrated to me in regular meetings with our division managers. If we can support and challenge this through our work, and if this is also perceived in this way, then we are on the right path. And, fortunately, this is often the case.