HappyFinance and becoming Strategic Business Partners

I am delighted to share my thoughts on Happy Finance and Strategic Business Partnership. I was honored to be interviewed by Andrew, a recognized influencer in the field of Accounting and Finance, and be part of his podcast serie Strenght in the Numbers. #happyfinance #happycfo

Andrew Codd


I have 18 years experience in finance leadership and business partnering – developing accounting & finance talent to add value on the commercials and the numbers at recognizable brands like Pepsi, Virgin, Dell and also have a track record of driving sustainable profitable growth for local SMEs.

Our Guest Mentor:

Marco Venturelli  has over 35 years of experience in finance and accounting and currently leads Performance and Financial Strategy at Novartis where he is CFO of the Oncology Europe Region, as well as being on the CFO Board of Directors (CFO Consigliere di Amministrazione).

Marco’s career has seen him hold various roles such as Country General Manager, undertaken international assignments and led global teams. He’s also regularly commenting and contributing on LinkedIn particularly with the handles #HappyFinance and #theHappyCFO.

Marco is currently based out of Milan, Italy and also volunteers with Action Aid, looking to alleviate poverty with a constant flow of support to different programs in Africa and India.

Key Quotes From the Episode:

 “Happiness and Finance are a kind of oxymoron .” [03:09]

“What I advise to my teams and myself is that we must be adaptable. It’s more than anticipating the future which is very difficult, it’s about adapting to the future (otherwise you’ll be acted upon by markets, governments, etc…)” [08:28]

“I think we in Finance are very well accustomed to have very strong, well-structured financial reporting, that are coherent and accurate and we can really add value to our organisation facilitating this process [of reporting on ESG (Environmental, Societal & Governmental) perspectives] because I see them coming.” [13:44]

“The CFO together with the CEO is the only one in the company that has access to every area of the company and also has an understanding of the way the company functions. So if the CFO spends more time or is more involved in defining the business priorities and contributes to a clear vision of the business future it’s easier to move from a purely operational role to a strategic role.” [20:20]

“A strategic role also means that [a Strategic Business Partner] should be able to influence the others, propose simplification projects, because he has the possibility to look across various functions and more and more we see CFOs that are driving the execution of the operational excellence programs and also the technological evolution.” [21:03]

Key Points From the Episode:

  • Why sustainability is important for happier Finance and where the pressure is going from to be so.
  • How Finance are well positioned to drive better sustainability.
  • Four components that make up a Strategic Business Partner
  • The results of an internal Novartis survey asking internal customers what they would like a business partners to be and where is Finance today

Time Stamped Show Notes:

[03:09] – Why Marco uses the tag handle #HappyFinance in his posts.

[04:34] – Why sustainability is important for happier Finance and where the pressure is going from to be so.

[08:18] – We discuss why companies generally aren’t sustainable in the long run

[08:28] – And what we can do in finance to help reverse this using the Energy Industry as an example.

[09:57] – Simple steps to be more proactive on sustainability.

[10:44] – How impact investment, green bonds and public private partnerships are shaping the sustainability agenda and so are important to include in our strategic planning.

[13:44] – Marco’s thoughts on why Finance are well positioned to drive better sustainability.

[18:39] – How an understanding of the ‘circular economy’ is important to mitigate risks.

[21:03] – Suggests four components that make up a Strategic Business Partner.

[21:33] – Highlights McKinsey report where 41% of CFOs are involved in transformational and non-recurring activities.

[22:42] – Mentions an Ernst & Young survey where CEOs wanted their CFOs to be more strategic.

[22:57] – Shares the results of an internal Novartis survey asking what you would like a business partner to be and where is finance today.

[26:39] – Marco brings up the Stakeholder Analysis Grid from my Audacious Finance Partner Book and how he helps towards developing our courage behind becoming more valued business partners.

Resources Mentioned:

    • “The Happy CFO: How Finance helps Society,” by Marco Venturelli, 2017 (article)
    • Measuring the impact of Impact Investing (link)
    • The Business Value of impact measurement (link)
    • Survey on CEOs expecting more from their CFOs (link)
    • McKinsey report on where CFOs spending their time (link)
    • “The Imperial CFO, ”Economist article on the influence of the CFO (link)
    • The Audacious Finance Partner: Reveals The Key Factors and Skills for Business Partnering Success, by Andrew Codd
    • Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success (2013), by Adam Grant


Second Part already available

Most people are not used to seeing or hearing the words "Happy" and "Accounting & Finance" in the same sentence, however our latest guest mentor shares why today this can be more the case. Let me introduce you to Marco Venturelli, CFO Novartis Oncology Europe and part 2 of our latest podcast together #026: #HappyFinance and becoming Strategic Business Partners. In this episode we cover: • The two best bits of advice that have helped him most in his career. • A simple tip to increase the perceived value you add to your colleagues. • Why we shouldn’t view influencing so negatively in finance & accounting. For detailed time stamped show notes, links to resources mentioned, and further contact details for our guest check out sitnshow.com/podcast/026 Also available as on iTunes, Stitcher & Soundcloud. #HappyFinance#FinanceMentors#sitnshow

If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week?

“I really became a robot,” a manager at an accounting firm explained. She and her colleagues worked extraordinarily long hours, but, she said, “I thought it was normal. It’s like brainwashing. You are in a kind of mental system where you are under increasing demands, and you say to yourself that it doesn’t matter, that you will rest afterwards, but that moment never comes.”

Through my research, I’ve heard stories like this over and over again from people in accounting firms, law firms, consulting firms, and other white-collar jobs. We all know that chronic overwork is bad for our mental and physical health and can seriously jeopardize the quality of our work. We wish we could change the way we work, but we don’t really know how.

Long hours are most common in managerial and professional occupations. This is something of a recent trend. In the old days, if you were a white-collar worker, the deal was that you worked as hard as you could at the start of your career to earn the right to be rewarded later on, with security of tenure and a series of increasingly senior positions. In professional organizations, such as law firms, accountancy firms, management consultancies, and investment banks, the prize was partnership. The competition was relentless, but once you won the prize, it was yours for keeps. Partners had autonomy to choose how and when to work and what to work on. Of course, some senior partners spent a surprising amount of their “business development time” on the golf course, but that was OK because they had already paid their dues to the organization.

This is no longer true. As a director of HR in a leading accounting firm told me, “The head of audit is in the office regularly from 5:30 AM until 10 PM, on weekends, too. So is our managing partner. This is not exceptional. The rest of the firm sees the senior people working these hours and emulates them.”

My research, published in my new book about leadership in professional organizations, shows that our tendency to overwork and burn out is framed by a complex combination of factors involving our profession, our organization, and ourselves. At the heart of it is insecurity. As one senior business unit leader in a law firm admitted to me: “I just come in here and work as hard as I can all the time. I feel like I’m doing a good job, but it’s hard to measure. That’s the nature of what we do: It’s feast or famine. And we all tend to be such insecure people that we’re all scared all the time.”

The 500 interviews I conducted for my book showed a pattern: A professional’s insecurity is rooted in the inherent intangibility of knowledge work. How do you convince your client that you know something worthwhile and justify the high fees you charge? The insecurity caused by this intangibility is exacerbated by the rigorous “up or out” promotion system perpetuated by elite professional organizations, which turns your colleagues into your competitors. How do you convince your boss that you’re worth more than your closest colleague? There is no chance for a professional to rest on their laurels — or even to rest.

Exacerbating this problem, elite professional organizations deliberately set out to identify and recruit “insecure overachievers” — some leading professional organizations explicitly use this terminology, though not in public. Insecure overachievers are exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy. This typically stems from childhood, and may result from various factors, such as experience of financial or physical deprivation, or a belief that their parents’ love was contingent upon their behaving and performing well.

As the recruiters I interviewed explained, these individuals are immensely attractive to elite professional organizations because they are entirely self-motivating and self-disciplining. The firm in effect tells the insecure overachiever, “We are the best in the business, and because we want you to work for us, that makes you the best, too.” But upon joining the firm, insecure overachievers discover that the rigorous up-or-out policy exacerbates their insecurity and their fear of being “exposed” as inadequate — and ultimately rejected.

In the short term, insecure overachievers respond by delivering exceptional performance. As the chair of a consulting firm told me, “My theory is that the best client relationship builders in our firm are insecure. They are so hell-bent on making their clients feel good about them that they work overtime. Clients feel their passion and respond to that.”

The tendency to hard work is reinforced by the strong culture of social control created by elite professional organizations. On the one hand, this is comforting. Some professionals I have studied refer to their firms as being like a “family,” or something even more intense. As one consultant described it, “When I first came here, I thought, This place feels like a cult. But now I have been here a while, I think it is great.” Taken to extremes, the insecure overachiever’s sense of commitment can lead to extreme conformity and the normalization of unhealthy behaviors.

Paradoxically, the professionals I studied still believe that they have autonomy and that they are overworking by choice. They do not blame their organizations, which after all have invested in work-life balance initiatives and wellness programs. Instead, they blame themselves for being inadequate. Their colleagues seem to be coping, and they take that as further evidence of their own inadequacy. They do not talk honestly to their colleagues about their problems, thus perpetuating the myth of the invincible professional, which encourages their colleagues to feel inadequate in turn. If they suffer burnout, they think it is their fault. Their organization and its leadership are absolved of responsibility, so nothing fundamental changes.

As a result, by the time insecure overachievers become leaders of their organizations, they unconsciously replicate the systems of social control and overwork that helped to create them.

If you are a leader who is wondering “Why am I working harder than ever?,” take a good look at yourself, the organization that has created you, and the organizational practices you are perpetuating. Working hard can be rewarding and exhilarating. But consider how you are living. Recognize when you are driving yourself and your staff too hard, and learn how to help yourself and your colleagues to step back from the brink.

Your insecurities may have helped to get you where you are today, but are they still working for you? Is it time to acknowledge that you have “made it” and to start enjoying the experience a little bit more? And if your boss is an insecure overachiever, recognize how they are projecting their insecurity onto you — how they make you feel insecure for not being able to keep up with them.

Work exceptionally long hours when you need to or want to, but do so consciously, for specified time periods, and to achieve specific goals. Don’t let it become a habit because you have forgotten how to work or live any other way.

And notice how you judge colleagues who are working less hard than you — they may have discovered something you need to learn.

If you are a leader, you have a responsibility not just to your firm but to the people who work within it. Help your colleagues to achieve their full potential, but do not allow yourself to exacerbate and exploit their insecurities. And remember that your ultimate “duty of care” is to yourself.

Laura Empson is Professor in the Management of Professional Service firms at Cass Business School, University of London, and Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School.  She has devoted the past twenty-five years to researching and advising professional service firms on leadership, governance, and organizational change.  Her most recent book, Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas (2017) is published by Oxford University Press.  Prior to becoming an academic she worked as a strategy consultant and investment banker.

CFO can Happily change company culture

Great article that confirm your Happy CFO intuition: great company returns come from Happy associates.Today's CFOs are not just company officers charged with optimizing the financial performance of the companies, but is actually embracing the organization's entire value chain.

Can a CFO be Happy? How Finance Can Help Society

Last year my unit overachieved Budget: we grew double digit, we increased profitability, market share was up, too. During the pre Christmas party, I had this picture being taken and I used it to thank the many that contributed to such a success. I called it ‘The Happy CFO’. All targets were over achieved, my unit was in great shape: shouldn’t be the time to share positive feelings, emotions and happiness? I was so happy and content of the achievement and enjoying absorbing the happiness of the many colleagues in the same situation. I sent many Xmas cards using that picture and many colleagues were surprised: “Happy” and “CFO” seem an oxymoron. “Many other adjectives would go with CFO but ‘Happy’ shouldn’t” they said.

Unbelieving, I surfed the Web: they were true. Google did not find neither correlation nor constant match. Very few lines of the search engine had the two words together. Then I took a pillar book on Finance by Robert J. Shiller, co-creator of the Case/Shiller Real Estate Index and Yale University world known Professor, - “Finance and the Good Society” – in the section where he lists the various roles in Finance careers, and searched if happiness and emotions could be part of the roles. With despair, I read : “An accountant has to keep emotional distance from the people and organizations he or she serves, so as not to be drawn into any of their machinations. Of particular importance, a corporate accountant must feel a general sense of symphaty for the various claimants to the organization’s purse, so as to remember all of them and trait them fairly.” Maybe, when the book was written in 2012, right after the big financial crisis and the disillusion of many towards Finance and Financial institutions, when the protests against Wall Street, Banks and many corporations were still strong, it was evident that being an independent Finance professionist could have been a way to limit some of the excesses happened in the pre 2008 crack. The way Shiller defines the CFO as someone that has to keep emotional distance seems to explain why, at a first glance, being Happy cannot be a status of  the CFO.

When a CFO can be Happy?

In my opinion, we need Happy CFOs. A Happy CFO has reached the short term objectives of his or her unit without compromising the long term sustainability. He or she has then optimized the use of money.During the year, I was holding “the purse” (by the way the word budget comes from the French “bougette” word for purse) and with what we, in my unit, call the “Dynamic Resource Allocation”, I tried to “make Happy” all my ‘claimants colleagues’. Through this constant optimization, I make sure to minimize the waste of Financial resources. Finance in a company aims to properly distribute resources in order to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the scope the unit has and to improve its growth. My intent has then to be positive, trying to understand the ‘machinations’ of my business colleagues, and it could only be achieved with intellectual and brain power but also with a lot of empathy, understanding a bit also the humane side of the budget owners. When the objectives are reached, it means that the unit the CFO works for is in line with its broader scope. For my unit, for example, providing solutions to cancer patients. Then embedded in a broader scope, when numbers turn in the right direction, the CFO feels his or her role accomplished. The whole Society benefits for proper use of money. Happiness comes.

Can both the CFO and the CEO be Happy?

 Shiller continues describing the CEO/CFO relation: “A CEO cannot double as the accountant or chief financial officer (CFO) of an organization. Humane impulses to be manipulative and self-dealing are too strong. There is necessarily a degree of conflict of interest between the CEO and the CFO – a conflict that is built into the very model of the modern organization. The CEO is supposed to be visionary, looking to the future. The CFO remembers commitments and resource limits, with an eye to the promises of the past and the realities of the present”

EY, one of the Big 4 Audit companies, sees it differently: “On a traditional model, the CFO position might have been considered to be solely focused on past performance, on the numbers, and on financial reporting. But today that mandate seems almost universally to have been exceeded, with the CFO providing not only financial planning and analysis, but information about where the business is going and how quickly it is getting there. Almost all our interviewees attest CFOs to being deeply involved in supporting and enabling strategy, but a good number of them suggest they are developing and setting it outright. And most work side-by-side with the CEO. Involvement in corporate strategy has become an integral part of the job. CFOs now have the ability and the mandate to contribute directly to the direction of the business as well as reviewing and reporting on its performance. It seems only logical that since CFOs now contribute much more significantly to organizational strategy and operational success, these top-level executives rely not only on financial analytics but on a degree of reflection and insight as well — to understand not only where the business has been, but where it's heading.”

CFOs must be an independent thinker and approach in a very factual way the plans of his or her organization. Shiller’s description is a bit far from what a modern CFO is expected to be doing today. With complexity, speed and dynamism of nowadays activities, the CFO has to get really deep in understand the past  - “If you're no good at financial analysis, you cannot be the CFO. That goes without saying,” said Luca Maestri, Apple CFO – and have to have a balanced view of the future.

The CEO/CFO relation in modern corporations it is essential to create balance and also Shiller accepts that “CFOs are responsible for ensuring that financial appearance matches reality and it is ultimately through their efforts that through their efforts we trust our business enough to find it motivating and even inspiring to work for them and invest in them”.Ultimately then the CFO certifies the outcome of the unit, he/she reassures the CEO that the unit is in the right trajectory and then both can be Happy and proud of the job done together.

The Happy CFO and the Good Society

It is then clear that in a world where human organizations strives to optimize use of scarce resources, including Financial assets, finding many Happy CFOs means improved use of resources and ultimately better outcomes.Borrowing the more authoritative words from Shiller: “We need a system that allows people to make complex and incentiving deals to further their goals, and one that allows an outlet for our aggressions and lust for power. It must be a system that redirects the inevitable human conflicts into a manageable arena that is both peaceful and constructive.”

My article is too short to explain more in detail the link between the Good for Society and the Happy CFO but one of the conclusive sentences in Shiller’s book: “What I want most for my students – near and far, young and old – to know, is that finance truly has the potential to offer hope for a more fair and just world, and that their energy and intelligence are needed to help serve this goal.” offers in my opinion justice to the role that a Financial resource optimizer as the CFO has in Society. That’s why I am the Happy CFO. 

IL CFO non sarà un algoritmo ma uno strategic business partner



Il CFO non sarà un algoritmo ma uno strategic business partner

Come innovare i processi di business senza le risorse necessarie? Creando canali di dialogo efficaci fra le imprese e il mondo finanziario

di Veronica Pastaro

La trasformazione del Chief Financial Officer (CFO) è ormai in atto da molto tempo. Sistemi&Impresa ha riunito attorno a una tavola rotonda diversi esponenti, a vario titolo, dell’ambito Finance per discutere il tema dell’analisi della relazione delle imprese con il mondo finanziario. A partire dal presupposto che il rapporto fra aziende e banche negli ultimi anni è andato incrinandosi, poiché è diventato sempre più difficile trovare canali di finanziamento per innovazione e ricerca, come si possono aprire nuove vie di dialogo? Ci sono in giro tante buone idee e una discreta liquidità per finanziarle: serve trovare il linguaggio e gli strumenti adatti per raccontarsi. Qual è il ruolo della tecnologia in questa attività di forecasting per aiutare a mantenere l’equilibrio finanziario e presentarsi nel migliore dei modi al proprio interlocutore? Sembra che in questo quadro caratterizzato da sempre maggior complessità, la figura del CFO si stia andando configurando come un ruolo chiave.


Andrea Davide Arnaldi, Partner – ASK ADVISORY
Marco Bossi, Managing Director – TALENTIA SOFTWARE
Claudia Bruscaglioni, Partner – STUDIO LEGALE MACCHI DI CELLERE GANGEMI Francesco Gatto, Responsabile dell’Area Finance – CUOA BUSINESS SCHOOL Michele Giorni, CFO – INFINANCE
Gianmarco Molinari, Chief Marketing Officer – CREDIMI
Livio Montesarchio, Marketing Manager – BORSADELCREDITO.IT
Marco Turani, Channel Director – 4 PLANNING
Pierpaolo Valfrè, Responsabile Finanza-M&A – FIERA MILANO
Marco Venturelli, CFO Oncology Region Europe – NOVARTIS

Alfabetizzare le PMI e cambiare mindset

A partire dalla propria esperienza, Michele Giorni, CFO di inFinance, ha osservato il desiderio, da parte degli imprenditori, di confrontarsi con il mondo finanziario, ambizione spesso ostacolata dalla non conoscenza del corretto linguaggio: “Per questa ragione mi sono spinto a scrivere un testo semplice come Il profitto è un’opinione. La cassa è un fatto (Mind Edizioni)”.






Esso può divenire uno strumento efficace per apprendere i principali equilibri finanziari che caratterizzano l’attività d’impresa”, ha suggerito Giorni. “Tuttavia anche il mondo del credito tradizionale (banche commerciali) ha le sue responsabilità in questo dialogo tra sordi: troppo spesso il credito viene erogato dando un eccessivo peso ai collateral (le garanzie esplicite) e tralasciando la reale capacità dell’impresa di generare valore”. Si tratta infatti di un problema culturale, ma non solo. Il CFO di inFinance ha guardato con ottimismo ai nuovi operatori del credito “che sfruttano le inefficienze del sistema bancario per inserirsi nel mercato dimostrando- si estremamente rapidi nel fornire una risposta all’imprenditore, nonostante un costo, a carico di quest’ultimo, tendenzialmente più alto del credito tradizionale”. È infatti convinto che per un imprenditore sia importante “non scegliere soltanto la soluzione finanziaria più economica, poiché è fondamentale valutare il partner finan- ziario in base al livello di servizio, alla sua reattività e flessibilità”.

Si è rilevato più prudente il punto di vista di Francesco Gatto, Responsabile dell’Area Finance di Cuoa Business School, che prevede un contesto in cui sarà sempre più impegnativo per le aziende ottenere il credito dal sistema bancario, ma in cui sarà anche più impegnativo per le banche concedere credito: “A partire da gennaio 2018 entreranno in vigore nuovi regolamenti che obbligheranno il sistema bancario a esercitare più prudenza nel concedere crediti alle imprese. Il concetto di merito creditizio assumerà un’importanza ancora più forte e le aziende (specie per quanto riguarda le PMI), do- vranno acquisire la consapevolezza di cosa significa accedere al credito”. Inoltre, dalle survey condotte da Cuoa Business School, emerge in modo netto la trasformazione del ruolo del CFO, sempre più proiettato verso una lettura e analisi del business aziendale. Gatto ha poi evidenziato che l’orientamento a forme di finanziamento esterno implica un decisivo cambio di mindset:

“Strumenti come mini-bond o soluzioni simili comportano la necessità di entrare in una logi- ca di crescita imprenditoriale vera e propria, in termini di governance e di struttura manageriale interna. Molte realtà italiane, squisitamente padronali, dovrebbero acquisire tale consapevolezza prima di intraprendere un simile salto”. Dal canto suo, Claudia Bruscaglioni, Partner di Studio Legale Macchi di Cellere Gangemi, ha notato quella che si può definire come una “concorrenza fra le diverse banche tradizionali”: “Gli istituti bancari fanno a gara per rifinanziare i progetti che hanno dimostrato la loro bontà e di avere successo. In questo modo gli imprenditori che appartengono al novero dei big player e delle grandi società possono ottenere finanziamenti vantaggiosi con bassi margini e covenant van- taggiosi”. Per quanto riguarda le PMI, è invece necessario ragionare su altri strumenti, dal momento che anche imprese eccellenti dal punto di vista commerciale mancano di cultura finanziaria: la priorità è alfabetizzare, a maggior ragione per quanto riguarda le novità più recenti: “La legge di Stabilità 2017 ha introdotto il Piano Individuale di Risparmio (PIR) come strumento fiscale che ha raccolto 5 miliardi nei primi sei mesi e si prevede possa raddoppiare per la fine dell’anno. La misura prevede l’obbligo di investire almeno il 70% in azioni e obbligazioni di imprese italiane o europee con stabile organizzazione in Italia, di cui almeno il 30% deve essere destinato a PMI”, ha spiegato Bruscaglioni.

Strutturare i processi per coinvolgere differenti funzioni

Al tempo stesso anche la tecnologia può rivestire un ruolo importare in questa attività di forecasting per aiutare a mantenere l’equilibrio fi- nanziario e per presentarsi nel migliore dei modi al proprio interlocutore. “Le aziende richiedono sempre più di avere strumenti dedicati anche per quanto riguarda i processi sul lato patrimo- niale e finanziario. In particolare desiderano soluzioni che diano la possibilità di strutturare in modo flessibile i processi”, ha affermato Marco Bossi, Managing Director di Talentia Software.



  “La flessibilità è una caratteristica fondamentale lato software, ma ancora più importante è che i processi siano più collaborativi. Devono infatti essere coinvolte non soltanto le persone dell’area Finance, ma un numero sempre maggiore”, ha considerato Bossi. “In questo contesto, il CFO assume un ruolo sempre più strategico e di sintesi rispetto alle differenti ‘anime’ dell’azienda”.

“La finanza è una scienza funzionale agli obiettivi dell’impresa”, ha esordito Marco Venturelli, CFO Oncology Region Europe di Novartis. “Il primo elemento da chiarire agli imprenditori è la necessità di avere una propria narrativa, capace di descrivere la mission dell’azienda”. Venturelli è infatti convinto che siano proprio questi i temi su cui il CFO può dare il suo contributo: “Il CFO ha infatti un vantaggio, perché è l’unico, insieme con l’AD, a poter tenere sotto controllo tutti gli aspetti dell’azienda. È necessario che i vertici concedano la delega per avere visione di tutto il budget, altrimenti non è possibile svol- gere correttamente il proprio lavoro”. Venturelli è persuaso che il CFO sia “uno strategic busi- ness partner, ovvero un leader che aiuta gli altri manager a prendere decisioni strategiche per il business”: “Se il CFO deve aiutare a prendere decisioni, la padronanza dei dati è certamente il punto di partenza. Inoltre, l’interazione personale e relazionale è il fondamento su cui puntiamo in Novartis”.

Per anticipare molti problemi e per fare corrette valutazioni sullo sviluppo sostenibile secondo Pierpaolo Valfrè, Responsabile Finanza-M&A di Fiera Milano, “è importante che il processo di pianificazione e controllo non sia focalizzato esclusivamente sul risultato di breve periodo e sul conto economico del trimestre successivo”: “È essenziale che accanto a una pianificazione economica si sviluppi una pianificazione patrimoniale e finanziaria per valutare alternative e per prendere decisioni, soprattutto con riguardo alla sostenibilità della crescita”. Inoltre algoritimi e parametri applicati automaticamente di per sé non sono sufficienti a indicare la direzione di marcia: “Occorre saper analizzare, interpretare e spiegare, avendo di fronte interlocutori attenti e in grado di cogliere tutte le specificità delle diverse situazioni. Infine”, ha concluso Valfrè, “non carichiamo la Finanza di aspettative improprie: per la crescita servono innanzi tutto buone idee e buoni prodotti, alla Finanza spetta di rimuovere qualche ostacolo ed evitare ulteriori complicazioni”.

Generare cultura a partire dall’approfondimento del dato

Tornando sul valore della formazione, Andrea Davide Arnaldi, Partner di Ask Advisory, ha rilevato come “l’accesso a nuove soluzioni finanziarie richieda anche investimenti da parte delle aziende in formazione del personale e nella certificazione dei propri processi di gestione del credito, della tesoreria e di quelli finanziari”: “La presenza di credit manager, tesorieri o CFO ‘qualificati’ e l’adozione di procedure di gestione, sottoposte al controllo di enti terzi, consentono all’azienda di migliorare il proprio rating e migliorare i rapporti con il mondo finanziario”. A tal proposito, Arnaldi ha aggiunto: “Associazioni Nazionali come ACMI (credit manager), AITI (tesoriere), e ANDAF hanno già concluso o stanno avviando un percorso per ‘qualificare’ le competenze dei priori associati sulla base di linee guide certificate”.

Ha tratteggiato uno scenario poco roseo Marco Turani, Channel Director di 4 Planning: “Gene- ralmente la PMI non è in grado di presentarsi con la dovuta sostanza (piani finanziari economici e patrimoniali a medio-lungo termine, budget e rating previsionali) all’istituto bancario e a chi deve erogare i finanziamenti. Spesso




ci troviamo a dialogare con aziende dove non esiste la figura del CFO, dove magari c’è soltan to un Responsabile Amministrativo”. Turani ha proseguito descrivendo: “Oltre alla difficoltà dovuta al linguaggio, non sono presenti strumenti in grado di fornire dati certi per presentarsi ai propri interlocutori con una realistica previsione futura”. Con una vena di ironia, il Channel Director di 4 Planning ha aggiunto: “Il principale competitor delle nostre soluzioni è Excel, che tuttavia rappresenta uno strumento pericoloso perché non permette di arrivare alla profondità del dato, conoscerne la ragione e la storia, perciò non è in grado di seguire il processo di crescita dell’azienda”.

Scarsa capacità di pianificazione vs trasformazione del ruolo del CFO

Livio Montesarchio, Marketing Manager di BorsadelCredito.it, ha riconosciuto nelle aziende di rating medio il proprio interlocutore privilegiato: “Le imprese con rating alti vengono già corteggiate da un discreto numero di banche, che possono permettersi una concorrenza spietata. Una piattaforma come la nostra è tendenzialmente più selettiva, ma non significa necessariamente essere più severi, ma certamente più scrupolosi. Ci teniamo a coltivare la parte relazionale, a scavare a fondo dietro questi rating medi”. BorsadelCredito.it si prefigge infatti di analizzare attentamente il controllo di gestione, supportando le PMI in questo lavoro, senza svilirle, parlando un linguaggio che possa essere comprensibile e comune terre- no per instaurare un dialogo. “La scarsa capacità di pianificazione rappresenta per noi una criticità importante. Da parte nostra, infatti, insistiamo sull’approccio a voler aiutare gli imprenditori che hanno progetti sani: non è sempre è facile, ma è molto apprezzato”, ha osservato Montesarchio. Un altro ostacolo al dialogo è l’assenza di figure preposte a occuparsi strettamente di Finanza: “Sono ancora molte le aziende dove non è stato designato un CFO. Talvolta le PMI dispongono di una sorta di CFO esterno, di fatto il commercialista, che tuttavia non può considerarsi una funzione paragonabile”. Il mercato delle PMI è ancora pervaso da logiche che faticano ad accettare e affrontare il cambiamento e per questo rischia di rimanere immobile.

Lo sguardo di Gianmarco Molinari, Chief Marketing Officer di Credimi, ha poi spaziato su un panorama di respiro internazionale: “In Italia abbiamo un sistema credito-centrico e banco-centrico. I Paesi anglosassoni, ma anche alcuni più vicini a noi (come Francia o Spagna), hanno sviluppato piattaforme simili a BorsadelCredito.it molto tempo prima, anche se in effetti nel nostro Paese rappresentano dei precursori”. Sono due gli elementi che cambieranno il modo di fare impresa, a detta di Molinari: “Da una parte la liberalizzazione dei dati, ovvero la possibilità di poter disporre liberamente dei propri dati bancari, andrà a crea- re un mercato fortemente competitivo rispetto ai circuiti di credito tradizionali; dall’altro lato, si andrà accentuando una maggior difficoltà di accesso al credito”. Se il ruolo del CFO sta cambiando, secondo il Chief Marketing Officer di Credimi “si sta trasformando più in generale l’intero sistema finanziario, che apre la possibilità di sperimentare soluzioni più flessibili, e si evolverà molto più rapidamente di quanto si creda”.

Gli investimenti in IT battono il Finance

È tornato a riflettere sugli aspetti fondamentali della digitalizzazione Bossi: “Da una parte gli istituti di credito necessitano di avere informazione e le aziende hanno bisogno di strutturare i processi di consolidamento, per fini gestionali e previsionali. Dall’altra parte il mondo informatico si sta trasformando”. Entrando nel dettaglio, ha spiegato meglio: “L’ERP ha rappresentato un notevole investimento da parte di molte medie aziende, investimento che ha portato a un aumento considerevole del numero dei fogli Excel. Oggi il concetto dell’ERP che ‘fa tutto’ è cambia- to. Le aziende devono aggiornarsi, per far fronte alle richieste sempre più puntuali da parte degli istituti di credito”.

Turani ha riconosciuto una sostanziale sproporzione nella gestione delle risorse aziendali e nel- la percezione degli strumenti: “Grandi investi- menti hanno coinvolto la parte IT, mentre l’area Finance è generalmente rimasta scoperta. An- che rispetto ai costi, se l’ERP è costato 100, per esempio, l’imprenditore non è disposto a spen- dere 40 o 50 per l’area Finance, pensando, erro- neamente, che la funzione di quest’area si fermi alla sola contabilità, mentre è, probabilmente, l’area più strategica per la crescita aziendale”. A detta di Turani, un altro problema è quello del dialogo fra il CFO e le altre funzioni aziendali, “che spesso non desiderano confrontarsi con il Finance e non capiscono che, soprattutto in questo periodo storico, la condivisione delle in- formazioni finanziarie è essenziale”.


Gatto ha condiviso il medesimo punto di vista: “Una delle sfide è la capacità di raccogliere e integrare tutte le informazioni esterne e inter- ne all’azienda; pensiamo per esempio alla mole di informazioni e di dati tratti dai social che possono costituire un bagaglio formidabile per l’assunzione delle decisioni strategiche e di bu- siness. Inoltre, un altro elemento che emerge dalle nostre indagini è la complessità e la dif- ficoltà da parte dei CFO nel comunicare e nel mettersi in relazione sia con la proprietà, sia con le altre funzioni. È perciò prioritario cresce- re anche nella dimensione soft e manageriale, in termini, per esempio, di sviluppo di capacità comunicative e di leadership”.


Sulle molteplici informazioni che è possibile derivare da fonti esterne all’azienda è tornato anche Molinari: “Parte del rating è stimato at- traverso i social network, che costituiscono un canale privilegiato per quanto riguarda la tematica antifrode. Inoltre, anche attraverso Google






Maps è possibile vedere la maggior parte delle aziende, con tanto di edifici, magazzini, capan noni e parcheggi dei lavoratori”.

Le innovative potenzialità messe in campo dai nuovi interlocutori finanziari lasciano ben spe- rare per l’apertura di una nuova stagione, tanto che Arnaldi ha dichiarato: “Non credo che le piattaforme di credito saranno una parentesi del momento: le banche sono ancora troppo lente e arriveranno sul mercato troppo tardi, magari appoggiandosi a quelle che sono le piattaforme già esistenti”.

Efficienza dei processi senza perdere la relazione

Montesarchio si è soffermato sul ruolo della tecnologia utilizzata in BorsadelCredito.it, “tecnologia che permette di far firmare i contratti a distanza, mentre le banche, che pur dispongono delle medesime soluzioni, non le utilizzano”: “Si tratta di capire dove si possono efficientare i processi grazie all’innovazione, senza perdere di vista l’aspetto relazionale”.

Secondo Giorni, infatti, “cercare un istituto di credito vuol dire cercare qualcuno disposto a credere in un progetto imprenditoriale”: “È quindi basilare condividere dati certi, ovvero i costi fissi e i costi variabili, e valutare il proprio business alla luce degli equilibri che ne conseguono”. In questo con- testo, si innesta il tema della ‘sensivity analysis’: “È corretto fare previsioni guardando ai costi, ma è necessario ricordare che siamo in un ambiente economico in costante trasformazione, perciò è doveroso introdurre degli elementi di stress per valutare la resistenza del proprio business”.

Il tema della velocità dei processi va di pari passo con digitalizzazione e intelligenza artificiale. Bruscaglioni ha ipotizzato la possibilità della credit application eseguita da una macchina: “In qualità di avvocato, vorrei ricordare che siamo in un mondo attento al dettaglio: il mondo del business è normale che sia improntato ormai all’alta velocità, mentre la complessità viene percepita come un elemento secondario. Tuttavia, per chi eroga credito, il dettaglio riveste un’importanza fondamentale”. Ha proseguito: “Ritengo quindi sia di non secondaria importanza prestare attenzione a quello che è il dettaglio sia nella parte normati- va, per evitare inciampi, sia per quanto riguarda i covenant (clausole negli accordi che intercorro- no tra un’impresa e i suoi finanziatori, contenenti impegni di natura finanziaria o gestionale in capo alla società finanziata, al fine di tutelare i finanzia- tori da possibili rischi, ndr)”. Sembra allora che il CFO in carne e ossa avrà ancora un lungo avvenire davanti a sé, prima di essere sostituito dall’intelligenza artificiale.



settembre 2017

CFO drive culture change

Through Happy Lens

In these days, when in politics populism is increasingly successful, managers may be tempted to change the way they motivate their teams, moving to a more manipulative communication style, where reality and facts are adapted to the message not viceversa, in order to increase consensus and influence belief. In the picture of the post, I manipulated reality using my face on the body of a world known leader.

 Is it enough to make me a more convincing leader? Do you see The Happy CFO or the image of a different man?

Is ‘making people believe’ enough to be more effective and  have them to agree with the strategies, policies, and goals of their company?

If we want to succeed as Finance leaders, then we should understand the reasons behind why our teams come to believe, or fail to, and then how we can influence a change in their beliefs. As Finance is a fact based, reality based function how a convincing communication and approach can be successful?

 To help me understand more about how to create a motivated Finance team, I took inspirations  from The Carrot Guys: Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. They put their first ideas down on paper for The Carrot Principle book. The idea for The Carrot Principle came about after the pair conducted extensive research and interviews with various heavy-hitting corporations regarding employee recognition and engagement.

Imprisoned in the cave

When I met Chester Elton in 2013, during a Finance Forum organized by my company, I explained to him that my intent was to help my team to move from a strong Technical Finance competency base towards a more Strategic vision, aligned with the company objectives. Their strong understanding of company’s processes should have helped them to drive also the Operational Efficiency agenda, but until then, I was not very successful in making them changing to the new vision. He opened my eyes, with the Plato’s myth (Freely adapted below from Wikipedia).

“Marco, I guess that your team is still, maybe imprisoned in the Plato’s cave, they have their own knowledge and opinion on how to best run their area of accountability and when you come with different proposals or ideas they react with ‘cognitive dissonance’: a reaction when someone is presented with information that contradicts what they think it is right. Imagine them in a cave, where Finance managers have been imprisoned from birth. These prisoners are chained to daily routines, executing very rigid processes and have the belief that running them efficiently gives the company a great advantage. Systems and processes force them to “gaze at the wall in front of them and not look around at the cave, each other, or themselves. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway with a low wall, behind which business people walk carrying objects "of businessmen and other living things – the business reality". The people walk behind the wall so their bodies do not cast shadows for the prisoners to see, but the objects they carry do. The prisoners cannot see any of what is happening behind them, they are only able to see the shadows cast upon the cave wall in front of them (financial reporting, sales data, vendor’s invoices). The Finance manager sees reality only via his/her processes and systems and that is enough. The shadows are reality for the prisoners because they have never seen anything else; they do not realize that what they see are shadows of objects (the business complexity and its opportunities) in front of a fire, much less that these objects are inspired by real things outside the cave”.

Departure from the cave

“Now Marco, suppose that one of the Finance manager is freed from heavy routines, breaks the chains and go outside. This prisoner would look around and see the fire. The light would hurt his eyes and make it difficult for him to see the objects casting the shadows (Business reality). If he were told that what he is seeing is real instead of the other version of reality he sees on the wall, he would not believe it. In his pain, - Chester continues-, the freed prisoner would turn away and run back to what he is accustomed to (that is, the shadows of the carried objects – his/her Technical Finance duties)". Chester continues: "Suppose... that someone should drag him... by force, up the rough ascent, the steep way up, and never stop until he could drag him out into the light of the sun. The Finance manager would be angry and in pain, and this would only worsen when the radiant light of the sun (business reality and complexity) overwhelms his eyes and blinds him”.

"Slowly, his eyes adjust to the light of the sun. First he can only see shadows. Gradually he can see the reflections of people and things in water and then later see the people and things themselves. Eventually, he is able to look at the stars and moon at night until finally he can look upon the sun itself. He/she now understand business drives, complexity, evaluate competition, sizes opportunities and feels pity for those still in the cave that cannot link their Technical reality to the business one. The freed prisoner now understand how he/she can help better the business and doesn’t want to go back to the cave anymore”

The Carrot Principle: through Happier lens

“My advice, -said Chester- if you want to convince your team to become a Strategic Business Partner and move out from their usual approach is simple and maybe not groundbreaking, but very effective. First of all, you need to Engage them so that they understand how their work benefits the larger organization and have a clear understanding of how they are responsible and accountable for their results. They allow the company to have solid processes in place and sound information base. Being able to share timely and valuable data helps them to see the value of their contributions to their company’s larger mission. Then you have to Enable them. This is the key to make change happen. If the company supports employees with the right tools and training, and leaders spend most of their time coaching and walking the floor to ensure that workers can navigate the demands of their jobs, it creates a work environment that supports productivity and performance. You should share with them the bigger picture, help them to escape from the cave, encourage their contribution. Finally they need to be happy and Energized. Leaders able to maintain feelings of well– being and high level of energy are succeeding the most. Marco be careful: any of the three without the other is good but not sufficient for truly exceptional results. Enabling is the most powerful, though. Many of our employees have more to give, but they feel as if they are working in an environment where their management doesn’t give them the information they need to succeed. If employees feel as if managers are enabling them to thrive on their own, they are more likely to view the entire company through a happier lens”.

The Happy CFO and a Finance ALLIN team

After that great inspiring meeting, I started to change the way I was engaging with the Finance associates in my unit, a Region. It would have been much easier for me to leave them in their cave without Sharing everything. From their perspective, one of the country in the Region, reality might have been different and similar to the cave prisoner, understanding of the whole business reality quite limited. Then I started to share company strategy, Regions plans, minutes of various meetings, slides and presentations from various sources. We all know that information is power, would have been more reassuring for me to hold it, while sharing information freely and in advance, making them understand present and future, allowed them to “open their eyes in the sun”, see things differently, create value and opportunities. Instead of being a remote distant manager, I partnered with my talents breaking hierarchical barriers, opening dialogue and exchange in a free and safe manner, I encouraged them to take ownership of cross European (my unit) projects giving them the resources, the coaching, the visibility, the freedom to influence all the others, well beyond and above their responsibility.Root for each other. Increase level of appreciation and camaraderie, creating program Finance ALLIN that offers learning opportunities from the peers, training support, a shared vision about the way to become Strategic Business Partners.

For The Happy CFO, a happy and motivated Finance team, ALLIN, attached to the company and willing to give extra effort, enabled by a work environment that supports productivity and performance, energized, where social and emotional well being (happiness) are working, is key to run successfully and sustain business. How Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results without manipulating reality while taking advantage of people’ skills is a great journey inspired by Chester Elton’s ALL IN book to whom you should refer for further learning.


Carrot Principle

The ideas explored in their Carrot Principle book can jumpstart productivity, solidify engagement, establish valuable employee retention, and excel in the area of customer satisfaction. These improvements are the cornerstone of a successful business in an office or industry of any size. Their groundbreaking ideas are based around ideals that are practiced by companies at the forefront of business like Disney, KPMG, and Pepsi Bottling Group to name a few. The aggregate data from these 200,000+ interviews prompted the Carrot guys to write further books on leadership, corporate culture, and employee engagement turning the Carrot guys into world renowned best selling business book authors.