With the various changes the world goes through, one of the most affected segments is the economy; it endures them and adapts itself according to the environment. What should be the attitude of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) when facing these challenges? Also, how should this professional act when considering a horizon of constant changes in the rules of the game?
In an August 4 webinar, we presented the results of the survey O Perfil do CFO no Brasil – 2021 (The Profile of the CFO in Brazil 2021, available in Portuguese). It was conducted via a partnership between the Insper Center for Business Studies and Assetz Expert Recruitment.
Adalberto Santos, VP of Finance and Director of Investor Relations at Brazilian fast-fashion retailer Marisa S.A.; Silvia Vilas Boas, CFO LatAm at Natura&Co; Carlos Caldeira, Coordinator of the Insper Center for Business Studies; along with Felipe Brunieri and Guilherme Malfi, founding partners of Assetz Expert Recruitment, were in attendance.
Insper professor Ricardo Rocha was the mediator.
Ricardo Rocha presented the main data collected by the survey, for which 128 CFOs were interviewed. According to the study, most of them identified as male (90%), and only 8% identified as Black.
Their most common undergraduate degrees are Business Administration, Economic Sciences, Engineering, and Accountancy.
Seventy percent of respondents had earned a graduate degree, and 64% had gotten an MBA degree (Executive or Masters). None of them held a doctorate or Ph.D., and only 7% had worked as professors.
A curious fact pointed out by the survey is that a large part of the respondents envisions reaching a CEO position or staying on as CFO in the near future. Only 20% intend to venture into other opportunities, such as opening their businesses of their own.
Respondents pointed out strategic planning and treasury, besides risk management, as the main techniques for CFOs to learn.
Regarding behavioral aspects, adaptation to changes, fostering a high-performance environment, and effective communication were highlighted.
Afterward, the guests talked about the path they had taken to reach the position they currently hold. The word that defines that part of the meeting is diversity.
The panelists went through several positions that demanded more than one view on the same challenge, thus increasingly exercising their analytical and holistic visions. It allowed them to have a broader perception of the business, one not limited to the trivial when they reached the position of CFO.
“I haven’t spent my entire career in finance, just part of it, and I had the opportunity to get to know very different areas. Whenever I changed companies, I chose a role in which I could not only apply the embedded knowledge I already had but also learn something new. That has always been a rule for me,” says Silvia Vilas Boas from Natura&Co.
The journey of Adalberto Santos from Marisa S.A. was also unorthodox. He went through several positions to get to where he is today.
He started his career in the public sector in the Brazilian state of Goiás. After a brief time, he got opportunities in the private sector. In parallel, he managed a venture of his own. Santos has also been a professor and consultant in the field of finance.
According to the survey, many of the respondent CFOs were hired to implement a business-oriented finance department.
Therefore, a question arose: Is there any effective finance area that may not focus on the company’s business? The webinar guests answered by denying any possibility of there being such a structure.
“I wonder why some companies still have a finance area that doesn’t serve the business. For this area to add value to companies, it must have professionals who are and feel like business professionals,” says Silvia.
For Adalberto, it is already out of the question: “Today, it is impossible to have a finance area that is not fully connected to the business.”
Also, according to the survey, a delicate topic addressed is the lack of diversity in the category, given that most respondents consider themselves male and Caucasian.
In this regard, the webinar panelists stated that it is the role of the CFO to tackle the issue too, which encompasses an entire corporation.
“It’s difficult to separate the role of CFO from the role of citizen. Here, we have a challenge as a society. And as a business leader, one way to change the whole is to always work with what is closest to you,” says Adalberto.