Last Thursday, March 16th, we were able to enjoy the 1st Summit of CFOs . A space for CFOs that allowed us to discuss the main current topics and be inspired by the generosity of the speakers and participants of the round tables. It has been of great interest to hear first-hand, from its main protagonists, how international and Spanish top-level companies face the challenges in the business environment.
The meeting took place in a very appropriate location, within a modern building and 360 views of the city of Madrid, in the Cepsa Tower, thanks to its hosts.
After the rebound effect that has taken us out of the Global Pandemic by COVID-19 and the devastating effects of the war in Ukraine, a good headline would be that “winter is saved and gives us an element of great value, time”. Time? Yes, time to be resilient to:
• The increase in prices of raw materials, the increase experienced in prices of energy and the increases in wage costs. No all of them directly transferable to the consumer price.
• Rising interest rates to cool demand complicates access to debt financing and strangles liquidity.
• Still co-living with economies in Europe that are heavily doped with direct economic helps.
• And very different economic realities in different geographies, for example, Europe and USA.
The business activity and the vital moment of each company will mark where to focus: refinance the debt, secure future energy contracts, cost containment, adapt to changes in consumer behavior, cling to a regulatory framework that must transfer security to investors… Among others, fine-tune the imagination if this can weather the storm.
Much was also said about the super-powers of the CFO and the role he plays when it comes to taking the lead, rethinking scenarios, transversally aligning the organization, and making use of analytics to understand the context, seek solutions and activate corrective actions. A consensus was also reached at the summit: in each cycle, in each crisis, the role of the CFO gains credibility and is reinforced in its most strategic and transformative profile. This memory continues giving me satisfaction and a disguised smile appears in my face.
As for digitalization, beyond the rapid acceleration that we experienced by force due to the Global Pandemic, accompanied by large investments in technology and finally all of us aware of its relevance, we spared no time when it came time to talk about “data”: value in this digital age, a lever for predictability from its digital perspective, data dematerialization and its governance. Already, late hours and proud of our profession, there also seemed to be consensus that the CFO can be a good early adopter if he knows how to attract versatile people with three pillars of knowledge: in economics, in business and in technologies.
My colleague Jose Angel Mateo, from NTT DATA EMEAL, broke through the debate talking about Finance Sustainability and ESG. He explained how regulators are enforcing non-finance reporting and how ESG reporting is a must in the market for different stakeholders: Shareholders, Banks, Consumers, Employees and Competitors. We understood, through the vision of its CFOs, how are the sustainable buildings of the future and the sustainable logistics of the future. There was time to discuss the European regulatory framework and how the sustainability criteria, that allow access to financing under more advantageous conditions, will be certified by agencies. We learned more about green bonds, social bonds, ESG bonds and Sustainability-Liked bonds. Also highlight how the state of the art in sustainability affects the role of the Controller and how it is an integral role that aspires to maintain the same standards of rigor, quality and predictability.
I leave for the end, not least important, but as a culmination, the experience of two great female cybersecurity professionals who made us think on how our networks are built. Our data is traveling across the world every day and so are our people. We no longer protect castles, we protect micro perimeters, and this protection must be extended to the entire supply chain, extending our own measures and policies to third parties. Cybersecurity and finance together? Yes, because CFOs know how to ask those important questions: What does the company face? What is the situation? Where is our red line? And integrate cybersecurity into the company’s risk management model and its continuity plans.
In this profession in which we are branded as gray and unfunny, I am already impatient to meet again at next year’s summit.