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Covid-19, from an immediate shock to a new reality for CFOs

Covid-19, from an immediate shock to a new reality for CFOs

On April 21st, everis hosted an online event to debate with CFOs how COVID-19 is impacting the market and what finance leaders are doing to support their organizations and teams. 

A rich debate was generated among finance leaders from companies in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, telecoms, higher education, services …

Special thanks to our insightful panelists Frederic R. Simoes, Novartis CFO and Stephane Suveg, Schneider Electric CFO for their generosity and straight forward vision on how their companies and finance community are reacting and planning the “New Normal”.

Find highlights of the session and access to the recording of the debate: 

Belén Villasante Head of everis Digital Finance moderated and introduced everis view on how leaders in the market are quickly moving from the initial shock to plan the recovery phase to enable a “New Normal” with focus on: 

New reality of CFOS

Greater focus on revitalizing the Market

There is a certain level of consensus among the attendees that priorities today, beyond keeping safe the employees and enabling short term liquidity, is on ‘Revitalizing the demand’.

Almost 50% of the attendees, state that their companies are working with customers-providers and sometimes competitors to prepare the recovery scenario.

Remarkable is the fact that only 16% have as top priority “Contention-Cost Reduction”, featuring a perspective change from previous crisis.

A fast recovery is being sought where this pandemic situation is already requiring a more innovative way of approaching ‘the way we do businesses’.

A renewed way of operating as Responsible Corporates that foster broader society wellbeing and resilience towards future global crisis, whilst remaining profitable.


Collaboration – An invigorated sense of ‘Purpose’

We observe a strong review of Corporate’s Mission concept, going beyond the strict interpretation of the traditional Mission & Vision. Triggered initially by an urgent and practical need to take action to protect families, employment, health system and business and subsequently reinforced by a collective sense of ‘We are all in front of the same challenge, we need to overcome this, and come out stronger than ever’.

Despite in Novartis we have always had our Purpose very present, this crisis has reconnected us with the privilege and responsibility associated to it.’ Frederic R. Simoes CFO at Novartis.

This collective understanding that we will only go through this when uniting forces has accelerated unprecedented levels of collaboration and networking, at inter-organizational and intra-organization levels.

Co-opetition – we observe increasing levels of collaboration among natural competitors to address the current situation, with the main objective of providing agile response to the market/supply chain challenges whilst streamlining investments. Almost 10% of the CFOs attending to the debate state that this is a reality now in their organization. And the Finance department is at the center of modeling the impact and deploying this new approach.

The model of collaboration is noticeable in the pharmaceutical industry. We’re seeing things at a speed we haven’t seen before.’Frederic R. Simoes CFO at Novartis.

Ecosystem – There is a common understanding that to win on the recovery phase, supporting customers – providers – employees is essential. 

Finance teams are proving the value of their capillarity across the company to launch and coordinate initiatives across departments that previously took weeks of meetings with meagre results.  This crisis has proven that breaking silos across departments is possible in record time, when the aim is clear and shared.

The priority at this time has been to make ourselves available to our customers. What do you need now?, what additional flexibility do you need from us and how can we help you survive in this period?’  – CFO at human resources company.
We can only go through this if our customers grow again, and if our suppliers survive. At Schneider Electric we have offered a leasing value proposition for those clients who have a critical cash flow situation.’  Stephane Suveg CFO at Schneider Electric.


The immediate response of the Society and Companies has been to shift energy towards the population groups in more need. We have all seen innovation and creativity all around. From myriad of spontaneous initiatives of neighbours helping elderly neighbours with errands, sewing masks, free entertainment at courtyards, … to manufacturing companies adapting their lines to produce disinfectant gels, ventilators, protective clothing …

The answer of the Industry has been an unprecedented level of Research … To date + 580 clinical studies, + 100 molecules under research, as well as important donations.’ Frederic R. Simoes CFO at Novartis.

This crisis has proved to be an abrupt test of Digital Maturity and ability to operate in innovative ways.

Most of CFOs attending to the debate agree on valuing the ability of their teams to quickly engage in FlexiWork, digital communication and collaborative environments.

Flexibility, digital process execution and technology are proving key to maintain quality and productivity whilst shifting focus, especially on which data points and info is now relevant for decision making.

The question is now which of those digital levers should be promoted by CFOs in the future as integral part of the new normal.

Connectivity has been key for us. Televisits to doctors, clinical trials from home, … all this were exploratory efforts that will be accelerated in the New Normal.’ Frederic R. Simoes CFO at Novartis.
We are collaborating with our clients to co-create innovative value propositions that accelerate digitalization.’ Stephane Suveg CFO at Schneider Electric.

Agility and Focus

Modeling and support decision making, keeps on being top priority for Finance teams. Focusing on data and measuring results, is the day to day during these weeks. And will keep on being a top priority. 

We observe a trend to shift towards analysis of operational rather than pure financial KPIs.

Focus on liquidity and financing needs, scenarios and predictive modeling that trigger decisions around demand revamping measures, default payment behaviors, supply chain stress testing, the outlook of the new way of doing business, launching products … CFOs acting as COOs

A nimble response that seems so natural among most finance professionals and proves the profession already incorporates key elements of digital mindset.

‘We have moved from a very complex scenario into a chaotic one. In this chaotic world, we cannot wait to have more information. We act with much more urgency and in a more agile way – in a trial and error mode. We have parked forecasts and scenarios. We are focused on understanding how countries, and disease areas are going to face the challenge to launch initiatives that prioritize and assign the right level of resources. In the long term, we are revisiting our (de)investment decisions and M&A operations and their impact on cash. The objective is to be ready to seize market opportunities when back to ‘normal.’Frederic R. Simoes CFO at Novartis.
‘Learn from emerging countries’ mindset and their agility and lower adversity towards risk on decision making. Agility over perfection.’Stephane Suveg CFO at Schneider Electric.
‘It’s very difficult to talk about budgeting in this environment, I think we are going to head towards more performance-based models and risk analysis.’CFO at higher education company.
“KPIs have become more operational and assessed almost weekly. We have moved to a more dynamic way of managing the business, where quarterly targets will become targets rather than follow-ups.” – CFO at human resources company.


In these uncertain times, all of us are seeking for reliable sources of information and comfort.  Employees are concerned for their families, friends, jobs … This is the time to be close to our team members, show empathy, communicate and convey a message of optimism.

This is a new opportunity to create new ways of interacting, executing and coaching talent to grow.

‘We foresee the role of corporations being reinforced in society, for many business leaders are responding in a very inspiring way.’Frederic R. Simoes CFO at Novartis.
‘I concur with Fred that the Social Responsibility agenda of our companies gains a new dimension.’Stephane Suveg CFO at Schneider Electric.

To enjoy the recording the full version of the session, please visit our Youtube channel Digital Finance everis.

We hope to meet you in upcoming debates. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with more articles at everis Digital Finance Blog

Voice of finance 
A series of conversations with CFOs and finance leaders. These talks are focused on how the Finance area can add value in the digital area.