Yahoo and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) are 2 very different organisations. How have you managed the change?
Like any change there have been 3 elements; the culture, the sector, and the "process/system/environment" piece. In this case I was really quite lucky, as I had a good transition with my predecessor - having the handover period is a success factor. Another major factor is ensuring that the first 90 days are really dedicated to building relations with your key internal and external stakeholders, review status of critical projects, make sure you are visible. I met the team, the board, various key vendors, and project stakeholders. This allowed me to make immediate impactful tactical decisions, such as an ERP Migration choice, which saved costs and helped my new team.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming Ecopop Referendum?
Within Switzerland, the Lac Leman area has a history of being able to attract a skilled workforce from neighbouring countries. Also the Swiss economy has been a steady grower with low unemployment at about 3%.Current demographics and the mix of available skills create demand for labour. So government and industry have to find a solution to fill the demand. New training takes a generation even if there is a strong will to keep jobs within the native population, so there is no discernible short or long-term threat. The labour market will settle down and- I believe in the pragmatic nature of the Swiss politicians, although it could possibly result in the tightening of quotas for specific countries in the short term.
If you could go back in time and give some career advice to your younger, graduate self, what would it be?
Mobility is key! The obvious thought here is geographic mobility, but I would look first at skillset mobility. Bridging over the different financial pillars earlier in my career (transactional, compliance, FP & A, Treasury/Tax) has enabled me to take on the broader CFO roles I have held more recently. Then we have to consider sector mobility. Each sector brings its own unique perspective. This enables one to experience different solutions for key business initiatives such a vendor financing program or key projects such as an ERP roll-out). Coming finally to geographical mobility - this has been essential for my development. It gives you a certain adaptability and agility which enables you to deal with a volatile and increasingly diverse and riskier business world. You get to understand not only different cultures, but different business structures, and tax regimes. Overall, with every different move, you learn to be more adaptable, and the benefit to a prospective employer is that you will be able to come up to speed, and have a positive impact, very quickly.
What has been your best, or worst, interview experience?
I had a pretty bad one sitting on the interviewer side of the table. The candidate knew nothing about the company he was interviewing for. It was clear he had not even done the most basic prep. So, we figured this out pretty quickly, but instead of admitting it and perhaps apologising and saying "I'm sorry, I didn't realise it was this level of interview," or something similar, he carried on, and invented facts about the company. This led to a situation where these incorrect facts were being given to me, and it became a little strange and very embarrassing for everybody. I had to cut the interview short.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking for to move into a new role at Senior Finance Manager/CFO level?
Continuously network through various channels - Alumni, LinkedIn, breakfast meetings. All of these things are good to raise your profile but get fresh ideas outside in. . It will help you understand if your job is under threat, also you will already know people when you are in a situation where you need to know people. The Big 4 is always a good network route. Another thing to do is; always take the courtesy call from head hunters. It is an opportunity to exchange information. It is not always about you or about a job - it could be a request for a referral. Finally, you always have your career plan in mind. You need to know what you want, whether the opportunity presents itself in the next quarter, or in the next year, you need to be ready for it. If you plan correctly, you can fulfil your dreams.
If you could have had a career in sports, art, or music, which would it have been, and why?
It would be sports. Within sports, it would either be football, or cycling. I played in a football team, and the camaraderie and teamwork is very fulfilling. I still play for fun. Cycling is different, it's like mental yoga. You get wonderful scenery, and this feeling of melding with a machine.
We saw that Switzerland's economy failed to grow in the 2nd Quarter of 2014. What do you think are the major challenges that lie ahead for Switzerland's growth?
With the CHF seen as a "safe haven" currency by other individuals and economies, this certainly provides a short-term challenge to a predominantly export oriented economy. The longer term challenge is to transition out of these corporation tax reforms. Work has already started on this for example, with the abolition of tax holidays. Again, the pragmatic political approach should see the reinvention of some EU friendly, and EU/OECDcompatible, tax incentives. These will surely maintain and continue to attract foreign investment in Switzerland.
Finally, what challenges does the EBU face?
One example is the financial situation of our members. The EBU believes Public Service Media is an essential element of democratic societies where a strives a transparent world of communication for the common good, creating content that freely informs, educates and entertains the public, and continue striving to perform to the highest standards with moral integrity and maximum efficiency. If the political system closes a Public Broadcaster because there is "enough" public funding priority (as we saw recently in Greece), we have to state the very strong case that a free and democratic society needs a completely neutral media provider. Otherwise we risk a challenge in the sustainability of the public funding model. There is also a challenge in the delivery of media in a connected world, and how this effects the consumption of media content by the younger generation. Nowadays this could come through a phone, a tablet, online to a television set via on demand services. This is a generational change and the younger audiences are shifting away from "linear" television. So this is an operational challenge; we have to assist our members in evolving their offers in this new environment.
*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*