ABOUT THE ROLE OF CFO – INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT CASSELBRANT

 

In his role as CFO, Robert Casselbrant has workdays that are fast-paced and highly varied, to say the least. Robert says the role of CFO has become far more broad-based in recent years, and increasing demands are being imposed.

Digitalisation has brought new challenges but also new opportunities for the role of CFO. He believes that in the future the finance department will work increasingly analytically and closer to the operation, and that this will demand a more data-driven decision-making structure. The use of visualisation tools for analysis and reports has been something of a ‘eureka’ experience for Robert and his team, they have understood the potential available from using the power of the graphic image. At the moment he is working to ensure that his staff understand the value of working in a more data-driven way and he is focusing on raising the knowhow level in the company through training courses.

Robert’s advice to other CFOs who want to continue to be relevant in the new digital environment is: “Be inquisitive, raise your sights, and don’t be shy about asking for help. Make sure you get help with identifying the available digital opportunities, and surround yourself with people who are at least as inquisitive as you are!” In this interview Robert offers his views on how the role of the CFO has changed in recent years, and he also discusses the challenges he faces and offers tips and ideas on how the CFO can remain relevant in the new digital environment.

ABOUT THE ROLE OF CFO
I have a fairly broad role and am responsible for the finance department and everything that has to do with economics, as well as other areas such as purchasing and real estate. In addition I am also chairman of the board of Gothnet (subsidiary for fibre networks). So my workday is very varied, to say the least. When I started my journey at Göteborg Energi, one of my main tasks was to expand the company’s business drive and this is something in which I have invested a lot of time in recent years.

THE ROLE OF CFO COVERS A RANGE OF DIFFERENT TASKS, SINCE I PROVIDE STRATEGIC SUPPORT AND ALSO LEAD THE COMPANY FORWARD.
Alongside the CEO, the CFO is one of few roles with a holistic overview of the entire operation. My job is to ensure that the whole picture is clearly seen and made visible. As CFO I have insight into all parts of the company and am involved in all strategic and operative issues. In short, this position is about making visible and optimising the various parts of the processes. It is important to have good insight so you can make efficiency improvements where necessary because ultimately it’s about looking after the shareholders’ interests. One important aspect is therefore to contribute to supplier security for the owners – indirectly the City of Gothenburg.

THE CHALLENGES FACING THE CFO

The demand on a CFO today is to serve as a strategic support to the CEO and I have a responsibility to the board to be able to provide a correct picture of how the operation is performing. This requires a broad-based and dedicated business approach. The key is to develop the company as a whole and there are many different buttons to push in this regard. There’s a wide range of issues in which you have to be interested, including economy, day-to-day operation and law. You need a command of this range in order to get the necessary wide perspective, at the same time as you must understand the link between them and find the whole process enjoyable. It is also important to be able to predict the next step and to constantly stay one step ahead. By doing this, you build up confidence throughout your organisation.

IN ORDER TO SECURE GOOD CONTROL, YOU HAVE TO ENSURE THAT ALL THE STAFF ARE INTERESTED IN THE SUBJECT OF ECONOMY AT SOME LEVEL.
You cannot be a manager without taking financial responsibility. The aim is always to get the people you talk with to understand and to properly absorb the information you provide.

It is necessary to have the ability to be pedagogic and to be able to break down the information to the right level. I often draw parallels to people’s home and car loans to make the information more accessible. One example is the balance sheet. Where different employees come with different levels of knowhow; the point is to provide information about how it all ties in together so everyone sees the whole picture. That is what control of a company is all about and as CFO you have to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.

IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO DARE STEP OUT AND TAKE YOUR PLACE CENTRE STAGE, SO THAT YOU ARE SEEN AND HEARD.
It’s not enough to be an introvert and stick to your figures – take the initiative to make personal contacts and ask questions, take a step forward and get closer to your operation.

THE OPPORTUNITIES OF DIGITALISATION

New technical opportunities with exciting analysis and visualisation tools are well-suited to the inquisitive CFO. There’s a whole lot going on in the data-driven sphere, it’s vital to understand these processes and their various component parts. As CFO it is important to be involved in building data models from the very outset so that you can also make the necessary changes over time as the company develops. Development always takes place in different phases but the tools for handling the information change quickly, so it is important to keep pace with technical developments.

AS CFO IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE VISIONS IN THIS AREA – BUT IT IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARILY YOU WHO WILL NEED TO REALISE THEM.
It is important to approach this with the understanding that you don’t need to be best at everything, but that it’s good if you’ve worked with different kinds of business intelligence tools and understand the potential they offer. Right now I am working to ensure than my 100 colleagues get started on working in a more data-driven way. It’s important to ensure that there is adequate knowhow in the organisation. We continuously provide training courses within various areas so that we can keep pace with developments in the digital world. It is vital for the employees to appreciate the value of working with analysis tools and to understand that they create new views and insights. So we work tirelessly to increase knowhow in these areas; working in a data-driven way means knowhow, and experience is something you build up over time.

THERE IS CONSIDERABLE POTENTIAL WITH TODAY’S VISUALISATION TOOLS, AND WORKING WITH THEM GIVES SO MUCH. THE POWER OF THE GRAPHIC IMAGE IS VERY STRONG.
We make considerable use of fact-based data and process this information together to obtain new insights. The use of simulation has been of immense help – it has created a ‘eureka’ experience. It is necessary to look at what other people are doing and to be open to new technology and new ideas, and to then apply this to the operation in which you work.

DIGITALISATION BRINGS WITH IT CHANGES FOR THE FINANCE ORGANISATION.
Part of the finance department’s job will gradually be automated, which will free up time for other tasks as many often boring jobs disappear. Instead we will have time to work increasingly analytically and closer to the operation. This in turn means control will be easier, since I will more quickly find out what is happening in the company. This means I can plant ideas at an early stage. We will work deeper in the heart of the organisations with a corporate agenda, this way we will get a more direct link and can control budgets in a more hands-on way. All this represents interesting development potential for finance as we enter new areas. Digitalisation brings with it truly exciting opportunities for a controller. Being a good controller demands many skills and properties since a controller is a CFO in mini-format – it’s an excellent basis for becoming a CFO in the longer term. Those controllers who keep a close watch on digital developments will have considerable opportunities.

TIPS ON THE WAY – HERE’S HOW THE CFO REMAINS RELEVANT IN THE NEW DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT.

 

  • Never stop developing, always remain inquisitive and continue your business intelligence work. Also make sure you keep an eye on your operation and on what is happening outside.
  • Have the courage to step outside your comfort zone and get used to the fact that you are not irreplaceable. You have to keep on your toes and enjoy this alert approach to your work.
  • It is vital to dare ask for help – you neither can nor should do everything yourself.
  • It is important to be thorough when recruiting new staff, and to think long-term. If someone chooses to leave, I see this as a challenge and start thinking about how I can further develop the role for his or her star replacement.
  • More often than not, it is more important to be quick than it is to be entirely right – it’s important to be tactical in order to be successful. If you stay one step ahead, you are perceived as proactive and if you surround yourself with the right people it is easier to maintain a good pace.
  • It is important to reach your intended goal in everything you set out to do, to reach a conclusion that is measurable.

ROBERT ON THE SUBJECT OF COOPERATION WITH ADVECTAS

This is a very exciting cooperative venture that has been ongoing for a few years. I feel it is important to seek help – the less mature an organisation is, the more important it is to have support along the way. Advectas has provided us with spearhead competence but has not taken over – instead they have helped boost our internal competence levels. This is not just in the form of one-off events but rather a more long-term relationship where they inspire us and draw up plans and plant ideas. Without thinking about it they initiate thought processes among both me and my colleagues. The experts from Advectas often come in and talk about a new area that they feel we should keep our eye on. Some time passes and suddenly my colleagues are all talking about this particular area and why we should get started. Over the years we have developed close cooperation and as we have grown, so too has Advectas grown, so one might say that we have both developed together.

WANT TO FIND OUT HOW ADVECTAS CAN HELP YOU? DO GET IN TOUCH WITH US!