While many might focus on the CEO of a company, Roberto Held, CFO of Latin American carrier Avianca, highlights the financial executive role as a creator of value for both the company and investors through close relationships with all areas of the firm.
In this interview, Held shares his experience and knowledge on topics such as the evolution of the CFO’s role, the challenges for CFOs in Latin America, technology, and cybersecurity.
Q: How would you describe the role of the CFO over the past years?
A: There is a very good description by Accenture that says, “from bean counters to value creators.” So, I think it’s about how to design a value strategy with efficient use of resources, coming up with ideas that give more value to shareholders based on new management models and working closer with the other departments of the company. This helps understand the business better from a financial standpoint and use resources in a way that creates value in a quicker and more efficient way.
Q: What are the main challenges for a CFO in Latin America?
A: In the case of a company like Avianca, we are currently in a phase of geographical expansion. That demands a greater need to obtain resources for the growth of a world-class multilatina to go the countries we believe we should be present. That is basically the biggest challenge for the finance department.
There is also the topic of adequately managing the creation of value through process controls and spending controls, but without limiting the company’s growth, rather boosting it and making it more dynamic through proper management.
Q: How important is technology for a multilatina’s financial department?
A: Avianca is currently in a very important process of digital transformation. In fact, our CEO’s statement is that we want to be a digital company that flies planes. That is a management model based on access to real-time information and decision-making that is far quicker and based above all on data.
I believe today’s culture is much more data-driven than before: fewer reports and more real-time information. This allows us to make decisions more quickly and even anticipate trends. It also allows us to better understand how to prioritize differently and measure projects in a more efficient manner.
So, today we are in a technological renewal not only for the users but also for our own management and administration, connecting in a single point all the technology infrastructure that Avianca has. That has allowed us to become more efficient, based on analysis and multidisciplinary teamwork.
An example of what we are doing is redesigning our ERP system (enterprise resource planning), to take it to world-class standards. We are establishing partnerships based on user experience and automating processes that allow us to have greater control and more data.
We are also working on a big project to improve our customer management and the entire digital journey that is redefining Avianca’s way of doing things. This results not only in an exceptional user experience, but also helps us better understand processes, clients, and the opportunities that arise from data.
Q: How does Avianca handle cybersecurity?
A: Because we are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and we maintain a permanent interaction in terms of financial transaction with clients through digital platforms and payment systems, cybersecurity has always been a priority for Avianca.
In that sense, we have made large investments and even redesigned all our technological architecture so that it’s state-of-the-art and world-class in every way. This gives peace of mind to our clients and guarantees that the information we handle maintains its integrity right from the start. So, for us it’s a very important to protect all our information as we interact with clients.
This interview was conducted by Latin Trade for Council of the Americas.