Main menu

Interview: A Holistic Approach to Corporate Finance

May 14, 2019

With a presence in 54 countries and clients that range from multinationals to local businesses, insurance firm Chubb must be a step ahead in terms of innovation, cybersecurity, and technology trends for the finance department.

The best way to go about it while making the finance department a true strategic partner for the company as whole is through a holistic approach, says the company’s Mexican unit CFO, Mario Chavero. In this interview, Chavero explains how Chubb is doing just that.

Q: What are you doing in terms of cybersecurity for the finance department at Chubb México?

A: In general, the company implements policies and controls on the information we receive. These policies are based on regulations set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework. We are also members of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the Cloud Security Alliance, which means we are up-to-date in terms of best practices in cybersecurity.

In the finance department, we are always reviewing and applying measures such as:

  • Attend cybersecurity conferences given by banks and financial institutions.
  • Delete access to online banking systems for employees who don’t require access to the cash management area.
  • Hire ethical hackers to test our internal networks.
  • Carry out campaigns to promote the use of safe passwords based on the recommendations of the regional IT team.
  • Access the company’s banking accounts through VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), meaning we have a dedicated internet connection. This adds an extra firewall when accessing online banking systems.
  • Install closed circuit cameras in the perimeter of the finance department offices and use secure storage systems for all access tokens.
  • Limit access to online banking if it’s just for checking balances. For the employees who do require checking balances, we give individual permissions.

Q: How are you innovating in the finance department?

A: We see the finance area from a holistic viewpoint, rather than its traditional concept, so we can integrate as a high-performance and self-driven team that is a strategic partner to the business.

This means we have a much more analytical function that adds value to the business and gives advice that leads to the right decisions. We have automated many of our processes so that our team members can have more time to focus on reviewing and analyzing data, rather than processing it. This has helped us develop our transformation plan into three main parts.

First, we automated tasks that were the most time-consuming for employees and that didn’t require a specific software. We created individual, short-term projects to simplify those tasks.

Second, we visualized each task from a process-oriented point of view, to better manage the limits of human and financial resources. This procedure means there are less of those limits and allows us to keep up to standard in our customer service and at the same time generate growth. Some of the changes include implementing a help desk, a ticket system, and workflow that give us better control of each of the tasks to give a more efficient service for our clients. We also created a mobile app that helps manage work teams.

Third, we automated several processes that deal with high transaction volumes to guarantee that the finance team is more focused on analyzing data to meet its strategic goals. All of the aforementioned changes were carried out under a general corporate transformation project that seeks to improve the finance department's function.

Q: Which technologies do you consider to be the most valuable for a corporate finance department?

A: Without a doubt, the best technologies for corporate finance are artificial intelligence, machine learning, business intelligence, and robotics. Everything to do with big data and data analytics, as well as external automation processes, needs those technologies to be able to efficiently handle, control, and process the data. This is necessary for meeting the goals of the finance department, which is to be a strategic business partner for the company and create value by providing key indicators and advice to make the best decisions.

But all of the above requires a transformation of the traditional finance team, and of course requires time and money to train the team to focus on processes, analysis, and exploiting information so they can read between the lines to get the key information that will drive success.

Q: What are the main challenges of implementing new technologies and how can you avoid them?

A: Evidently, one of the main risks is resistance to change and a lack of a strategic vision, not just within the finance department but the business as a whole.

To avoid those risks, you have to be very transparent with people and give them a clear and simple vision of the goals so that they can perceive the benefits that the transformation will bring them on both a personal and professional level. That’s why communication is one of the keys to success, along with establishing a very thorough training program that covers the technical aspects of new technologies, along with soft skills that will benefit the team and enable them to become a strategic adviser for their internal clients.

This interview was conducted by Latin Trade for Council of the Americas.