For today’s CFO, it is increasingly necessary to take on the role of a business partner for the company and to be up-to-date on what is happening in the market. In addition, with their knowledge and connection to all areas of the business, this role can be crucial when developing new products or services and sharing opinions and advice on how to bring these products and services to market in the most efficient way.
In this interview, Cristiano Furtado—the Brazil-based LatAm CFO at Assurant, a leading global provider of lifestyle and housing solutions that support, protect, and connect major consumer purchases—talks in detail about the issues central to the function of a financial executive today, notably innovation and growth amid change.
Q: How are you innovating?
A: In the financial area, we have the vision of having unified financial processes and a management team that’s been in place in Latin America for several years.
So, today we are organizing our structure to follow the same functions and responsibilities that we have in our finance function in the United States. From the point of view of corporate governance, the areas of accounting, controller, treasury, and taxes all report to our corporate head office in the United States. This is the way we are organizing ourselves, to segregate our responsibilities and ensure that all financial areas of all countries follow the same approach.
We are working towards the establishment of a global ERP (enterprise resource planning) approach for the company, adapted in every country to comply with local laws.
From the point of view of innovation, today we have, for example in Brazil, the ability to make collections directly from consumers via our B2C portals. To facilitate this, we have agreements with banks and companies that do this type of work so that the entire collection chain is one hundred percent automated.
Q: How does the financial area grow in a context of regional and global changes?
A: We must always look at the competition as a reality, but we must also be very attentive to what consumers want and need. Our analysis and understanding of consumer behavior are key to the success of our company.
The global teams that perform our data analysis are very focused on looking at consumer and competitive behaviors, so we are attentive to all of this. There are new competitors, including fintech companies, which are emerging in our market.
Q: How has the role of the CFO changed and where is it going?
A: Traditionally the role was focused on working with the numbers, financial reporting. But today it’s different. Today I support our communications to investors and also the business partners I have, including our country managers. Not only do I collaborate with them to analyze results, but also provide input into the strategic vision for the company. I have to know the business, I have to give a rational explanation regarding the day-to-day performance of the business, what is happening with the clients and in general within our company. So, our role is as a business partner, supporting and sustaining decisions, looking outside the company to understand the marketplace, and making a connection with the results.
The second area that is part of the CFO’s responsibility is to understand all aspects of the organization, to be able to give the CEO my business perspective and also to be aware of everything that is going on in the market. My role is not limited to the financial area, although I am an expert in finance and have to help in the decision-making process.
The other element I see is that CFOs today have to interact regularly with all functions within the business, such as technology, products, etc.
For example, when a new product is developed, the experience of the CFO is useful when working on the plan for how to position and how to price the product. This is useful because, first, the pricing has to be competitive in relation to the market and, second, you’re bringing a wealth of knowledge to the internal team. So, it is a role that looks to the future. I am always thinking about how we can do something better, which includes being very attentive to what is happening outside the organization.
This interview was conducted by Latin Trade for Council of the Americas.