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Interview: On Vulnerabilities, Productivity, and Robotics

August 19, 2019

Having state-of-the-art systems to protect against cyberattacks is all very well and good, but they can be useless unless they are accompanied by proper training and awareness among employees about the types of cybercrimes and vulnerabilities.

In this interview, Marcos Mohacsi, CFO of ACCO Brasil, shares his knowledge and experience in dealing with the growing threat of cybercrime against companies, the benefits for productivity after implementing new technologies to the finance area, and what to look for when building finance teams. ACCO is a U.S.-based, multinational manufacturer of office products, with offices in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and the UK, among other places.

Q: What are you doing in terms of cybersecurity?

A: We have a structure in our headquarters in Chicago that takes care of all the cybersecurity policies in the company in general. The company is very concerned about cybersecurity crimes and vulnerabilities that may arise.

There is a comprehensive program that is deployed by the corporation. First, to make the employees aware of possible vulnerabilities, attacks, and threats that are most current in the market today. These procedures are applied across all ACCO companies, and of course here in Brazil we apply them in terms of the security provisions that we have, such as firewalls and all the technical infrastructure. The company also carries out mandatory trainings to raise awareness and learn to identify possible threats related to emails, the internet, cell phone messages, etc.

Q: What do you think about cybersecurity in the region in general?

A: I think it’s a very concerning issue. Every day I receive between 10 to 15 emails that I notice are some kind of threat. Based on what we see in the media, this type of crime is increasing a lot. Recently I read about a new type of threat through cell phone messages, where the attacker can access everything in the phone. Everyday criminals are looking for new ways to get victims to fall into those traps.

With regards to the topic of cybersecurity, I think the most fragile part is the user. Because, if the user isn’t aware of what a cyberattack looks like, even if you have all the systems infrastructure supporting the security, it only takes a click on a bad link to be in trouble. Working to make people aware of these threats is very important.

Q: What are you doing in terms of innovation?

A: We are applying some of the new technologies that are available in the market, for example, robotics. We have completely automated some processes, like credit analysis. This means we can approve almost 90 percent of our credit requests automatically.

We also use some tools for visual analysis. For example, we use programs where we can track production and machine productivity through screens displayed at several locations in the plant floor. When applicable, we implement new technologies.

Q: What are the immediate effects of implementing these technologies?

A: First, higher productivity. You can do more with fewer resources. You have a quicker response when addressing issues that may arise. For example, when visualizing the performance of the machines you can correct something almost immediately. In general, you have higher productivity and more assertiveness.

Q: What other technologies are you thinking of using?

A: We are in the process of upgrading our ERP systems. After that, we will start analyzing new possibilities, such as artificial intelligence and fintech companies. These are things we can add to our systems portfolio once we can integrate them into our ERP system.

Q: What are the main changes in the role of a CFO? How do you see the role evolving?

A: What I’ve seen is that 10 years ago, the focus was more on the transaction processes. Make things work well in terms of transaction, reporting those transactions, create an infrastructure to make budgets and forecasting.

Now the focus is more on the business and strategy side. Nowadays the CFO should be more proactive in terms of finding strategic solutions for the several areas of the company, not only the finance department. For instance, finding a way to improve sales by using creative solutions is a new role for the CFO.

The company should be focused on the clients and creating value, and the finance team should look for ways to do that. Instead of being focused only on the transaction processes, the CFO is now more focused on growth and innovation, not only in finance but in other areas, new processes and new products that can improve production and operations and reduce costs. I think that’s the way the CFO role is shaping nowadays.

Q: What skills do you look for when building a finance team?

A: First is that they should have a good background. Since we are a multinational company, we have a lot of requirements and rules to comply with, and the people must be aware of these rules.

The new finance professionals should also be interested in new technologies to find solutions and to create an environment in which you can improve processes while spending less, being open to innovation.

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