THE NEW CFO AGENDA: STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP THROUGH ECONOMIC HEADWINDS

The profound volatility of the current economic climate has impacted almost every aspect of our operating environment. Cost pressures are rising, labour markets tightening and sustainability commitments carry more of an intensified weight. What’s more, the global players of growth and demand have shifted, and continue to do so, amplifying the already complex nature of post-pandemic supply. Though businesses are better prepared to face these headwinds, leaders of industry will be defined by their ability to strategically position themselves for advantage; a task that has fallen into the remit of CFOs.  

Fortunately, finance leaders are inherently aware that through crisis emerges potential for opportunity. KPMG Partner and Senior Economist, Sarah Hunter, expressed it plainly: “Now is the time to take advantage.” 

On the 13th October 2022, Oracle and KPMG, in partnership with Connect Media, hosted an executive gathering of senior finance leaders from across all sectors of the national economy to discuss this uptake of an advantage-driven mentality. Their conversation interrogated the expanding mantle of CFOs in the face of a tumultuous economy as they continue to step up as strategic partners and digital enablers.  

Attitudes of Change: The Case of Treasury Wine Estates

Not many wine companies have as wide a global presence as Treasury Wine Estates. Headquartered in Australia, it owns and operates wine production and packaging facilities in some of the world’s leading wine regions including Australia, New Zealand, the US and Europe. At the heart of it is growth over the past decade is a multi-regional wine sourcing model and global distribution platform, supported by an innovation agenda and technology focus to respond to shifting consumer preferences and increasing supply chain complexity.   

CFO Matt Young described how his role has expanded alongside the company’s technological integration. His remarks echoed a broader sentiment emerging in financial leadership: be proactive, rather than reactive. More and more, we are seeing executives shed the reactive mindset that once drove pandemic decision making, replaced with a more considered and incremental approach, always with the end-goal in mind. 

When asked how Treasury Wine Estates is navigating economic shifts, Young spoke about the importance of agility and creativity. “We think about it in terms of being ready for a range of potential scenarios.” 

“One thing that any customer-focused business knows is that you can’t be too fixed, or permanent, in your planning.  Consumer trends change, market trends change – sometimes quickly. You need to respond quickly, and in our case, manage that against a long-term agricultural cycle and global asset base,” he said. 

That means you need to be ready to respond to multiple scenarios and build flexibility into your business model – so you can make the most of new opportunities that present themselves along the way. 

Agility is a common thread running through the Treasury Wine Estates executive team, enabled further by the technology integrated into business operations: 

“Technology plays a critical role across our business: in consumer and customer engagement, and also in our vineyard, winery and supply chain operations. It’s an important area of investment for us, particularly in our data and analytics capability, to improve supply chain efficiency and yield management, or even predict supply chain disruption,” said Young. 

Making the best of both worlds – the history and tradition of winemaking combined with the innovation and agility needed to respond to changing consumer preferences – required a strategic approach to change management and organisation-wide view of capability.   

Understanding the Transformation Investment

As it sits, the term ‘transformation’ often evokes a mixed response among leaders. Some are averse to its gravity, a promise of immense and challenging change. Others see it as an opportunity to establish a different pace, to do away with stale practice and return afresh, optimised and efficient. Digital transformation, specifically, falls in step with these outlooks.  

We are seeing businesses spending more on technology than ever before: from productivity insight and consumer supply patterns, through to AI predictive analytics and the automation of menial, daily tasks. And these solutions will only continue to advance. Determining their viability as mechanisms of long-term value has come into the fold of CFO responsibility. Leaders must determine the strategic worth of these investments, taking accountability on both a business and employee level. 

Dale Khoury, Partner at KPMG, detailed that making such decisions requires a deep understanding of how the business function would respond to change: “It very much depends on what kind of level of maturity, how the finance operating model is structured today, what the spend appetite and capacity is of an organisation, what the ability to absorb a transformation is like just from an organisational change perspective. Because it is hard.” 

James Burt, Director, Office in Finance from Oracle, followed on: “As finance people, we need to be really cognisant of that fact that you are working with colleagues, you are working within a bigger ecosystem.” 

CFOs need to consider the repercussive lifecycle of these investments, breaking silos to ensure a smooth and equitable transition. Burt then remarked on the importance of a focused view in this process, echoing the sentiment carried by Treasury Wine Estate. When devising a change strategy, “It is important that you have an end in mind. Whatever your journey, you really want to have a good understanding of how technology is going to help with that end in mind,” he said. 

 “You actually get advantage with continuous innovation. You’re not going to have to do these big disruptive transformations,” he continued. 

While investment decisions have long been tied to the CFO position, CEOs are relying on their finance leaders to take up a greater role as players of strategy, translating the full scope of transformation throughout the organisation. 

Conclusion

From navigating the headwinds of an unsteady economy to guiding the business direction of change, CFOs have been thrust into the strategic forefront. As the technological landscape continues to evolve, they must champion and engage in continuous, cross-departmental dialogue, leading the pace of business-wide transformation with a considered, intentional approach.  

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Arti Oza

As Connect Media’s sole Designer, Arti is responsible for the creative visual direction and design of our entire suite of multimedia commercial and promotional material. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Design in Animation from the University of Technology Sydney. Arti’s artistic skill extends beyond her diverse corporate portfolio, and she has been known to draw incredibly realistic and stylised portraits of people.

Rachel Dreyfus

As Production and Operations Coordinator, Rachel has direct oversight over our event production portfolio and is responsible for securing our executive keynote speakers and panellists for our major events. She has a diverse administrative background in hospitality and database management, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Ceramics) from the National Art School, as well as a Masters of Management from ICMS.

Outside of the office, you will find Rachel teaching ceramics to kids and strategically surf-lifesaving outside of the water.

Imogen Smith

As Content Manager, Imogen is responsible for setting the strategic-agenda for our entire suite of industry and bespoke events, as well as the design, execution and editorial oversight of B2B content marketing services for our clients. She has diverse multimedia experience, having worked as a journalist and podcast host, and has had editorials featured across different national outlets. Imogen completed her Bachelor of Media, Communications and Journalism at the University of New South Wales with a minor in French studies.

Imogen is our resident coffee connoisseur, mountain-lover and word-smith.

Zoe Baptist

As Account Manager, Zoe is responsible for bringing new clients into our business community to establish long-term partnerships. Zoe begun her journey with Connect Media in our Marketing Team, and brings a wealth of experience around service delivery and customer experience to her Commercial role. She holds a Bachelor in Sport and Exercise Management from the University of Technology Sydney.

Zoe is a diehard Good Charlotte fan, and unfortunately for the rest of the team, has executive control over the office Sonos Speakers.

Lisa Eam

As Client Event Manager, Lisa is responsible for the seamless, back-end management of our event operations. She also charges the management of client, speaker and sponsor needs across both our event and bespoke roundtable offerings. Lisa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management in Events and Leisure from the University of Technology Sydney and has an extensive background in venue management and hospitality.

She currently holds the office title of ‘In-House Expert’ when it comes to the Sydney culinary scene, and is often the envy of all our office lunches.

Jessica Ewing-Flynn

As Commercial Director, Jessica is responsible for developing commercial partnerships across our entire suite of industry-leading events. Her extensive experience in the events sector spans both operational and client-facing roles, covering large-scale events through to bespoke engagements. She holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of South Australia, and a Bachelor in Event Management from the International College of Management Sydney.

Jessica hails from the Northern Beaches, where she is renowned as an extremely average runner, and a slightly better swimmer.

Sam Bray

As Production Manager, Sam oversees the acquisition of national and global speakers across our portfolio of industry and profession-based events. Originally hailing from Canada, she has a diverse background in politics and the public sector, and has completed a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of British Columbia. She is currently undertaking a Masters of Public Policy and Governance at the University of New South Wales.

Sam has a hardcore love for country music, cowboy boots and the dumplings near the office.

Jane Forbes

As Marketing Director, Jane plays a pivotal role in realising our long-term marketing agenda. Before assuming her current role, Jane served as Connect Media’s Data Manager for over two years. Jane holds an Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Management, and has over a decade’s dedicated senior experience in the events space. Jane enjoys escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to spend quality time at the beach with her young family.

Bridee Arrighi

As Operations Director, Bridee has operational oversight of our entire event portfolio, including stakeholder relations and end-to-end event management. Bridee graduated from Macleay College with a Bachelor of Business specialising in Event Management, and has over five years’ dedicated experience in the events space.

Bridee has a passion for the outdoors, and was quick to commandeer the best window seat in our office.

Dominic Patterson

Since founding the company in 2009, Dominic has fostered a culture of innovation and creativity, producing world-class conferences and pioneering advancements within the industry.

A media entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in B2B communications and events, Dominic has led Connect Media to be twice recognised as a BRW Fast Starter, a BRW Fast 100 Company, and a SmartCompanySmart50.

A keen sportsman and a supporter of the performing arts, Dominic maintains an active interest in public policy and has hosted a radio show with several listeners.

He has a Bachelor of Arts in Management (Economics) from the University of Westminster in London, certificates from AFTRS, NIDA and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.