A Talk with Itzik Revach, CFO, Arison Investments.

CFOTL: Tell us about your arrival, about the key career milestones that helped prepare you to become a finance leader.

Revach: Prior to Arison, I served as CFO at Amdocs Global Operations and IT Division. I directed worldwide financing and controlling activities in this position, where I was able to instigate complex financial processes and methodologies. Yet, it was a large-scale organization, running on a matrix
Itzik Revachmanagement framework, and I found that my ability to influence was limited. Because I consider myself to be a man of values, both on a personal level and professionally, I truly believe there are several qualities that make a CFO an exceptional figure within the organization. In my case, the combination of my personal core values with my innate passion for finances, drove me to pursue a financial career at The Arison Group, which places values at the core business and seeks to bring added value on different levels, not just bottom line returns.

CFOTL: When you stepped into your current role, what was your philosophy of finance and the kind of job you wanted to create?

Revach: The Arison Group’s backbone of values encompassed in The Doing Good Model, serves as a practical day-to-day tool for integrating 13 basic human values at the core of the business and its daily activities. It was developed by both executives and employees, in collaboration an interdisciplinary team from leading American universities. I’m proud to say I was a co-creator of this values-based model, as part of the group’s senior management.

When I entered my current position, I was driven by a strong desire to create a values-based financial strategy and performance-based models. I was a co-creator of The Arison Group’s The Doing Good Model. Internally, I’ve seen how happy and engaged employees drive the business forward in unprecedented ways that bring results, and I wanted to do work that is built on integrity and values, alongside high-performance standards. By placing values at the core, I am able to engage employees on all levels, provide them with practical tools for triple bottom line results, and also affect wide circles in a positive way. This vision is being successfully carried out, and brings added value to all of our clients and stakeholders.

Tell us about the current competitive landscape for your firm’s products or services. What is your firm’s competitive edge?

Revach: We are an investments company with a diversified portfolio. Our competitive landscape varies greatly too. Yet, undoubtedly, our greatest differentiator is The Doing Good Model that we implement, offering us the greatest competitive edge and the most ethical way forward, which, in turn, and for the long-run, improves and enhances our business practices, while also being translated into solid products plus services that benefit all stakeholders. This is how we take responsibility in positively impacting entire markets, while yielding great business results.

Let me share an example. Our financial services group, Bank Hapoalim, initiated a program called From Collection to Retention based on the model’s Financial Freedom value, which allows employees on the ground, in each branch, to tailor effective and flexible collection processes together with clients. This harnesses their brainpower, and creates trust and understanding with the specific client who’s in need, and this opens doors for originality in solving challenging situations where both the bank and the client act as partners. After all, Financial Freedom means providing clients with the knowledge and skill for them to attain their financial objectives, at each stage in their lives. Overall results show that 50% less accounts were forwarded to the bank’s Collections department, avoiding unnecessary processes. This has significant implications, just considering, for example, that 70% are young clients, who representing the bank’s future.

CFOTL: Tell us, what are the key metrics you rely on to reveal how the company’s performing?

Revach: The financial bottom line is not the only factor we gauge, and for which we expect good returns from our companies. Our commitment to yielding returns on all levels is presented, for example, in Shikun & Binui our infrastructure, real estate, and renewable energy company, in each Sustainability and CSR report that we publish alongside our financial ones. A Chief Sustainability Officer was appointed and we run workshops to expand knowledge and give tools that promote implementation of values. On top of this, we recognize that our human capital and positive organizational dynamics are central, key to our long-term success as a business, so we worked into our practices specific KPIs and compensation standards that measure business results and give ongoing employee recognition.

CFOTL: Tell us what metrics are being used to measure your company’s customer experience performance.

Revach: Innovation is the top marker for ensuring customer experience performance. Each company continuously invests in creating new advancement and unique services and products applying latest cutting-edge technology.

At Bank Hapoalim, a digital branch was recently launched, the very first in Israel, bringing a whole new dimension of improved digital Financial Freedom tools, for all its customers. The experience is entirely paperless, no lines to wait your turn for banking activities, Smartphone-based ATMs, contactless payment technology, touch screen terminals, meeting over conference calls, and a new environment for ultimately remote and seamless service. It pushes banking into the 21st century. It’s the new way to banking. From the bank’s diverse clientele, more than 60% use the bank’s apps and digital services that include Digital Wallet, foreign currency purchases, instant credit approval, digital-age stock trading, and more.

Shikun & Binui leverages its mega-scale projects worldwide to also bring innovations in sustainability. It has been operating in Israel since the early 20s, with presence in 23 countries on four continents, and creates advanced living environments with minimal footprint by complying with stringent international green standards. It uses sustainable materials, such as cost-effective natural material-based Bitumen technology, which is well-suited for road building in emerging markets, for example.

CFOTL: Tell us about an “A-ha!” moment where you experienced a moment of strategic insight as a finance leader?

Revach: When I realized I can do more to increase the implantation of values through my financial role.

I established and head-up the CFO Forum at the Arison Group. Once monthly, the CFOs of the different companies and organizations convene together to share knowledge, brainstorm, and consult and recommend on financial topics and professional issues. This way, I am able to strengthen the financial structure of the group, unifying it and enhancing its expert services.

Furthermore, to lead the implementation process of the values comprising The Doing Good Model, several working forums were voluntarily opened at the Arison Group. It is my responsibly as the company’s CFO, and a personal privilege, to head our Financial Freedom Forum. A huge impact stems from it, for many employees and their families too, as values become a way of life also at the workplace.

CFOTL: The Finance Transformation: From Backward-Looking to Forward-Looking Organization –  What steps has your finance organization taken to help empower the business to look forward?

Revach: As an organization, we take measures to empower a forward-looking perspective that is foremost values-based and transformative. The ultimate way is performance management, where financial decision-making is primarily based on several KPIs, for capital management, risk-analysis, funding models, etc.

Each project is executed, whether large-scale or small, in a way that induces creative thinking, invites innovation, and motivates new ideas on how a good measure of flexibility can be structured financially. I prepare and run projections for many different scenarios, to simulate our resilience in the face of market volatility, to ensure we can weather any instabilities, expected or unexpected.

CFOTL: What did you have to do to begin moving your team in the direction you wanted? Did you reorganize finance?

Revach: To this end, what I did was built a department with a relatively flat hierarchy, which helps me implement an open door policy where employees can turn to me with any suggestions or requests. In addition, I encourage out-of-the-box thinking from my team, enabling them to allocate time for brainstorming and coming up with novel solutions and special ways for doing our job.

CFOTL: Have you had a mentor or mentors during the course of your financial career?

Revach: While I was taking my first steps at Arison Investments, I had a mentor who influenced my career significantly. I accredit him for many things I still do today, and two of these I’d like to share with you here. One:  he gave me practical tools for productive teamwork, and Two: instilled in me the Rapid Result Initiative, meaning putting focus and creating small goals that are ambitious yet achievable, as opposed to big and complex goals that often prove to be not at all feasible. This is how I am able to attain real results fairly quickly.

 CFOTL: What do you wish someone had told you at the start of your CFO career?

Revach: Looking further back in time, I can draw from my early career years and recommend the following strategy to any starting CFO: Implement financial planning and activities that are values-based, by always verifying what creates values and what doesn’t, and then always operate according to this. Drive your department and the organization as a whole by wanting to bring added value at large, and apply this in all that you do, from goal setting, to strategy, budgeting, etc.

 CFOTL: What personal habit do you believe has contributed to your professional success?

Revach:  I confess that I love films and documentaries on the theme of finances. I watch them regularly to be inspired, develop my thinking patterns, and expose myself to many perspectives. It doesn’t matter if it’s a real-life story or a Hollywood-made box-office one, I always try to absorb the relevant angle and be enriched by it (and of course, enjoy!).

CFOTL:  What book would you recommend to aspiring finance leaders?

Revach: Professional books are also a big inspiration. For example, CFO – Architect of the Corporations’ Future, written by the Price Waterhouse Financial and Cost Management Team, which presents a witty and different viewpoint on what is really required from any CFO to succeed as a trendsetter and as a transformative figure, one that brings into their career values, gauging tools, risk analysis, vision, and more. It teaches you how to perform your job as an architect does, by calculating the fundamental values of your business design, and what it will deliver in the future.

CFOTL: What are your priorities as a finance leader over the next 12 months?

Revach: Applying an overarching strategy across the different silos in the company, that integrates the different interfaces in the organization, including finances, investments, subsidiaries, so that the processes and activities can be viewed on consolidated aspects, to further optimize and maximize the value for all stakeholders. In addition, it is important for me to continue empowering and developing my team in a way that enables us to create an atmosphere between us, where we can all bring our values to the table and individually contribute to the values-based activities of the group, every day. I truly believe in teamwork, because for me, it is the people who drive the success of any organization, and my own, in that sense.

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