When Finance Is “The Octopus” | Mark Patrick, CFO, Syngenta, AG

CFOTL: How do you view the role of finance in this organization?

Patrick: We’re like the octopus. We have the tentacles that go into every part of the organization, and it all comes back to finance at the end of the day. We have to have an element of independence, a challenge, a role within those cross-functional teams to ensure that we’re doing things that are utilizing the scarce resources in the best possible way for the company, number one.

And number two, ensuring that, you know, we’re not doing anything from a statutory governance perspective that’s in breach of what we should be doing. But it’s about partnering with these guys. We don’t want to be … sometimes we used to be called the policeman of an organization. I don’t like to see us with that title because we’re much more than that. We’re actually the custodians of value, and it’s about how we work within those cross-functional teams to ensure that we’re moving down the right path and investing in the things that are going to give us the greatest chance for success tomorrow. But it has to be a relationship built on trust.

CFOTL: How do you push metrics or numbers down into the organization to educate the workforce? Is that something you do?

Patrick: We actually have a financial KPI tree that takes very complex metrics like CFROI and breaks them down into very, very simple levers. No matter where you sit in the company, you can say, “Okay, I can pull that lever, and that will then–when you work it all the way through the tree–that will have a benefit to this metric that’s ultimately important for the company overall.

So it’s taking some of these very complex things down into what I would term pretty simple stuff to ensure that no matter what level you are, what part of the organization you’re in, you can still see the benefit you are bringing to the company. And it’s something that’s specific to you that you can action on. We do a lot of work in that space to try to bring it to life in some very simple terms so that every part of the organization understands how they’re contributing to the success. jb

Subscribe to CFO Thought Leader