The Importance of Company Culture in a Digitizing World – How to contribute as a CFO

Bart Adam

Chief Financial Officer at Securitas

Learning Objectives

In an ever changing world, the CFO is expected to highly participate, even more so to lead the change. How to do that? What is the importance of company culture in there and how can you contribute as finance? And how can we apply that learning to any large transformation projects and in digitisation?

"We help make your world a safer place. "

Bart Adam

Chief Financial Officer at Securitas


Hello, my name is Bart Adam. And I’m the CFO of Securitas AB. And I would like to talk to you here about the importance of company culture in the digitizing world. And more specifically, how we can contribute as a as a CFO to that?

Well, I think we all agree here, the world is changing at a pace we have never seen before. But it’s not only the pace, the world is also changing in a multitude of directions. And, then even more. It’s very often in what seems to be opposite directions with opposite requirements. Some examples, we live in a world where everything shall be connected, as opposed to the growing need for privacy, and the cyber risk always being present. Similarly, we are looking for data rich experiences. But even if we have no access to a lot of data, we don’t know any longer what is right and what is fake. We see the further rise of a global economy, as opposed to the rise of politically inspired protectionism.

It’s the same when we turn to our personal lives. It is changing, but also often in opposite directions. I think we all care about the future of the planet. And we love to visit the planet. But we also fly like crazy. People have exotic copies these days, and they jump from bridges and tall buildings. But they also plan for the pension as never happened before. Very recently, of course, we all know the pandemic caused some huge changes. We were eager to get through the pandemic, but we also have a strong desire for freedom and meeting people and be able to travel. The world is changing at the pace and in a multitude of directions we have never seen before and even more so, in what seems to be opposite directions.

And we are CFOs or managers are supposed to manage the pace of these changes to manage these opposing directions. And this is where I strongly believe company culture comes in as a very important base to manage this role. And company culture largely starts with a purpose. What is the purpose of your company? Do you have that clearly spelled out? Well, this is our purpose. We help make your world a safer place. This is the first purpose from Securitas which is aligning the entire company and each word is carefully selected to represent an aspect of what is important to us. And I will not go into that detail now. But in simple words, this is what we do at Securitas. We help make your world a safer place. And we do that daily in 47 countries with 350,000 employees around the world. And we do have a leading market position. We are the global leader in rendering protective security services. With strong market positions around the world. You could say we are the number one protective services provider, mostly focusing on large corporates where we provide around the physical security components. But it’s not only about the geographic footprint. Looking forward, this footprint with 355,000 employees provides us with a very rich environment of data on what is going on in the world. And it provides us also with an ability to respond if incidents happen. And this joint Cabaye capability of data and the ability to respond is what we call the power of presence. So while we have a leading hyping position, we are not sitting still either, and I think none of you is sitting still either these days. like probably all of you, we are also heavily working with all of digitization, digitalization and digital transformation. And we do that with a roadmap consisting of three different work streams.

In the bottom in green, here, we have a work stream where we optimize for today, here, we mostly refer to working with the base IT infrastructure, and ERPs, and how to bring them into better shape and into a new world as well. Then we work with what we call build for tomorrow. And that is mostly about the digital developments towards our clients and our services. And then in the top here, the orange, we work to innovate for the future, where we work mostly on anti new service offerings and new business models. And then across these three layers, guts, the cybersecurity program and the inner inner journey, I shall add, that data plays a very important role in all of these three parts of a roadmap here. In order to benefit from the data, one need to work on a combination of capturing plus analyzing plus responding and in all of this, we do take the benefit from the new technology on capturing as an example, we are being helped by the application of NLP and deep learning or people write daily reports about all the incidents, security incidents, they are managing, or incidents they are preventing from happening. And we want to know what is going on around the world where we operate, because if you know what is going on, you can basically also predict where and when incidents are likely to occur. And then as a security force, you can prepare yourself much better for search occurs. One big problem we had is that all of our people are reporting in different languages and formats, and in different systems or people categorize incidents and actions in many different categories, and sometimes the right categories, but often also the wrong categories. Sometimes the right category is actually missing from that drop down menus. And as I said, all over the world, every application also uses different categories actually. So, we have a problem in analyzing all those data in order to understand in a large scale, what is happening around the world, but with the help of NLP and deep learning. Now, the machine is reading all of these different reports from all of these different people, the 350,000 people from around the world that they are making every day on incidents and prevented incidents and based on that reading, the the machine is now much better able to categorize what is happening in a similar way around the world and we understand now much better what and where incidents and happening. So based on that we have taken a very high volume of unstructured data. And thanks to technology, we were able to structure that and understand what is going on. Now I have said that a few times already, we work with 350 to 5000 people worldwide. And what we say is Securitas is its people and people are Securitas. And I truly believe that company culture is important to any corporate. But you will probably agree here that if you work with 355,000 people, that company culture becomes even more important, if not extremely important. But we are CFOs. And it’s difficult for people like ourselves here. And while company culture is extremely important, and valuable, it is not on our balance sheet. We don’t find it there. It can be huge asset. But it can also be a liability if you have the wrong company culture. And this brings us right into the middle of our subject. That is the role of the CFO, and how a CFO can contribute to company culture in a world of digitization, digitalization and digital transformation.

You all know that the CFO role covers a multitude of skills and roles within an organization and There exists different models to explain your skills and roles. And this here is one model, which I like. And it’s built around four different dimensions of skills. Here in red on the slide. The CFO needs to have a combination of technical skills, and commercial skills, reporting skills, and supporting skills. And that develops into four different essential roles for the CFO. First, we are considered as a technical expert, then we are also a trusted report on what is happening. We are a steward and a controller. And finally, we are also a business partner. And I have been working out for 35 years, and I have worked half of that time in finance, enabling the business. And the other half, I have been working in the front line, directly running the business. And from these years from these 35 years, I have five lessons learned that I remind myself of all the time, and every day, and I would like to share that would you know. And here are my five key CFO lessons for finance. And, and these five lessons all relate immediately to the matter of company culture. And the five lessons are the following. In finance, obviously, you need to love your numbers. But in finance, you need to love people, as much dirt, you need to love the business. Forte, you need to be very curious and ask and listen all the time. And finally, integrity is of the utmost importance. Now, of course, the question becomes, what do you mean here, and how to apply these five principles to the world of digital transformation. Let’s take a look. Some people love words, some people love numbers. As finance, we need to love our numbers. And, and Time flies when you have fun. And for me, time flies when I can work with numbers. That’s just the way it is. And that is a component of your CFO, personality, your CFO DNA. And it’s a component for finance. As finance, you need to be passionate about your numbers. And why is that? Well, numbers is the base of confidence. If you know your numbers Well, as a company, you will feel confident you will feel you understand your business. But even more based on such confidence, you will be able to look beyond the numbers, you will be able to consider many more aspects and take a more holistic approach. Now how to apply that to your digital product projects. Well, my takeaway from this is that you need to ensure a data driven approach in all your projects. And in each step of such project. During testing, you shall measure with a lot of detail the test results, which is extremely important. But you can also measure the implementation readiness of users. When you are embarking into a big goal life. You also need to measure actual usage and user applicate appreciation of your applications. You can measure also client uses and client appreciation. And then the most important in every project is to measure the final benefits. And this part is also the most difficult method to measure. But at the end of the day, that is what really matters. It’s the outcome the benefits that you have realized with each product project. So love your numbers and apply data driven approach in each step of your projects. Now, next in finance, and as I said, I think you need to love people. There is an image out there that CFOs are tough and hard people to deal with. Not easy going well in my world finances above anything else about people.

Finances, about about people and people that feel personally responsible. And people that take personal responsibility to the company, to its shareholders, to the employees and to the environment. And CFO stake this person’s responsibility seriously. And very personally, within that, in my view, the CFO shall be a caring person and care about other people. And when it comes to the numbers, numbers as such, have no value. Numbers only become value when other people understand the numbers that you have created. And that is when you create value. So it’s important that while you are passionate about your numbers, you also share these numbers with the people around you in understandable formats. Now, when applying this learning to your digital projects, you mostly need to bring the right people together to drive your projects. That includes your most successful people in the core of your projects, and maybe you have to replace them in their existing roles, then temporarily or permanent. Also, it means a lot about building cross functional teams, I strongly believe believe in the power of cross functionality across ages and diversity is also extremely important to bring to your projects. It also means recruiting digital natives attracted by your purpose. And you will find out that digital natives really are interested in the question, what is the purpose of your company. And then you should also consider digitalization officers to coordinate along business priorities and identify synergies. But all of these people need to love the business as well. And that is the third lesson. As finance, it is important you understand the business. I often say you need to get dirt under your fingernails, you cannot learn behind your desk. What is important for the people out there. Important as finance, you go out there and work with the business. I would say you cannot only watch the painting, but you also need to help painting. And when applying that, again to your digital efforts also ensure to focus on the business development and business outcome. And during your digital efforts, it is a couple of easy questions you should have on top of your mind. How will your clients benefit from the digitalization? How will your frontline people benefit from the digitalization? And what business insights? Will you gain? And if you don’t have a clear answer to this easy questions, it’s probably a project that should not be prioritized. And I have seen quite some projects where there is no clear answer. Which actually brings us then to the following lesson. And that is to ask and listen. It’s a very specific quality for any manager, but especially for the finance people. For me, one of my largest drivers in life is to learn all the time and develop myself. To be a CFO, you need to be curious person. And be curious. I mean truly interested into understanding new issues all the time understanding the issue in depth. And ask and listen is the best training, you will develop yourself and to your questions. You will also make the other people think. And I see too many people sitting in meetings or presentations, or like in due diligence debriefings. And they’re sitting there Well, well, I don’t understand this. But since no one else asked the questions, I’m probably the only one not understanding. So I will not make a too big fool of myself here and not raise the question. And in my world, it should be actually the other way around. It’s only fools who never ask questions. So never hesitate to ask questions about anything that you don’t understand on the slide.

Well, in your digital projects and and programs, ensure that you have direct interaction with clients and colleagues. That is that you can ask them you directly yourself as the CEO or CFO or CIO or whatever. Talk to them directly ask and listen. You will have surveys of course about that as well and you can you can you can afford and these surveys are needed. But it serves pretty much as a complement to surveys, talk directly to clients to people, as the CFO, and think and talk to them and ask them, what do they think about the project has it achieved realize the value, and don’t talk to one, but talk to many, and you will detect, it’s hugely rewarding to directly talk and listen to clients and colleagues. And that brings us to the final lesson. And that is the fifth ingredient and of what I think the CFO and the financial organizations at Stanford, especially also in today’s world, as finance, you need to act as a role model in the company more than anyone else. Integrity is to act in a principled way, even when tempted to do otherwise, even when no one else would notice otherwise. Integrity is about creating an environment and an atmosphere of fairness and trust. An environment where people are allowed to bring problems and talk about it. Because that allows you to discuss the problem, understand it, and contain it before it becomes too big as a problem. And this you also have to apply to your digital projects. Be fully honest, and transparent about success and failure in your digital efforts. You should communicate and celebrate successes, successes, but there is not always only successes. There’s also failure failures. And you need to learn from each project from your successes, but as much from your failures. And and I often say why failing is not an option. failures will be forgiven, as long as you learn from it, and share such learnings. So on that note, I would like to end here and encourage you to think about my five lessons I have learned over 35 years, and have used these lessons to contribute to the right company culture from within finance. You need to love your numbers. Love your people love the business. You need to be very curious and ask and listen all the time. And integrity is of the utmost importance. And applying those lessons to your digital efforts, then means be very data driven in all of your projects. measure each time in all steps. Bring your best people together cross functions, ages and diversity senior people and digital natives. Then as a 33 ingredient, keep the focus on the business all the time, client and people. And make sure them as lesson number four, that you are in direct communication with clients and your people talk and listen to them. And finally, be honest and transparent about your successes and failures. And I would hope that that will then allow you to see a different world. I would really like to thank you here for listening. Wishing you all the very best. Create your own five or six or seven lessons as well, because these are my lessons maybe have different ones and I would be very interested to learn about those ones. But I wish you all the very best in all of your endeavors and your projects. Thank you so much and have a nice day.

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