Rob Hughes, Division CFO, Vice President of Finance, Kimberly-Clark, discussed what it takes to transform the role of finance and deliver impactful, highly tangible value creation in his keynote presentation to Argyle’s CFO membership at the 2017 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in Atlanta on May 18. In his presentation, “Transforming to a Culture of Value Creation,” Hughes examined the evolving expectations of finance and the opportunities available to finance professionals within their respective organizations.
According to Hughes, culture plays an important role in finance. Yet few finance professionals embrace the opportunity to drive cultural transformation due to uncertainty surrounding their roles.
“I feel like we can do so much more as finance professionals. But a lot of the time, we just don’t recognize what that looks like,” Hughes noted.
In many instances, finance professionals ignore culture – something that may cause long-lasting problems for finance professionals and their respective organizations.
“We don’t talk enough about culture,” Hughes said. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to harness the power of the bigger organization to drive a greater impact.”
The rapidly evolving global marketplace has transformed the role of finance professionals, Hughes pointed out.
No longer are finance professionals expected to take respond to internal customers. Instead, finance professionals must leverage data and analytics to take a proactive approach to their everyday operations, Hughes said.
“Analytics is really an area that finance gets pulled into or gets edged out of. It really depends on the situation,” he stated.
Ultimately, finance professionals are at a crossroads. If finance professionals understand their roles and are prepared to embrace change, they may be able to foster meaningful change across their respective organizations. On the other hand, finance professionals who are tentative may struggle to succeed.
“Given the dynamic environment that we’re in, finance has to evolve, and there’s an opportunity in this space to do that,” Hughes indicated.
For many years, finance has played a critical role in organizations of all sizes, and this trend appears likely to continue in the foreseeable future, Hughes said.
“Value creation is the incremental financial benefit from ideas initiated and implemented by finance.”
However, finance professionals must be ready to leverage all of the tools and resources at their disposal. If finance professionals perform comprehensive analyses and understand business patterns and trends, Hughes said, they can get the most out of the information available to them.
“[Finance] is at the center of a lot of organizations,” Hughes noted. “We’re involved in most major decisions. We do virtually all analysis of the results … and if we don’t have access to the information, we can usually get that access.”
But data alone is insufficient for finance professionals, according to Hughes.
Conversely, finance professionals must be able to transform data into actionable insights and recommendations.
“You’ve got to use the information and relationships that you have to really be going on the front foot to drive value-added insights,” Hughes said. “Don’t just answer the question that you get asked. Think about what you can bring forward that’s new.”
With each recommendation, finance professionals can further cement their roles within their respective organizations, Hughes stated.
“You need to make sure that you’re making recommendations and actually getting these recommendations implemented. You need to make sure that you’re putting points on the board,” he pointed out.
How finance professionals define value creation may play an important role in an organization’s immediate and long-term success.
“You’ve got to use the information and relationships that you have to really be going on the front foot to drive value-added insights.”
Finance professionals must establish realistic expectations and explain how they can help an organization achieve the optimal results, Hughes said. By doing so, finance professionals can create a mindset around value creation that extends across all levels of an organization.
“Value creation is the incremental financial benefit from ideas initiated and implemented by finance,” Hughes said. “The objective is not to get accounting precision. The objective is around the mindset … and making the recommendation and implementing it all the way.”
The ability to transform ideas into actions is crucial for finance professionals as well, Hughes stated.
Establishing a clear-cut process from idea to implementation helps finance professionals define value creation. It also may help finance professionals optimize their time and resources consistently.
Furthermore, finance professionals must establish benchmarks to monitor their day-to-day progress, Hughes said. These benchmarks will ensure finance professionals can track their successes and failures and make fast, effective adjustments as needed.
Value creation must be reinforced time and time again, Hughes said. Focusing and recognizing value creation achievements helps foster a culture that encourages finance professionals to go above and beyond the call of duty to drive value. That way, finance professionals can serve as valuable contributors within their respective organizations both now and in the future.
Rob Hughes is Vice President of Finance and CFO of the global Kimberly-Clark Professional (KCP) Division. He leads an 85 person global team of financial analysts comprised of business, product supply, and sales / marketing management. In early 2016, Rob led the work to establish a global revenue management function, which reports into finance.
Rob has held a number of roles in consumer and B2B finance at Kimberly-Clark with NA and international accountabilities. Rob also had the opportunity to run the North American KCP tissue business unit as part of a turnaround from 2011 – 2012.
Prior to Kimberly-Clark, Rob founded a financial software simulation firm in the late 90’s.
Rob began his career as a financial analyst at Procter and Gamble after graduating with degrees in Finance and Real Estate from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1997.