CFO - Chief Financial Officer
At first glance, any normal person would want to run as far away as possible from this book. But wait, this book may be your lifeline one day in the future, depending on how destiny treats you. But there's no harm knowing more than knowing just the five hottest movies in town right now.
COMPLETING a mental run of this well organised, well thought-out book for
all incumbent as well as aspiring chief financial officers is akin to
finishing the marathon as a first-timer. One is cerebrally drained but
personally satisfied that it has been a wonderful exercise of the
In adding to the value and research of the making of the book CFO, Price
Waterhouse had commissioned a worldwide survey of 300 chief financial
officers. Entitled CFO 2000, the survey solicited the views of
corporations' chief financial architects on the changing times as the
business world hurls swiftly towards the third millennium.
For those who do not have the knowledge but harbour the inclination of
garnering vital data that will strengthen their standing in their own
corporations in the years ahead, the advice is to plod through this book
at your own pace.
It contains words of wisdom culled from years of hard experience from
successful CFOs who generously reveal their trade secrets.
CFO enlightens the reader with authentic case studies in every chapter.
It lends colour and realism to an otherwise bland realm of facts and
There are examples of how certain explosive financial situations can be
defused, or how an organisation with outmoded operations adjusts to a
rapidly changing world.
For example, a case study involving British Petroleum serves to educate
the uninformed that BP adopted several strategies to claw its way back to
Besides reducing debt, cutting operating costs and improving returns, BP
embarked on a major programme that focused on its core hydrocarbon
operations which span six continents.
In the final outcome, its core operations were re-organised into three
sectors: upstream (BP Exploration), downstream (BP Oil) and chemicals (BP
The case study on how BP re-shapes for the future states: `BP's
philosophy is to react quickly and with agility to external market
pressures. At relatively short notice, the company may wish to scale up
operations in certain parts of the world and scale down operations in
others. Such flexibility requires a low fixed-cost base and recognition
that doing business in different countries and cultures demands different
An extremely helpful item inserted at the end of each chapter is the
CFO's checklist. The boxed item gives the novice or seasoned reader an
opportunity to refresh his memory with the salient points of each chapter.
The Price Waterhouse team has indeed accomplished an excellent mission
of making a dry subject refreshingly interesting. Its overall presentation
has consistently broken the usual monotony of many all-grey management
handbooks. This has been achieved by well-placed graphics and charts to
illustrate points that are best conveyed visually.
In the current Asian corporate scenario where many a CFO is probably
fighting for his organisation's survival under very trying times, there is
a whole boardroom of ideas to resolve some thorny problems which have been
heaped unexpectedly on firms in the last two fiscal quarters.
Under such circumstances, the Price Waterhouse team highlights the
Magnificent Seven. These are the seven areas a CFO needs to concentrate on
if radical changes are to be carried out successfully.
They are, first, leadership. It is normally the responsibility of the
chief financial officer to pull the company out of the sea of swirling red
ink which threatens to drown the corporate vessel. The idea is to get the
right team of people and march towards a set direction.
Second, maintain momentum. This calls for full concentration on the
vision. Lest it be forgotten, all involved parties should get the basics
right. In other words, improving efficiency of existing operations;
sending the right signals that you mean business; and managing these
critical periods well.
Perhaps it is easier said than done but tough times call for unwavering
resolve towards getting the basics done right and get them done fast.
Chapter nine's CFO checklist begs a total recall for its maximum effect.
* Enliven with a crisis, inspire with a vision.
* Move phase by phase to world-class performance.
* Get out where the action is.
* Create a blueprint of the future.
* Articulate the target culture. This means focusing on `things that
will shape the values and behaviour of finance staff, in line with their
changing role. Develop new finance heroes, who are no longer numbers
crunchers, by training people to become problem-solver at the front line.'
In the final chapter, the curtain is finally lifted on what it takes to
be a super chief financial officer. Hypothetically, he or she needs to
have creativity in an almost inexhaustible supply and be versatile in
tricky situations. The super chief financial officer also possesses
intuition which may unlock the door to future successes, has the drive to
go the full distance and retains the rigor to outlast all scary financial
scenarios which propel lesser beings to early retirement.
After that has been said, done, written and read, the jury concludes
that this book is a warehouse of ideas and techniques which all CFOs of
lesser courage will find indispensable.
Price Waterhouse's splendid contribution to the world of managers and
CFOs is not to be taken lightly. If it is to be read at all, and not when
you are sleepy, it deserves your full caffeine saturated attention.
It demands fanatical obedience to details like the CFO's role in
applying the most suitable practices in an organisation and the myriad
ways in which the CFOs go about in turning their businesses into industry
On this note, the board meeting is over, gentlemen