It’s one thing to read how the finance functions of international businesses work from a textbook. But having the opportunity to hear from professionals who have learned by doing during their careers at some of the largest companies in the world is quite another.
This spring, graduate accounting students at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) received advice and insights from a panel of Finance Directors and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), all of whom are members of AmCham Sweden’s Finane Working Committee.
On January 22, four CFOs, Johan Dovander of Microsoft, Ola Grabner of 3M, Michael Atkinson of Oracle, Charles Larkin of Philip Morris, joined together with Richard Wilke, Manager (Finance & Accounting) at Michael Page for a panel debate in a class taught by Ebba Sjögren, Associate Professor, Department of Accounting at SSE.
The course, entitled CFO Challenges in Multinational Companies, is intended to help students apply their knowledge of management control techniques in the context of multinational organizations, and understand ways of putting it into practice following graduation.
During the panel debate, the students asked questions regarding how cross-cultural management issues are dealt with in the various companies represented by the CFOs on hand. This gave the students insight into the processes and solutions that companies employ, that extend far beyond “number-crunching” and making sure that correct figures are in place on profit-and-loss statements.
Two weeks later, on February 3, the CFOs from 3M and Microsoft were joined by their peers, Ilona Zelentsova of AmEx, and Johan Lindstrom of IBM for a three-hour workshop, also held at SSE. The four CFOs met with about 15 students each to answer questions and share perspectives of the challenges they face at work on a daily basis, as well as how they meet the longer term business objectives for their respective companies.
Among of the topics covered included understanding the importance of combining traditional responsibilities of the CFO and finance function with a clear business support role. The ability to adapt management styles when replacing a previous supervisor or transferring into a new position within a company was also discussed, as was the role communicating face-to-face as well as via video conference calls plays in reaching decisions as a CFO.
More than 70 students participated in the workshop this year. Based on the successful cooperation with the AmCham Sweden Finance Working Committee, preliminary talks have already begun on holding similar events with SSE next year.