CFO uses global cultural capital to advance priorities

When Andrew Kenny was on a plane to Cairo in 2014 to negotiate a joint venture between American agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and an Egyptian family business, he focused, as ADM controller, on the issues. funding. But in the end, it was his ability to read people from different cultures that he had developed during a global career in finance that helped make the deal come to fruition.

“In the end, I had really changed my mindset,” said Kenny, now CFO of Scoular, an agricultural supply chain management company. “It wasn’t just about doing all the numbers, but in the end it was [the experience] face world cultures to break the deadlock. “

Kenny got his first taste of working across cultures as a Deloitte analyst when he moved to the firm’s Bermuda office in 2008 to work on hedge fund transactions just after the financial crisis.

“The most transformative part of the whole experience was that Deloitte’s Bermuda office was made up of people from all over the world,” Kenny said this week in a CFO Thought Leader podcast. “By spending so much time with these colleagues, I really learned first-hand the power of a diverse team. Honestly, I could never have understood this session in the Midwest.

He deepened his global experience when he moved to Hamburg, Germany, having held a position at ADM in 2010 to help oversee the reporting of the company’s operations in 50 countries. He was then transferred to Switzerland as his responsibilities expanded.

“This was my first time leading a global finance team of hundreds of people, distributed geographically,” he said. “It was sink or swim, so I learned to focus on relationships and deal with global cultures.”

Trading break

This skill made a difference in Cairo. During 10 trips to the city, he developed a close relationship with the chief financial officer of the Egyptian company, who was also a co-owner of the family business. When negotiations over the deal stalled, he and the CFO were able to come to an agreement after exiting the boardroom.

“We struggled to secure the economics of the deal,” he said. “We took advantage of our relationship to get out of a very hot trading floor where we were five days in a row. There was the stench of the pizza you ate for dinner the last four nights. We went out to talk one-on-one and use that relationship to break the deadlock. In the end, we closed the deal. It was really because of the relationships.

At Scoular, which he joined as CFO in 2019, Kenny uses his global experience to help guide the employee-owned business into its next phase: international expansion. “It logically matches my skill set,” he said.

To prepare the business for this kind of growth, he reorganized the organization’s financial and accounting operations around a Profex business performance management (CPM) system, which integrates data and planning applications. in one place. It has also set up a financial planning and analysis (FP&A) operation.

“Previously, the organization had slightly interfered with aspects of FP&A, so I brought in a global FP&A director and an FP&A manager for each of the company’s divisions, as well as a head of file FP&A, ”he said.

The analysts are integrated into the company’s three divisions – grains, feed and food – and report, along with the business analyst, to the global head of FP&A, who reports to Kenny.

The system, which was launched shortly before the arrival of COVID-19, immediately proved its worth.

“We have practically completed two budget cycles,” he said, “[without having to do that] throw spreadsheets everywhere. “

Kenny credits the employee-owned structure with the long-term vision the company takes in its planning, which has enabled it to move forward with its plans for global expansion even during the pandemic.

“It’s refreshing because the CFO doesn’t have to think quarter after quarter,” he said. “Now I can think of it in terms of years or decades.”

It also helps the business to self-finance its growth, relying only on some debt for additional capital.

“We don’t have any outside money in the capital structure,” he said. The only stakeholders outside the board of directors of the company with whom it has to deal are the representatives of the banks. “I spend a lot of time explaining our operations and our results to them.”

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