Interview with Nicolas Callebaut, CFO Gefco.
Gefco Benelux in Ghislenghien specializes in transporting vehicles and is part of the global group of the same name. Nicolas Callebaut has been the finance director of the Benelux region for several years. He has observed a trend of scaling up and intensified specialization in the finance departments of international companies in general and Gefco in particular.
This blog is part of the ‘Finance beyond the figures’ Trend Report.
Nicolas Callebaut: “International companies are increasingly creating so-called ‘shared service centers’. They handle financial services tasks from different countries or regions. At Gefco, for example, our entire credit and payment follow-up is carried out by an SSC team in Portugal.”
This centralization is made possible in part by extensive automation. Nicolas Callebaut: “Smart software scans and digitalizes all our operations invoices, records them and matches them with the corresponding sales files. The automation of non-operations invoices will not be long in coming, because a pilot project is currently underway in our country.”
“Regional finance departments need to specialize rapidly in a number of country-specific matters.”
As a result of this the in-trays of finance officers are reduced to complex files only. Nicolas Callebaut: “Regional finance departments need to specialize rapidly in a number of country-specific matters: VAT, taxes, etc. Or else they need to train their own finance employees or outsource specific expertise to external finance consultancy companies.
In addition to the traditional annual closing and budgeting operations, CFOs are primarily expected to provide strategic guidance. As local management has to be able to focus on monitoring whether the business is on course to meet its targets. If that no longer appears to be the case, it has to come up with suggestions for adjustments.”
Insight into financial cultures
“One needs to have an insight into the financial cultures of the different markets. A crucial soft skill for the CFO of the future.”
“To cut a long story short: CFOs no longer head up large teams. Moreover, I believe that scaling-up hasn’t yet reached its peak. I see a future scenario in which CFOs are allocated a portfolio of several countries. Because if the right strategic approach is taken, it can be implemented globally. An interesting change, but one that requires new skills. One needs to have an insight into the financial cultures of the different markets and to use this understanding of them during negotiations. A crucial soft skill for the CFO of the future.”
It is not only CFOs who have to brace themselves for the future. Financial institutions are also searching for a new identity. Nicolas Callebaut: “I used to regularly sit around the table with our banker, but now, because many processes are digitalized, there is no longer any need for that. For me, the key to success for the banks is to offer specialized services, certainly in B2B operations. In this way they can support their customers on difficult issues. And provide them with the appropriate proactive and targeted expertise. Because one thing is for sure, we will continue to have need of each other.”
Download the trend report ‘Finance beyond the figures’.
Isabel 6 spoke with 7 other top CFOs. Are you curious to find out how their field is transforming and how they view the future? We have brought together their findings and future visions in five cross-sector trends.