Finance is the backbone of business says Fabian Cazares, Philips Healthtech CFO Southern Africa


A CFO should have a clear view of the potential risk areas and their mitigation actions, says Fabian Cazares, CFO/Head of Finance Southern Africa for Philips Healthtech. "Risk management is a key area, especially in volatile and emerging markets. The CFO needs to ensure that there is a proper risk management strategy in place and closely drive this, as well as to develop both short and long-term mitigation actions to guarantee business continuity." Fabian sees change as a journey, and believes that communication and transparency are important in effecting change, as they allow all stakeholders to see both the impact and benefits of such undertakings. The majority of your career seems to have been with Philips, albeit in different capacities and divisions. What keeps you here? "Something I really like about Philips as a company is that they take seriously the development of their employees. Philips use to be well known in electronics, but its focus in the healthcare arena is making a greater impact in people lives. This echoes the vision, mission and values of the company, and that motivates me to stay here." In which post that you've held over the years did you learn the most? "I've been with Philips for 10 years, seven of which I've worked in emerging markets. I would say that in this position I've learnt the most because I've had the opportunity to build the business all across the African continent, for example." What key learnings have you taken away from your assignments in emerging markets? "I'm originally from Mexico, so I feel familiar with emerging markets. My main takeaways, especially in South Africa and Africa, are about the passion, entrepreneurship and desire of people to improve their lives. These values are reflected in both the social and the business environments." You've been in your current role since July 2015. What have you achieved during this time and what more do you still want to achieve? "As Philips Healthtech focuses on the development of new business in the healthcare arena, I have been setting the roadmap for the enablers required. But this isn't enough just yet. I want to keep achieving; keep making a difference and ensure I am the agile business partner required for this market and my organisation."

"We are currently working on a solution for structural efficiencies, for example, many of the businesses in Africa and other emerging markets are fire fighting. There's a lot of volatility in these markets and I want to ensure that we have the structural foundations that will help us not only to fight these challenges but also to lead the sustainable and accelerated growth expected in these countries."

How does change happen at Philips Healthtech?
"Change is never an easy journey but it is key to understand that it is exactly that, a journey, not a one-time action. Something we've been very successful in Philips is to provide clear communication and transparency regarding the benefits of the impacts for all stakeholders in any change situation. Doing this affords us the room to provide agility in the assessment of the change required and to adjust as needed."

How can or how does finance contribute to agility, and what can a CFO do to make a business more agile?
"For an organisation to be agile you need to have the basics in place. If we as a finance function don't have the basics in place, it will be difficult to support the business. The finance function not only needs to provide that data, it also needs to have the skills to be able to make a successful interpretation, and provide sound business advice that can influence decisions on where the business needs to go. You need to be flexible enough to make changes as necessary with the available information."

What are your thoughts on risk management? What role does or should the CFO play in this?
"This is a key area, especially in volatile and emerging markets. The role that the CFO plays is to have a clear mapping of the potential risk areas and their mitigation actions. This is fundamental for the business. The CFO needs to make certain there is a proper risk management strategy in place and to drive it. At the same time the CFO needs to ensure that both short and long-term solutions exist to guarantee business continuity."

How did you come to pursue a career in the finance industry?
"I've always been passionate about business. When I finished my first degree in business I realised finance is not only about accounting, it's so much more. It's the backbone of business and the one thing that can translate the various aspects of business into a single goal. I really like this, so I decided to pursue a career in finance."

When, in your career, have you been the proudest?
"That's difficult to say. I enjoy making an impact in my surrounds, especially when I have the opportunity to lead and to groom financial talent. When I'm able to see them taking the next step that makes me proud. I mentor young people in my organisation and take professional development very seriously. It's a high point on my agenda for my team."

How do you ensure your own continuous improvement?
"By trying new things and being open and attentive to my surrounds. I'm a board member for an NGO that's part of my alumni, the Oxford Network, which I really enjoy. We look at what needs to be done to make an impact around us. I also try to continue studying and to keep my education up-to-date whenever I can."

What do you most enjoy about the CFO role, and what do you think makes a great CFO?
"I enjoy being able to drive the business along with the CEO or General Managers. Likewise, I also enjoy having the opportunity to translate multiple internal and external information into suggestions and decision on where the business needs to go. Being the CFO gives you a holistic view of the organisation and opportunity to influence it as well. The right combination of being a business partner and also having the right financial basics in place makes a great CFO. You can't have one without the other."

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