Risto Ketola wins the 2022 CFO Finance Transformation Award

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The group finance director at Momentum Metropolitan Holdings shares insights on walking away with the award.

Risto Ketola, Momentum Metropolitan Holdings’ group finance director, says he was thrilled to have won the 2022 Finance Transformation Award, and comments that, “The nice thing about this award is it touches on almost every aspect of the finance function.

“There’s not just a single thing we’ve done differently, but there are lots of things we have changed. So it’s an awesome award, because I’ve been able to share it with so many people in group finance – it feels like a shared achievement. I’ve taken a bit of mileage out of it internally as well, by using it as a way to recognise people and also as motivation for them to think differently.”

He sees the award as an external recognition of all the hard work the team has done: “Internally we try our best to keep the rest of the group informed about all the changes we are making. But sometimes, these changes are quite technical, so finance professionals probably understand their importance better than others. For example, automating certain things or moving certain platforms into the cloud or introducing a new way of dealing with other matters.”

Approach to digital transformation
Speaking on what may have helped him to snag the award, he says, “I think we’ve improved our finance function across the board and maybe it boils down to the fact that we have a very curious team who are never satisfied with the status quo. We have empowered people to challenge their own way of working and also challenge other people’s way of working.”

He adds that as a team, they believe in tearing down and rebuilding things to make them better. “Also, I think what might have caught the judges’ attention is that we’ve done clever things in our procurement department. Rather than buying the top-of-the-line system from one vendor, we’ve integrated our existing capabilities – like our online store, used by the group’s loyalty programme – to give users a new procurement experience.”

Leading a winning team
Risto is very clear that he sees the award as a team effort, and says having a top team has a few ingredients: “The first thing we need is the right people. That doesn’t happen by accident; it takes work. I think as we’ve worked on creating a culture of trust, open communication and consistency, people have seen that we often take each other on – in a good way!

“It doesn’t feel personal; it’s more like if you get challenged once, you’ll see someone else called out on it five times in the next few meetings. In other words, creating a culture where this sort of discussion can happen easily is key to making your organisation better!”

He says that secondly, there’s the issue of consistency. He says when having discussions, people need to feel that any debate is not a personal thing. It’s just the way we are. He adds, “I think that boils down to the fact that as a leader, there’s been considerable consistency in allowing it and not having favouritism.

“One thing that people often tell me is that I’m very apolitical; what they mean by this is that I don’t really play games. I call a spade a spade, and you might be unhappy with the discussion, but tomorrow we’re best friends; we just move on and work on the next issue.”

Advice for CFOs
Risto offers some advice for other finance leaders and says, “The first thing is that a CFO can’t do everything – you can’t be an expert in everything. I think it’s important to realise what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are.

“You need to figure out which area you’re weakest in, and then hire people who complement your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you’re weak at negotiating contracts but good at managing people, hire someone who’s better at negotiating contracts but not so good with people. I’ve found that this approach has worked well for me, since my weaknesses are covered by other people on my team. And when you find these kinds of people to work with you, it allows you to focus on what you do best.”

His second tip is that you should encourage an open, trusting environment where people feel comfortable speaking their minds. He says that as a leader, you should be receptive to criticism, as it will lead to positive change.

“The third tip I would give to CFOs is to try not to forget that their job is to report the numbers as they are, rather than what they want them to be. The CFO is, in essence, a thin blue line between what the numbers are and what everyone else thinks they should be. And sometimes this means taking a tough stance on things that aren’t always popular and making sure that the financial statements are beyond reproach.”

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