Deep interest in interacting with colleagues calls for CFO regular meetings
Published 10/4/2012

The First year of CFO Congress was held at the Hotel Boscolo Prague on 3 October 2012.The challenge to organize professional meeting for CFOs was taken up by Blue Events in cooperation with the publisher Economia. Main aim of the Congress was to respond to CFOs who have since longer called for a professional event that would offer space for informal meetings and sharing of practical experience. Deep interest in such conference is best illustrated by this year’s congress entitled “One Day in Life of CFO” with the audience of 150 financial directors and members of financial community.

Who could be better qualified to open the Congress and deliver effective presentation on practical recommendations than CFOs themselves. Expecting boring charts and obscure data was not the case. It was very clear from the very beginning of the Congress that the myth of CFO being “invisible person who is only good with numbers” has already been broken. On the contrary, all-day Congress proved that contemporary CFOs have to tackle diverse challenges not only from the economic field. Martin Tesař, Partner at Deloitte Audit, pointed out the biggest mistakes that are to be avoided. Common mistakes include insufficient consideration of total supply costs, underestimating of situation within the team, overestimation of outsourcing, inadequate IT insights or inefficient internal communication. Key to CFO’s success is the balanced approach to all challenges that contemporary CFO needs to address. Jiří Nosek, Sector Leader Financial Services & Digital Technology from GfK Czech, elaborated on the role of CFO in connection to marketing. In current economic situation when crisis is not only in customer’s wallet but also in customer’s mind, it is very important that CFO understands changing nature of customer behaviour. “CFO should be an accountant by education and marketer by instinct.”

Discussion about current CFO priorities was started by Lukáš Cyrankowski, Division Director of Comperio, who stressed vital importance of an effective team with special emphasis on ability to replace its members. Successful CFO is required to be active, interested in all parts of the company and should communicate sufficiently and clearly. Efficient communication is important also for Karel Soukeník, CFO, Raiffeisenbank. Soukeník outlined risk situations that might jeopardize the company simply by underestimating certain factors. He listed exchange rate risks, insufficient cash flow planning and importance of stress tests. According to consultant and ex-CFO of Bochemie, Václav Sušeň, the system level analysis is necessary. CFO ought to set goals and achieve them with and through customers and employees.

Second section of the Congress, Novelties in the key areas of CFO´s work, was devoted to practical aspects of daily CFO work. This part focused on sharing of experience, tips and inspirational ideas that might ease up CFO’s everyday job. Radovan Mužík, Managing Partner of Fleet Partners, presented benefits of effective fleet management. “Optimization based on reliable ‘total cost of mobility per 1 km’ indicator might save up to 20 % without cutting quality,” he added. Radek Hovorka, CFO, IBM Czech Republic discussed the importance of IT in financial management. CFO does not have to be an IT expert, but it is necessary to understand IT costs while preparing the balance sheet. Common mistake is to omit costs such as energy expenses, server rental or number of software licences. Jan Brázda, Partner from Constellation, and Martin Klika from Egon Zehnder Int., acquainted the audience with trends and demands of the current job market. Profile of a successful financial director encountered significant changes in recent years. Financial director is perceived not only as the guardian of numbers, but also as a partner of the CEO and the board. CFO is much more involved in strategic decision-making and communicating with shareholders and public. “Those who can adapt to these needs are those who survive,” commented Brázda. “Successful CFO has a market overview, ability to manage changes, strategic thinking and is result-oriented,” added Klika. Pavel Křivonožka from Raiffeisenbank described importance of the treasury strategy aimed at limiting volatility. For effective treasury strategy it is important to understand business model risks, set the strategy correctly, decide the implementation and determine the evaluation. Second block was closed by remarks from Jan Spáčil, Partner at Deloitte Legal who dealt with legal aspects of CFO’s work. He stressed the importance of long-term perspective while thinking about CFO’s activity. Help from experts and forthcoming extensive recodification were also discussed.

Afternoon programme was divided into two parallel workshops that were dedicated to challenges and roles of CFO at large and medium enterprises. Part devoted to large companies was started by Luděk Niedermayer, director from Deloitte Consulting, bringing an overview of global and Czech economic development since 2008. In comparison with other countries of the Central European region, the Czech Republic is faced with a very slow growth, and according to IMF forecasts this trend will continue. There is no clear consensus among experts about the causes of such sluggish growth, but increasingly, the focus is shifting to issues of fiscal consolidation, stability, environment, efficiency, transparency and extent of corruption. "The fundamental weakness of the EU is not economy, but politics," he adds. In response to the existing and forecast development the debate started dealing with company management in times of uncertainty, views for the near future and the role of CFO in a company.

Petr Veselý, Financial Director of Zetor, shared his opinion that due to their pro-export company's character the most important is the fiscal setting and fluctuation in foreign exchange rates. Helena Hostková, CFO, Čepro considers the biggest issue is a reduced ability of the state to collect taxes effectively. At the same time, however, she drew attention to the upcoming amendments to the law, which should make fuel trading significantly tougher. As for the question of the future development, financial managers agree on the need to be more careful with balance sheets and to concentrate on investments with a faster return.

Jan Bolek of DEK, is sceptical about the coming two years, stressing the urgency of the search for alternative sources. Equally interesting is the CFO view on human resources, i.e., the area, which normally does not fall into the direct domain of CFO. Company Čepro e.g. reflects the situation in the various regions in differentiation of wage policy, Zetor offers retention programs for high-quality employees, and the company DEK uses the model that tests the personnel market saturation rate before opening a new branch. And what conceptual change would financial directors wish to facilitate business? Helena Hostková calls for greater law enforcement and compliance with fiscal rules from the side of state administration. Petr Veselý would like to raise the prestige and level of Czech universities. John Bolek would welcome greater predictability of the Czech environment. The collective prayer of financial directors in the conference room however is - to know what will be the taxes in 2013 at least three months in advance!

The Block devoted to medium-sized companies was moderated by Martin Tesař, Partner of Deloitte Audit, who has started with a summary of the most common challenges faced by the financial directors of medium-sized companies. Experience, advice and tips were shared by Mrs. Ivana Bergerová of ZAT and Kateřina Švehlová of Scanservice and Messrs Ales Doložílek from HENRY SCHEIN DENTAL, Pavel Štraus of LAUFEN, Paul Chýňava from the company LINET and Petr Nobst on behalf of the company PLEAS. Among the discussed topics there were a/o the area of team motivation, volatility and risks arising from the current economic developments, or how to search for reserves in the company's activities. All were agreed that the role of the CFO today, exceeds the sphere of finance and must include the active involvement of Financial Director in the company activities as a whole.

CFO Congress culminated by declaring results of the competition for the best financial team of the year. The professional jury picked a winner in three categories: large firms, small and medium businesses and public administration. The third category marks a desirable trend to support also financial teams from state authorities to endeavour for the efficient and responsible management.

The winner in the category of Best Finance Team 2012 – large firms, was the team of Rudolf Fischer, CFO, Siemens. In the category of small and medium businesses, the jury has selected the team of Jakub Fízel', the Financial Director of the family brewery Bernard. And the Best Finance Team 2012 in public administration goes to Zdeněk Studeník from the municipal office in Valašské Meziříčí. The final public voting of the experts in audience has chosen Jakub Fízel' as the absolute winner of Best Practice Award for 2012.

The organizers congratulate the winners and thank to all the participating teams, and also to the Golden partner of the Congress - Deloitte. Positive responses of the Congress participants are a commitment to prepare the next year of the congress in 2013 even better.

Blue Events
Aneta Zímová, Project Executive, Blue Events
Tel.: +420 222 749 850, e-mail:,