Mr. Valery Perrier CFO of Electrabel. Electrabel is part of GDF SUEZ , an industrial group active in international services in the areas of energy and environment.
We (Stepstone) have asked to Mr. Perrier to give us some information and advices on his career as CFO .
What research did you do to become CFO and what has been your career path?
I studied finance, management control and strategy at the University in Paris: Paris Dauphine . I then had the opportunity to work as a controller in Southeast Asia . From there , I have traveled extensively throughout my career , I first spent 4.5 years in Southeast Asia , and 4 years in USA , 3 in Paris and four in Spain and it is now four years since I in Belgium. Throughout my career I have held various financial and operational functions with a mix of corporate and business activities .
I arrived in Belgium in 2009 to work at Electrabel, where I spent a little less than three years in the unit generation (production) company. In this role , I led the finance department , but IT and quality. It was after this experience at the heart of the business I was appointed Chief Financial Officer. It is now a year and a half I am the CFO of Electrabel.
What is the role of a CFO ?
The main role of a CFO is really to be the partner of CEO and ensure that the company achieves its objectives in accordance with the defined strategy. Be a permanent CFO involves work advisory, advocacy and guidance to the CEO and responsible business. But the direction and guidance does not stop at only numbers. The CFO also a role in the management of the company, since it is also part of the management committee .
What external trends do they affect the finance department ?
Regulations play an important role in finance, so it is essential stay abreast of regulatory changes . In the utilities sector, we are particularly dependent on any change in regulation. It is also crucial to be fully aware of the evolution of accounting standards : we must ensure that we have taken all necessary measures to anticipate the impact on the financial statements.
In the end, the performance of the company has a major impact on the role of CFO . If the outside world has a positive or negative impact on the company, the role of the CFO is also felt. Electrabel activity can be influenced by regulations , environmental constraints , competition, but also by the price of energy.
Is it difficult to find candidates with the skills you are looking for?
Yes . It is difficult enough in my opinion to find the right profiles, because our industry is relatively complex and requires very different skills. To be effective, you really have to understand how the whole chain works. That’s why I started a training program for which I recruit youth general financial profile and offers them a formation of 2 years during which they change function every 6 months. Having goals and specific projects allows them, at the end of the course, to have a basic understanding of most of the group. When they find their first real job, they are able to identify issues, risks and opportunities that arise.
Financial have access to a range of functions in your business?
There are many different functions in the Finance department, and I advise if possible employees to try to move from one function to another in order to capture all aspects of finance.
There are finance and accounting activities of highly technical consolidation and transactional areas that require expertise. There are also activities related to finance and taxation, which both require a specific knowledge of national regulations and business models. And we have also the control activity that is at the heart of financial activity. It explores the problems faced by the company in analyzing and assessing its performance in order to provide timely and appropriate information to management so that it can make good decisions.
What is exciting in finance ?
Well, in the end, all business operations are translated into financial statements, which means that you touch all aspects of the business and you have contacts with most of the decision makers.
And if you work well and that your tests are good, you win the confidence of the business that you can guide, advise and encourage. That’s the most exciting , I think be able to stimulate the business in order to improve the performance of the company and the group.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a career in finance?
My first advice is not hesitate to move and take advantage of opportunities for mobility within a group or company after the turn of each function to immerse themselves into the heart the company’s business and corporate finance. To be effective in finance, it is clearly very useful to determine the needs and requirements of the company, and how the business actually works.
Then I would advise to spend a lot of time trying to understand the business because ultimately finance is translated into figures the company’s business. And if you are not able to understand the business, you will never be able to evaluate its performance or to stimulate it improves the performance.