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638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Release Date: 09/30/2020

SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder show art SPECIAL EPISODE: Workplace Champions featuring CFOs Michelle McComb, Brian Whalen & Markus Harder

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

More keenly aware of the competitive price of employee burnout and workforce attrition — many midsize companies are today busy rethinking how they attract, hire and inspire employees. The Workplace Champions Podcast explores the innovative workforce practices of talent-minded business leaders tasked with opening a new chapter of growth for their midsize organizations.

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CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Back in the late 1980s, Mike Brower’s list of audit clients included a roster of oil and gas companies as well a local university and a number of different state and local government entities. It was the type of client list that any accountant based in and around Cheyenne, Wyoming, might covet, a fact made all the more undeniable by having Taco John’s International top the list. A restaurant franchisor with over 450 restaurants nationwide, Taco John’s first began serving local Cheyenne customers in the 1960s, before expanding rapidly across the Plains and upper Midwest as it outfitted...

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CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Back in 2015, Katie Rooney was only 7 months into her first industry CFO role at Aon when her boss asked her to exit the office. “He came into my office on November 1 and said, ‘I’m retiring, and I want you to take on my role. I’m leaving in 8 weeks,’” recalls Rooney, who says that the news triggered a mix of surprise and fear, which she recalls outwardly expressing with the words “Oh, my God!” Her boss quickly sought to ease her concerns. “He said: ‘You know what? It will be the best thing for you. If I stick around, you will never get the credit from the team,” explains...

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642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth  | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio show art 642: The Virtues of Top Line Growth | Sachin Patel, CFO, Apixio

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It’s not uncommon for career-building executives inside the finance realm to obtain an MBA in order to pivot their careers in a new direction. Such was the case for Sachin Patel, who after finding some early success as a systems engineer at IBM Corp. began to study the path before him more closely. “One of the things that you don’t very often get to do as an engineer is to articulate what you did by using the written word or even verbally. Just having this not be a feature of the job was something that began to be evident to me,” says Patel, who as the years passed found the laconic...

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641:  The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext show art 641: The IPO Playbook & Creating Opportunity for Others | Steve Cakebread, CFO, Yext

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Jamie Samuels still recalls some of the raised eyebrows that he saw after having completed in short order both the verbal and written portions of an exam that his future employer administered to job applicants. Not unlike most of his fellow applicants, Samuels had been invited to take the exam after responding to a newspaper advertisement, but, unlike his peers, he had been the only foreign applicant—or, more important, the only foreign applicant able to complete both portions of the exam in fluent Chinese. “At that time, my written Chinese was very good because I had only recently...

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639:  Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless show art 639: Thriving at the Deep End | Catherine Birkett, CFO, GoCardless

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Back in the early 2000s, Catherine Birkett found herself being pulled into confidential meetings where her company’s senior management was discussing restructuring plans with the company’s largest investor. The company—a fiber optics telecom firm known as Interoute—was not yet 6 years old, but its days appeared to be numbered as the company sought to weather the telecom industry’s historic collapse.   As Interoute’s top FP&A executive, Birkett knew from the ongoing business plan’s numbers that massive changes were urgently needed, and she as well as others were not...

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638:  The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion show art 638: The Path to Being Cost Smart | Jim Gray, CFO, Ingredion

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

It's the type of business restructuring capable of striking envy in the hearts of many a company board member—and particularly those known to favor one oft-repeated bit of business wisdom: Never waste a recession. At food ingredient maker Ingredion, where the recession’s bite is directly linked to the eating habits of consumers, a 2-year-old restructuring strategy dubbed “Cost Smart” has begun to deliver on its cost savings promises. In fact, last month, the maker of sweeteners and starches announced plans to increase its Cost Smart run-rate savings target from $150M annually to...

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637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx show art 637: Experiencing the Market Economy Spirit | Tom Fencl, CFO, Pricefx

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The son of two doctors, Tom Fencl recalls that while growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, to him a free market economy was more “an intellectual curiosity” than a possible career destination. “When the Berlin Wall came down, I was midway through high school—it was a very formative experience,” remembers Fencl, who says that the historic happening suddenly released “a market economy spirit.” After studying at Prague’s University of Economics, Fencl says, he was “drawn to the big financial centers” and worked in London for 2 years at Stern Stuart & Co. as a consultant...

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636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA show art 636: Being Part of the Team | Marsha Smith, CFO, Siemens, USA

CFO THOUGHT LEADER

Members of Siemens USA’s finance team would probably not be surprised to learn that when their CFO, Marsha Smith, is asked to reveal the experiences that prepared her for a finance leadership role, the ones that she relates most often originate from being part of a team. Such was the case in 2004, when she had been assigned to a Siemens joint venture as a commercial project manager. “I’ll never forget: It was my first week on the job, and the project manager came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Marsha, we need to ask for a change order on this one, so write a letter to the customer,’”...

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It's the type of business restructuring capable of striking envy in the hearts of many a company board member—and particularly those known to favor one oft-repeated bit of business wisdom: Never waste a recession.

At food ingredient maker Ingredion, where the recession’s bite is directly linked to the eating habits of consumers, a 2-year-old restructuring strategy dubbed “Cost Smart” has begun to deliver on its cost savings promises.

In fact, last month, the maker of sweeteners and starches announced plans to increase its Cost Smart run-rate savings target from $150M annually to $170M—a $20M uptick that led certain analysts to believe now might be the right time for the food giant to step on Cost Smart’s accelerator.

Not so fast, says Ingredion CFO Jim Gray, who reports that he already likes what he’s seeing in Ingredion’s rearview mirror.

The opportunity around remote work environments and online collaboration has accelerated toward us,” observes Gray, who over the past 2 years has replaced the dated architecture of Ingredion’s finance function with a new shared services model and a mandate for greater online collaboration.

The restructuring involved the relocation of 107 finance and accounting employees to shared services location in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Guadalajara, Mexico. The movement of this part of Ingredion’s workforce is expected to be followed by that of a number of other functional areas within the company.

“This was not about lowering head count—it is about holistically redesigning processes to have a lasting impact on cost,” says Gray, who last month—along with Ingredion CEO Jim Zallie—briefed investors and analysts on COVID-19’s impact on the business. After having experienced a significant drop in demand for different ingredients in April and May, advised Zallie, the company had seen “sequential improvements” in June and July as shelter-in-place restrictions had eased.

These improvements were more than likely first detected by a member of Gray’s finance team, which had been working to better expose how the pandemic is altering the buying patterns of Ingredion customers.

“With the pandemic, there has been a change in consumer behavior that’s impacting the pull of our customer products. Then you also have the effects of a recession, in which there is less personal income, so this changes how they shop in grocery stores and how often they dine out,” comments Gray, who credits the company’s widening use of technology for helping to track and monitor customer activities.