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Strategic Finance Lab Podcast Episodes

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STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 23:00 EPISODE 10

Fresh Takes: Cash Flow, Spending Discipline, Profits and People

Timely insights on liquidity and how finance can add value to the business from Chris Ortega of Fresh FP&A.

"Profits are a dream but cash is a reality." That’s among the timely, on-target insights aimed at CFOs, treasurers and other finance executives in this episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast.

It’s delivered by Chris Ortega, the CEO of Fresh FP&A, a consultancy focused on finance transformation that provides businesses with fractional CFO, FP&A and finance support. Mr. Ortega’s insights are grounded in his extensive background in accounting, audit, FP&A and finance leadership at high-growth companies.

In an interview with NeuGroup's Nilly Essaides, he makes clear and compelling the need for finance teams to adjust to volatile capital markets and a shifting economic landscape by building paths to cash flow sustainability and optimizing working capital management. It’s all about liquidity.

Equally critical for finance leaders: partnering with business units and providing value amid rising inflation, higher interest rates and the likelihood of recession.

And as you'll hear, Chris Ortega is passionate about urging finance leaders to put "people before the profits," in part by taking a hard look at what they spend— on technology and consultants for starters—before reflexively turning to head count reductions. "At the end of all your analysis," he says, "there's a human element involved.

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 23:00 EPISODE 10

Fresh Takes: Cash Flow, Spending Discipline, Profits and People

Timely insights on liquidity and how finance can add value to the business from Chris Ortega of Fresh FP&A.

"Profits are a dream but cash is a reality." That’s among the timely, on-target insights aimed at CFOs, treasurers and other finance executives in this episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast.

It’s delivered by Chris Ortega, the CEO of Fresh FP&A, a consultancy focused on finance transformation that provides businesses with fractional CFO, FP&A and finance support. Mr. Ortega’s insights are grounded in his extensive background in accounting, audit, FP&A and finance leadership at high-growth companies.

In an interview with NeuGroup's Nilly Essaides, he makes clear and compelling the need for finance teams to adjust to volatile capital markets and a shifting economic landscape by building paths to cash flow sustainability and optimizing working capital management. It’s all about liquidity.

Equally critical for finance leaders: partnering with business units and providing value amid rising inflation, higher interest rates and the likelihood of recession.

And as you'll hear, Chris Ortega is passionate about urging finance leaders to put "people before the profits," in part by taking a hard look at what they spend— on technology and consultants for starters—before reflexively turning to head count reductions. "At the end of all your analysis," he says, "there's a human element involved.

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 19:26 EPISODE 9

The Importance of Timing When Buying Political Risk Insurance

Laura Burns of WTW explains the benefits of policies that insure losses caused by geopolitical crises in episode nine of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast.

Russia’s escalating war with Ukraine and rising tensions between the US and China are two big reasons why multinational corporations might want to consider buying political risk insurance—in other regions of the world, where it’s not too late to find coverage.

To learn what corporates need to know about political risk insurance, hit the play button to hear insights from Laura Burns, who heads the political risk practice for WTW, formerly known as Willis Towers Watson. She joins NeuGroup Insights writer Justin Jones on the latest Strategic Finance Lab podcast, recorded in August.

Political risk insurance policies fill gaps in traditional property insurance policies, picking up where other coverages drop off, Ms. Burns explains in the podcast.

Ms. Burns also discusses how growing up in Bermuda with family in the insurance business provided an up-close view of innovations in insurance policies and, along with a lifelong enthusiasm for international affairs, made political risk insurance the perfect job for her.

"I discovered this little niche called political risk insurance, and I thought, ‘Well that’s interesting, marrying the family business with my particular interest in geopolitics," she says. "I would say this is the best-kept secret in the business."

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 19:22 EPISODE 8

FP&A’s Role in Making Finance an Indispensable Business Partner

In a world with growing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, also known as VUCA, so grows the importance of finance organizations that can accurately see what’s coming down the pipeline, understand how that will impact the company and how to adjust. And the skills FP&A brings to the table are critical to succeeding in that mission.

In the latest Strategic Finance Lab podcast episode, General Mills CFO Kofi Bruce joins Nilly Essaides, NeuGroup’s managing director of research and insight, to discuss the role FP&A teams must play at organizations navigating an increasingly VUCA world.

Mr. Bruce’s vision of finance evolution features an FP&A team that connects information from across the enterprise, using its vantage point in the flow of information to develop foresight that produces insight that leads to action that supports business growth.

As Mr. Bruce says in the podcast, FP&A’s role isn’t to only understand what will happen, but also to share “what I think we need to get on right now, and some ways and some places we can start the conversation. That’s what makes a differential FP&A organization.

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 33:34 EPISODE 24

Supporting Diversity Firms: Verizon, Morgan Stanley, Wellington

Influential issuers, investment banks and investors are pushing to give diversity brokerage firms active roles and more meaningful opportunities in corporate debt deals: NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast, episode 7.

NeuGroup founder and CEO Joseph Neu leads a panel discussion on the roles corporate debt issuers, investment banks and investors can play in providing more meaningful economics and opportunity to banks and brokerage firms owned by Black people, Hispanics, women and other minority group—so-called diversity firms.

On the podcast panel are:

Scott Krohn, treasurer of Verizon, a leader among investment-grade corporate debt issuers supporting diversity firms. In 2021, Verizon spent $21.1 million on fees to D&I firms, or 13.2% of the total fees the company paid. And in a $25 billion Verizon bond offering last year, all nine D&I firms had an active role and were allocated a combined $487 million in bonds—most likely the largest allocation to D&I firms ever in a single deal.

Betanya Aklilu, a managing director at Morgan Stanley and head of D&I relationships and initiatives within the fixed-income capital markets group at the firm. Under her leadership, Morgan Stanley has served as D&I coordinator on 31 investment-grade bond deals since 2021—the most on Wall Street and more than six times any other bank. D&I coordinators are lead managers on a deal whose role is to support and facilitate active participation by diversity firms.

Keenan Choy, a managing director at Wellington Management, which manages more than $1 trillion in client assets. As a member of the fixed income syndicate desk, which oversees Wellington’s participation in new bond offerings, he works directly with issuers and underwriters, which include D&I brokerage firms.

NeuGroup for Diversity and Inclusion, led by Andy Podolsky, is a working group where NeuGroup members and their colleagues share and learn about ways to expand meaningful opportunities for diverse finance professionals, diversity firms and to support diversity and minorities in communities where companies operate or do business.

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 18:54 EPISODE 6

Treasury, Tech and Tennis: Cloudflare Treasurer Christine Jensen

Christine Jensen brought 15 years of experience working at corporations including eBay and Johnson Controls to Cloudflare last August when the fast-growing cloud platform and cybersecurity company hired her to run treasury. To build a top-notch treasury team, she’s drawing on best practices and perspective learned at other corporates in the US and abroad, her proven ability to thrive under pressure (she’s a three-time Illinois high school state tennis champion) and her determination to make treasury a true strategic partner at Cloudflare.

Ms. Jensen discusses with NeuGroup Insights editor Antony Michels how her experiences working at large companies help her meet the challenges and opportunities facing a high-growth tech firm that went public in 2019; why cryptocurrency may represent an important opportunity for some treasury teams; key areas where treasury can add significant strategic value; and one vital skill that some top tennis players may need to develop to win big in the business world.

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 14:52 EPISODE 2

Women in Finance: The Importance of Mentorship

Guest: Subadra Rajappa, Managing Director and Head of US Rates Strategy, Societe Generale

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, Nilly Essaides, Managing Director for Research and Insight at NeuGroup, discusses some of the obstacles facing women pursuing careers in finance—and the keys to overcome them—with Subadra Rajappa, head of US rates strategy at Societe Generale. Rajappa believes mentorship is the most effective means to promote diversity and inclusion in finance organizations at companies making a concerted effort to retain women and guide those in junior positions to more senior roles. It requires more experienced professionals to help younger colleagues build professional networks, but also means junior team members need to be proactive in seeking out mentors. Employee resource or affinity groups have an important role to play in helping foster inclusivity and helping individuals feel part of a group as well as part of the whole, Rajappa says. And in her view, one positive effect of the pandemic may be a better understanding at companies of the need for employees, including working mothers, to have the flexibility to advance their careers while raising a family. NeuGroup offers women in finance opportunities to share knowledge with each other through Women in NeuGroup, or WiNG. Please click here for more information on WiNG, a group created to help women in finance and treasury connect and achieve their career development goals.

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 19:58 EPISODE 1

ESG Reality: Finance Teams Must Help Ensure Corporate Sustainability Promises Are Kept

Guest: Stephen Ferguson, leader of The Hackett Group’s Account-to-Report Advisory Practice, EMEA

NeuGroup’s Nilly Essaides, Managing Director for Research and Insight, interviews The Hackett Group’s Stephen Ferguson about the need for financial planning and analysis (FP&A), treasury and other finance teams to take a comprehensive approach to helping corporations make good on achieving their net-zero carbon reduction goals and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics. Ferguson, who advises major European corporations on all aspects of finance, says corporates face a major challenge as regulators start imposing new disclosure standards and companies are evaluated by investors and other stakeholders not only on their own records but those of their suppliers—the major source of carbon emissions for some multinationals. The stakes are high and companies viewed as engaging in greenwashing will pay a price. That means it’s vital for finance teams to take a leading role in rewiring performance and risk management strategies, KPIs and incentives as well as accounting, reporting and procurement processes. Is your company up to the challenge?

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 16:51 EPISODE 4

ESG Investing: An Interview with Marina Severinovsky of Schroders

Investors who don’t acknowledge that countries and companies are decarbonizing as they commit to net-zero emission goals will find themselves on the "wrong end of a massive flow of capital." That pragmatic approach to sustainable investing is among the insights you’ll hear in this podcast featuring Marina Severinovsky, Head of Sustainability for North America at Schroders.

In an interview with Nilly Essaides, NeuGroup’s Managing Director for Research and Insight, Ms. Severinovsky says that a commitment to maximizing returns and minimizing risks is the driving force behind how Schroders integrates ESG principles into investment decisions for its clients. Whatever your personal beliefs, this trend is creating both opportunities and risks that must inform investment strategy.

Ms. Severinovsky—who has spent more than a decade at Schroders in various roles—also talks about her journey as a woman in finance, the importance of creating more inclusive pathways for other diverse candidates and why she ended up in finance instead of law.

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 28:13 EPISODE 3

A Treasurer’s Mission to Make Real Progress on D&I

Guest: Tim Muindi, Treasurer and Vice President, ServiceNow

In the third episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast, ServiceNow treasurer Tim Muindi shares about his role in ServiceNow’s $100 million racial equity fund managed by RBC Global Asset Management that aims to boost homeownership, affordable housing and entrepreneurship in 10 Black communities where ServiceNow employees live and work.

In the interview with NeuGroup Insights editor Antony Michels, recorded during Black History Month, Mr. Muindi also shares about challenges he’s faced during the course of a 23-year career when he’s often been the only Black person in a company’s finance department, and the steps treasury teams can take to improve diversity and inclusion.

To find out more about NeuGroup for Diversity and Inclusion, our working group focused on how finance can do more to promote diversity and inclusion within the organization and in the community, please click here

STRATEGIC FINANCE LAB 12:32 EPISODE 5

lanning For a Recession: An Interview with WM’s Eric Davis

The likelihood of a US recession is raising the stakes for finance executives whose responsibilities include planning, forecasting and budgeting. And a critical first step to prepare for the future is to learn from the past. That’s among the takeaways from this podcast interview with Eric Davis, a vice president of finance at WM, the company formerly known as Waste Management.

Mr. Davis has been at WM for nearly 25 years, including six as director of financial planning and analysis (FP&A). In his current role, he oversees FP&A, capital management, internal reporting and investor relations. In the interview with NeuGroup’s Nilly Essaides, he shares valuable insights about the finance function’s strategic role.

For example, Mr. Davis describes how FP&A incorporates insights and analysis from past recessions to help the company decide “where we need to focus our attention within our business structure and cost structure” to prepare for the economic downturn that lies ahead.

You’ll also hear how the finance team at WM has evolved in recent years, upgrading its use of technology as it becomes more integrated into strategic decision-making by business leaders.

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