For anyone interested in how the CFO position is evolving -- not just into a business partnership with the chief executive's office, but also into a whole new cross-functional corporate force -- Wan Ling Martello's appointment at Nestle proves this theory of evolution.
The report that Martello, a Wal-Mart executive, will succeed Jim Singh as CFO at Nestle clearly illustrates the skill set that more global corporations are seeking in filling senior-level financial positions. While she has substantial finance experience, including serving as controller of Borden from 1995 to 1998, her most significant experience has been outside the finance function. Martello is a recognized marketing and branding expert, whose current job is as Wal-Mart's COO of emerging markets and global e-commerce.
Any finance professionals with dreams of being CFOs one day must broaden their experience across a variety of fronts. And Martello's appointment as Nestle CFO highlights a couple that are worth pondering:
International experience. It is no longer enough to engage with other countries from your home office. Finance professionals must place feet on the ground in different countries. I still count my 15 months supervising an international audit staff in 2001-2002 as the most rewarding professional experience of my life. A friend of mine with aspirations of senior financial management just accepted a position in Brazil, which is his first overseas assignment. Starwood Resorts recently sent its entire executive team to China for a five-week tour. The executive team executed their roles from China as they would at corporate headquarters.
Operations experience. Martello has mixed excellent finance experience with a healthy dose of marketing and operations experience. She has served as COO of a Nielsen subsidiary and has overseen consumer branding and marketing at a recognized retail giant. Martello has smoothly moved between financial roles and roles where she can use her expertise to impact business operations.
The need for these backgrounds will only continue as globalization, outsourcing, and technology make our commercial world even smaller. Martello is providing the blueprint for the future of financial career management. We would be wise to learn from it.
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