We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
RSS FeedPeople Management

SAP's EMEA finance chief shows how global experience can set you apart

SAP's EMEA CFO Benoit Fouilland

Article comments

Fifteen years ago Benoit Fouilland was in Hungary in his first senior finance post in industry working for French utility giant Compagnie Générale des Eaux, which later became Vivendi. His task was to manage the financial side of a newly privatised telecoms operator in a country which had only relatively recently thrown off the shackles of communism.

But he had a problem. He was managing a department of 25 women. Twenty-four of them only spoke Hungarian and Fouilland only spoke French.

"I had to be able to have a dialogue with the chief accountant. I had to learn to speak Hungarian. It was hard work," he recalls. One of the 25 spoke a bit of English – a language in which Fouilland is fluent – which also helped out a bit.

More than 15 years later, Fouilland, now chief financial officer and senior vice president for EMEA at enterprise software corporation SAP, admits that he's forgotten most of his Hungarian but he still looks back on his time in the country as one of his most satisfying career achievements.

He spent four years there working on setting up the new telecoms operator. "It was a major transformation from the previous regulatory landscape," he says.

"Establishing the team and giving it a sense of direction laid my leadership style for the future."

EMEA accounted for €6.3 billion (£5.5 billion) of SAP's €12.5 billion global revenues for the year ended 2010, which is hardly surprising given the German company's strong European roots. The corporation has been turning in impressive results despite the downturn.

For the second quarter of 2011, the most recent at the time of writing, global revenues were €3.3 billion, up from €2.9 billion in the same quarter of 2010. Operating profit was €857 million, compared with €774 million.

But SAP has set itself an ambitious target to double revenues between 2010 and 2015. At the same time, the company wants to improve margins from the current 31 percent to 35 percent. Can it be done in a world where growth is feeble in Europe and North America and uncertain in the developing world?

Fouilland is convinced the company is on track to achieve it. And he sees the finance function playing a key role in doing so. "We need to support the growth of the company in all its dimensions," he says.

Yet hitting those targets could present Fouilland with his toughest career challenge so far.


Recommended Articles


SAP's EMEA finance chief shows how global experience can set you apart
People Management

Personal branding - A headhunter's perspective

Personal branding - A headhunter's perspective

'If you don't have honesty and integrity you will get found out'more ..

Aviva goes 'digital first' with new CDO appointment

Andrew Brem's chief digital officer appointment comes two months after Phil Pavitt left insurer to take up Global CIO role at Specsaversmore ..

Microsoft's former boss Steve Ballmer steps down

The former CEO cited a busy schedule, particularly involving his LA Clippers basketball team, for his resignationmore ..

Unemployment rate hits 6-year low

But wage growth plunges to 0.2% on a year agomore ..

The benefits of being a non-executive

Look for a non-executive when appointing peersmore ..

If you are still thinking about flexible working, it's too late

OPINION: Tips from an experienced chief security officer on how best to enable flexible workingmore ..

Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

In Depth
Can finance rise to the challenge of major transformation?

Can finance rise to the challenge of major transformation?

Outdated finance processes, systems and competencies leave too many questions unanswered more ..

In Depth
Interim CFO or consultant? The pros and cons

Interim CFO or consultant? The pros and cons

Ed Harding offers an insight into the life of an interim CFO and the advantages in driving transformation more ..


* *