Talita Ferreira is the CFO of BMW UK. She is a Chartered Accountant and qualified as Chartered Director with the Institute of Directors in 2013. Having worked in South Africa, Germany and the UK – Talita has built an international career in the finance and automotive industries. With experience from KPMG, several South African banks, and more recently as CFO of BMW Financial Services in the UK – she now leads the Finance, Strategy, IT and HR areas at BMW UK in her current role as CFO.
We sat down with her ahead of his presentation at CFO Rising Europe.
How did you get started in your career?
I am a Chartered Accountant with The Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) and The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. I started my career in South Africa with KPMG and Investec Bank. I joined the BMW Group in South Africa in 2000 and took on a more traditional and very broad finance role with a view to becoming a Finance Director. I have held a number of roles within the BMW Group in a number of different countries and industries, including General Manager Reporting and Data Management in the Financial Services division headquarters in Munich and Financial Controller for the Group’s Mexican and Australian operations. I was promoted to CFO of BMW Financial Services in the UK in 2005 where I sat on the board of directors for the first time. This was a turning point in my career as it was the first role where I managed Human Resources and my passion for organizational development and its human capital really started. My current role as CFO of BMW UK is building on that experience of enabling the business generally and focussing my leadership on strategic future topics and innovation through people development. Currently, I am leading a change and leadership journey which involves co-locating three organizations together not just physically on one office campus but also preparing them for the future from a cultural perspective. During this period I was elected as a Chartered Director in 2013 and as a Fellow of the Institute of Directors in 2015.
How do you think the role of the CFO has changed in recent years?
The CFO has a key responsibility in driving business enablement within the back office functions of an organization. For example changing the focus within the areas of Accounting, Controlling, IT, Purchasing and HR to ensure business enabling and developing people is at the forefront of everything we do. Workforce demographics are changing rapidly and all Executive Directors need to understand how to manage and lead their organizations through this particular challenge.
What you believe to be the CFO’s role in driving innovation and cultural change? How do they best go about doing so and what are the main challenges you have had to overcome implementing cultural change at BMW? What kind of culture are you trying to implement?
The CFO has a core responsibility to collectively drive the culture of an organization to support the strategy delivery with the other Executive Directors. It is best done by having an Executive Sponsor responsible for driving cultural change and innovation. The new culture at BMW is defined by the new local values of Authenticity, Collaboration and Inspiration and five defined cultural shifts. There were many challenges over the three-year relocation and change programme; building a burning platform for the various different stakeholders and reaffirming this at every possible opportunity is key. I underestimated the number of times one needs to repeat the same message in different ways. Challenging internal mindsets to recognise the fast pace of change externally and the call to action to organizations in the people and strategy dimensions specifically is a continued challenge.
What technologies do you feel have had the biggest impact on helping you in your role? What technologies do you see as being game changers in the future?
Chartering as a Director has really helped me to understand my collective responsibilities, the importance of governance and driving strategy and culture. Data analytics and the proper use thereof will be key in Finance and Human Resources in the future.
Do you believe the finance function is still as male-dominated as it once was?
I can only speak for BMW Group and we have seen an upward trend in the percentage of women in our worldwide workforce for several years now and this includes a higher proportion of women in our Finance function. Diversity in our company comprises three factors: an international workforce, age diversity and gender diversity and we believe this is the only way to secure the skills required to best serve our existing markets, develop new markets and engage with new customer groups. Nearly a third of our current managers in our UK sales subsidiary are female and this gives us a management team which is more representative of our customers. As a result, we get a variety of viewpoints and experience which improves our decision-making and problem-solving.
Have you felt that being a woman has presented an additional challenge?
The automotive industry is traditionally seen as a predominantly male-dominated industry. I have never felt that being a women in this industry has ever held me or my progression back.
What are the major challenges you feel you will have to overcome over the next year or so?
BMW Group celebrated its 100 year anniversary this year and launched its Strategy Number ONE Next – driving the next 100 years – and in the UK we are focussed on delivering a local adaptation of that strategy. Until we receive answers to the many open questions regarding the UK’s future trade relations with the EU and other countries, we cannot speculate about any possible impact Britain’s decision to leave the EU may eventually have on our UK operations. Given the current political uncertainty regarding next steps, all we can say regarding our own activities in Britain is that we continue to operate 'business as usual'.