Zekeriya Bildik is the controller at the two biggest hazelnut plants of Ferrero globally. He was previously financial controller at ZF Friedrichshafen and was nominated by ZF for IMA’ s Young Professional Leadership Award for 2016. He holds CMA designation from the Institute of Management Accountants and Industrial Engineering degree from Istanbul Technical University.
We sat down with him ahead of his presentation at the Controller Summit, taking place in Boston this November 30 to December 1.
How did you get started in finance?
I started my career in Finance at Volkswagen A.G. with the Management Trainee Program. I love finance and have had a great enthusiasm for it since my childhood. I've always believed that Sales and Finance are two of the key areas of business, that can take it a step further. If sales is the lungs of a company, enabling it to breathe, finance is absolutely the brain, and I prefer to start on the side of the brain.
Volkswagen and ZF were great business schools for me, enhancing my technical and soft skills in Finance. They enabled me take managerial roles in an international environment and experience best use practices in the automotive industry.
How has the role of the finance function changed over the last decade? What do you see as having been the main drivers behind this?
The role of the Finance function has changed significantly over the last decade. Finance operations have increasingly been positioned as a 'strategic business partner' in all decision making processes, particularly since the financial crisis. Growing fast and getting market share without proper finance management is no longer an option for investors and lenders. They are concerned with the financial health of business and want to see the finance function involved in all decision making process in a company.
Uncertainty in social, political and economic aspects of life in today’s world are also increasingly important to finance, and the skills and qualifications required of finance staff are evolving. Traditional accounting skills have been replaced with creating new business models, forecasting, operative planning, and strategic planning.
What do you see as the main challenges controller’s are currently facing?
Volatility and uncertainty are absolutely the main challenges for controllers in today’s business environment. Customer trends, market trends, macroeconomic view, competitor behaviours-reactions, technology, regulations have been changing day by day at enormous pace. This widening range of threats continue to test even the strongest organizations and force them to be elastic against all possible conditions. Great contribution is expected from controllers as strategic business partners from forming new business processes through having elastic business plans for all possible scenarios.
Do you think executives' perceptions of finance leaders as accountants still prevent them taking up a role as a strategic partner in their organizations? If so, how can they overcome this?
Today’s global world and competitive market do not permit companies that see finance leaders as just accountants to survive. The global market has become flatter and it is becoming more volatile. It means that companies have fewer opportunities to find sources to get competitive advantage and there will be new crises ahead. Increasingly, the quality of decision making will become the discriminator of business success. At this point, Finance Leader is the key person for supporting strategic decision making process. I think organizations are aware of that and on the way of adopting finance leaders as strategic business partners day by day.
What will be the focus of your presentation?
I will speak about the main challenges controllers face in turbulent economies and solutions to overcome them.
You can hear more from Zekeriya, along with other finance leaders, at the Controller Summit. You can view the full agenda here.