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Leadership video series: Robin Kiziak, VF Corporation | Part 2

In our new series of finance leadership interviews, we recently sat down with Robin Kiziak, Financial Controller at VF Corporation. Watch part two below.

Robin utilises his 20 years of finance experience; primarily within logistics and distribution, to share his advice on:

  • Successful stakeholder management
  • The importance of soft skills in finance vs AI
  • How to tackle misconceptions of finance effectively 

To begin with, I think it’s important to recognise who your stakeholders are and to target the information that you give to them, in the right way.

So, let’s say senior management – they don’t need all the detail. They want headline views of what’s happening in the business and then also that sort of directionally correct information, rather than really detailed information.

But when I’m speaking to, perhaps, some of the planning team… they’ll want real detail and understanding, on a unit-by-unit level; what’s that costing us? And how can we make efficiencies to make it cost less?

So, I guess it’s understanding those stakeholders, firstly. Understanding the information they need. Then I think it’s building relationships which is… it underpins a lot of what I do within finance. It’s having that relationship, so there’s no difficult conversations because you’ve already built that relationship.

So when you have to talk to people and say, you know… “You want to spend this money, it’s probably not a smart decision to spend all that money on this project, can we do it a different way?” 

It’s not difficult because you’ve already got that relationship in place.

So I think that’s probably a big key for stakeholder management, is understanding that – building that relationship to begin with, and then that helps you influence and talk to them and understand their challenges so that you’re not seen as the bad guy all the time.

I think we live in a world where sort of AI and all of these robotics and automated solutions are really exciting and they’re very clever, but I don’t think they’ll ever be human.

So they won’t have that… the sort of human skills that we bring to it, like innovation and flexibility, adaptability, those sorts of things.

I posted on LinkedIn the other week, around… yeah, we’ve got all this technology, but people still make a mess of parking. Or, you know, we’ve put people on the moon, but we still can’t fold fitted sheets.

So stuff like that, that, you know, whatever technology we have… we’re still going to be human and mess it up a little bit.

But at the same time, I think, you know, curiosity and those sorts of things that machines won’t be able to do, but we can be innovative with what we’re doing and really help to drive forward companies like this one.

Machines help us and AI helps us but without the soft skills and building that side of our careers, we risk putting ourselves out of a job really. You know, because that transactional part of finance is going to be done by a computer in the future.

So we need to focus on where we can really add value to our businesses. Looking at, as I say, you know, really being curious, building those relationships, understanding where we can add the value that the AI can’t.

You know, we have this bad view by the rest of the business sometimes, that ”it’s finance, you know, you’re just going to tell us no, you’re going to take all our money away,” etc., etc..

So I think… a lot of it is… it’s easy, but it’s hard – is to be yourself.

We have sort of this… as individuals, we have like an in-work persona and out-of-work persona. Sometimes it is difficult to mix the two. Which I guess is why I like working here, because I can be myself here, the same as I am at home.

I think that’s… be yourself and bring your whole personality to work as well.

The other side of it, I think, is to go out into the business and understand the challenges that your stakeholders and the people you work with have.

So as an example, here on Black Friday when we get busy, I may occasionally go and do some picking in the warehouse and I can see the challenges that people have there.

They might be complaining that we don’t have the right equipment. If I can go and see them say “well actually, I could do with X, Y and Z to help me here.” Then that really – I can really empathise with what they’re doing as well.

So sometimes, I think it’s just making yourself, rather than sitting behind your desk hiding away, get out from that desk – go and see the business and go and work in the business sometimes.

Because that just gives you that whole different perception of what’s going on out there. And it also changes the perception of people there as to what you do, and what you’re like as well.

They don’t see you as someone behind an email, sending them a report saying they’ve overspent again. They see you as someone, as “oh, actually, they’re alright.” Or, “not too bad.”

Yeah, so I think that’s probably the best advice I would give is, you know, rather than staying away from all the business, get involved in that. Because I think that’s where the future lies for finance.

If you missed part one of our finance interview with Robin, you can tune in here.


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