Christopher Yoshida, President & Chief Financial Officer at Northern Data AG, has spent over 20 years in global financial leadership positions. He’s an entrepreneurial executive with a passion for leadership and building dynamically successful teams. He began his career at Goldman Sachs and subsequently spent more than eleven years as part of the international management team at Morgan Stanley, including three years as Head of EMEA Interest Rate Distribution in New York and London. Afterwards, he successfully worked as a Senior Advisor and Head of European Capital Solutions for The Carlyle Group, and was a Senior Advisor for BottlePay and AIX which both had successful exits in 2021.
In this episode of the CFO Playbook, Christopher discusses the path to finding balance in a global leadership role such as a CFO, how to be prepared for the challenges of adapting to new responsibilities, and how to remain engaged in times of trials and tribulations. He also talks about why top companies should be investing more into their employees, and how the approach to employment and entrepreneurship has changed drastically, in part due to the pandemic.
As the leader of the finance division, It is important to have a deep understanding of how both private and public capital markets have evolved. Do your due diligence to understand the depth of challenges that you may face as a CFO. When issues arise, not having an answer is inexcusable. While you may not be able to solve all problems right away, you need to know the answer and what you need to do to work towards the answer. Collaborate with your team, be highly communicative, both up and down the chain, and talk to the board and investors frequently so they are never surprised.
“The CFO is one of the most important roles you can have because you touch the entirety of the organization, and equally your investors. That’s why oftentimes you see the CFO having a huge impact with investors, because he or she is the one who has the numbers. He or she has budgeted and drilled down the models, and can tell you through the shocks they’ve taken on to get through your base case, or your bull case, or your bear case. And I think that kind of transparency is just what investors want to see.”
As a leader, it is important to give your team the right tools they need to succeed. Bring your refined skill set and years of experience to the table, but also help those around you to learn, grow, and gain insight to better their own future and that of the company. Be honest with yourself and your employees about what you are personally best at, while also being an empathetic leader. Make sure everyone is accountable for their work, and help to identify opportunities that can enhance and improve the group as a whole.
“I tell my children, it’s okay to be average. And some things you can’t be exceptional and everything, it doesn’t work like exceptional behaviour, exceptional outcomes. You can’t be a decathlete and be number one in everything. I don’t think that’s feasible. So it’s okay to be average over here, but to aspire to be something better over there.”
You should aspire to think big, dream big, have ambition, challenge yourself, and take risks. Doing so can keep a career dynamically healthy. It is also important to have balance and perspective of what may be over the horizon. People are going to prioritize their own ambitions, interests, and curiosities at times ahead of their careers. Those traits can actually meld together well in the startup, technology, and innovations worlds. However, as a leader you need to identify the best ways to harness those things to entice employees to keep being productive and benefit them and the company as a whole.
“I don’t care how well resourced the company is you’re working for. I don’t care how accoladed and rewarded and regarded the company may be. If you’re working for a person who’s not investing in your development, it’s irrelevant. And, I think as a manager, that is one of the core tenets of being an employer or as a manager, you’re supposed to invest in your people. And, you know, I think there’s more emphasis on that going forward.”
A leader is only as good as their team. Taking a bottom-up approach to reach a final end goal involves all members of the team working together to reach the necessary outcomes. Without the individual skill sets of different team members, reaching an end goal can prove much more difficult, oftentimes impossible to do alone. Don’t demand more minutia or micromanage. If you’ve hired well, trust your team, empower them, cheer them on, support them through their endeavours.
“I do think connection with your people is typically an empathetic connection. And you want to drive results during stressful times. It’s not through raising your voice. It’s not through turning up your temperature. It’s not through making it harder. It’s actually generally down to listening and connecting to your people.”