Interview by Maurice Evlyn-Bufton, CEO, Armstrong Wolfe
The emerging significance of the Finance COO
I was introduced to Andres in 2016 by a mutual friend, a COO not surprisingly, during his first year as COO Liquidity Risk Management, Americas, Deutsche Bank.
I recall this was his first soiree into the world of business management; seven years on it is a career path he has remained committed. Presently America’s COO Finance, Société Générale, I caught up with Andres, as part of a market due diligence exercise to assess the validity of establishing a COO Finance community.
This research shows the COO Finance mandate polarises opinions. ‘Unlike the Markets COO, COO to Operations or Human Resources which are found industry-wide and are commonplace, the Finance COO is less so. CFOs that have a COO can articulate the benefit and business impact, whereas many CFOs that do not have one question its very existence.
In-between the two there is an example where a COO Finance had been in place but removed as being surplus to requirements following the appointment of a new CFO. Further conversations with functional COOs in the same bank uncovered strongly held views that in the absence of finance having a COO, previously well-oiled channels of cross-functional collaboration and communication with finance (and specifically the CFO) had become more challenging to navigate’.
The role, impact, and value proposition [of the COO Finance] were at the heart of the conversation I had with Andres.
In 2018 Andres joined Société Générale as COO, ALM and Treasury, Americas. At this time no COO Finance existed, be this globally or regionally. It was a role that would subsequently evolve, and nudged by serendipity, Andres was appointed to this new role.
Andres’ journey to the COO Finance role as the Bank’s inaugural appointee, is consistent with many other COOs I have met over the years; the only consistency you find amongst them is the inconsistencies in their journey to becoming a COO. Many admit this journey was an accidental one, few stating ‘from a very early stage in my career I set my ambition to be a COO’.
Post-university, Andres started his career in financial services as a commodities trader, before moving to J.P. Morgan and investing in his own advancement with an MBA (Hofstra University, graduating 2010). Moving into the Chief Investment Office, he was engaged in various strategic initiatives, and heavily involved in project and programme management.
Andres reflected on this period of variation as enriching, a chance to up-skill his armoury having been exposed to many facets of the business. Planning and relationship management were key to being successful he noted, as he journeyed in this role from complex regulatory challenges through to select solution development and implementation. It is during this period he established his deep-rooted interest and capability in innovation, design, transformation, and product development using advanced technologies.