Conversation with Alessandro Sardeni, Head of Administration, Controlling and Finance at IBSA Group10 June 2021
The Finance function’s goal is to create a central unit that coordinates and supports all the Group’s functions and subsidiaries by providing tools to those who, day after day, operate on markets across the globe. And since last year, Finance has been undergoing a slow but steady change with an assessment covering nearly all Group functions. Alessandro Sardeni, Head of Administration, Controlling and Finance at IBSA Group, tells us about it.
“Headquarters is the linchpin around which the strategy and substantially the management of the entire Group revolve. I came to Lugano from the Italian subsidiary in 2019. In Lodi, my colleagues and I helped build what today we consider to be a success. Now, in Lugano, I hope I can help change my role a little and make the function more international in scope. I also believe that it’s important for a global Finance function to reflect the Group’s strategy of growth on foreign markets, which we are driving in part through the increasingly greater organisation of subsidiaries scattered around the world.”
What aspects of the Italian model did you bring to Lugano?
“From Italy I brought the conviction that teamwork is fundamental, a belief that has taken shape especially in recently years. It is absolutely essential to be ‘on the same page’ and, above all, to be able and have the opportunity to exchange views. This is the only way to effect the changes – even the minimal changes – that give us the momentum we need to continue growing, including professionally. It is why I have made it my goal to organise the Finance function in an integrated, interconnected way, not only internally but with the other functions as well. I should also add that this year we are starting off at an advantage: everyone working in Finance is a little like the ‘company’s internal coordinator’, involved in nearly all aspects of business management, and therefore an increasingly useful support ‘tool’ connecting the various functions. My colleagues in Lugano and I have already started exporting a few of our methodologies to the subsidiaries and we have embarked on a process to bring HQ closer to everyone working locally. I believe that the subsidiaries are a crucial asset for the company right now. IBSA has 17 subsidiaries today and in the past two years alone we opened more than we had in the previous 10, and who knows, at this very moment someone could be thinking of the 18th.”
Practically speaking, how do you offer this support to the various functions and subsidiaries?
“A project is currently in progress that, in my opinion, is fundamental in this sense: we are harmonising the company’s information system in order to have a single platform that everyone uses. This will make it much easier to integrate the functions and to integrate with the subsidiaries. At first it wasn’t easy to get this new project off the ground and keep it moving, and the pandemic certainly has not helped, but once people started using the new system every day, the gears were set in motion. We are laying the groundwork for solid relationships and this is important for teamwork. In addition to implementing the new information system, we are also sharing processes, activities and, especially, a set of tools that will give us a shared compass to help see where we are headed and where we want to go. Personally, I believe that my function is more oriented towards gathering requests and acting as a facilitator in the decision-making process. We ‘serve’ the other functions.”
This is quite an unusual challenge for a finance function, which is usually preoccupied more with managing cash flows and the financial – rather than the organisational – aspects of a business.
“We are certainly focused on the typical duties of a finance department, but because we are cross-sectional, we end up involved in a variety of projects and we can do our part to contribute to their feasibility. From this perspective, I have to admit that life at IBSA is never boring. I never thought I would have the chance to be involved in so many deals at just one company: mergers, acquisitions, the opening of new companies, sales… The advantage we have is that IBSA is ‘small’ compared to the big pharma firms, so we can move quickly. People working in my field see IBSA as a group that offers vast opportunities for professional growth, but it is important to seize and fulfil them responsibly. This is why, of the company’s four pillars, the one that best describes me is undoubtedly responsibility: a sense of responsibility to the company, my colleagues and all stakeholders. We are all connected in the value chain. If one link is broken, everything stops. And the responsibility of each of us is the responsibility of all. At work and in our personal lives.”