On October 26th 2023, the Master in Corporate Finance (MCF) class met Silvana Toppi, Global Finance Director at HP Italy.
Silvana started out her career in finance and banking after graduating from Bocconi University and then receiving an MBA at Henley Business School, Oxford (UK). After a long, successful, and diverse career, she was HP Italy’s CFO for three years and now serves as HP Italy’s Global Finance Director with specific duties as the Global Risk & Controls Officer for the whole HP Group.
During her speech, Silvana spoke about several important issues, including the role of Leadership & CFO (Chief Future Officer), Career Guidance, Cultural Integration, Digitalization in Finance, Risk Management and ESG.
Silvana stressed the importance of embodying the qualities of a "Chief Future Officer," which are similar to those of a skilled lion tamer. These days, Chief Financial Officers are essential in determining corporate strategy and making sure businesses overcome obstacles. In general, she stated that a CFO must lead by example and stay true to their values (Walk the Talk), foster effective team communication, and possess the capacity to influence and innovate.
Silvana encouraged the class not to shy away from bold career moves, emphasizing that our 20s are for learning, and our 30s are for putting the knowledge gathered into action. For this reason, we should not chase the most popular positions now; rather, it is vital to understand and align personal values and culture with the organizations we work for.
When we notice that the company’s actions and its interactions with all stakeholders do not mirror our personal values any longer, that is the moment to embrace change.
Moreover, Silvana highlighted that the Corporate Finance flag must fly above national flags, emphasizing the essential need to build diverse teams. It is equally important to create unity within that diversity, and leverage the strengths that different cultural perspectives bring to the table.
With the financial landscape increasingly reliant on technology, the Global Finance Director must be tech-savvy, as tools like Power BI, SQL, coding, and AI have become integral to day-to-day activities. Furthermore, digitalization is a fundamental factor for business scalability and not just an asset for career development. Knowing how to create a well-structured digital environment is integral to businesses development.
Silvana also stressed the importance of managing multiple systematic risks - operational, strategic, financial, climate - as a cornerstone of the CFO’s role, in addition to industry specific risks. Moreover, global companies like HP need to understand and shelter themselves from geopolitical risks. Risk communication is also crucial, especially when directed towards the board of directors.
To sum up, a CFO needs to lead, adapt, innovate, inspire, but first and foremost WALK THE TALK.
SDA Bocconi School of Management