Budget approvals are one of the challenges CMOs face in their work. Convincing your CEOs and CFOs that the marketing plan is worth every dollar can be an uphill battle at times. A recent study by Adobe, titled “The State of B2B Marketing in Asia,” found that 28% of senior marketers either agree or strongly agree that “Marketing is just seen as a cost center to support sales.” While some marketers see CFOs as one of the hurdles to overcome when it comes to securing budgets, Lin Tze Lau, chief financial officer of Mondelpicz International (pictured), said the finance function is there to set long-term financial goals To achieve strong goals develop growth as well as robust margins and is now expanding into new segments and channels.
“It probably comes as no surprise that the finance function is seen primarily as an accountant or bookkeeper or the people responsible for overseeing budget strategy,” said Lau, who oversees the financial portfolio for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. . However, she stated that her fellow marketingpeople understand their role is to help them work both parties together to achieve positive results and advance the company’s growth agenda.
Prior to joining Mondelēz, Lau was Wrigley’s Chief Financial Officer, responsible for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei for more than a year. According to her LinkedIn, she also worked as a business controller at L’Oréal for about four years. Lau has years of experience in the finance sector at reputable companies and said listening and an open mind are key to building a good working relationship with the marketing team. “While we come from different roles, it is important that we are willing to work together for a common goal,” she added.
Communication and sharing are also important. Ultimately, both marketing and finance have the same purpose of empowering people to eat right, and Lau said it is about building a common understanding of how each function sees the way forward.
According to her, Mondelēz prides itself on being purpose-driven and value-driven, and that doesn’t change when it comes to securing budgets. She said it is important to ensure that all business functions understand the value that a particular investment brings, including how it can grow in our financial business KPIs or generate external KPI gains.
Ultimately, it’s about negotiations. Personally, I see this as a one-way street where it is important for everyone involved to listen, be open-minded and be ready to work together.
For Lau, the conversation should always focus on how the company can optimize performance, create meaning and accelerate value, rather than arbitrarily cutting budgets. Emphasizing Mondelēz’s goal of leading the future of snacking and empowering consumers to make snacks, Lau stated that the partnership between marketing and finance as well as sales is important to ensure the company achieves its goal. Building a healthy partnership requires close communication and collaboration, with the various functions analyzing and strengthening business cases for solid growth. “This is also in line with my personal philosophy, as I firmly believe in the importance of a TEAM – together everyone can achieve more,” she added.
Teamwork is also made easier at Mondelēz because the company does not work in silos. “By not working in silos, we can break down barriers and create a more cross-functional understanding of each other’s roles,” she said. For example, while the marketing director oversees consumer-centric growth, Lau knows she is trusted as a finance partner herself to hold marketing accountable for the financial statements.
While the finance team is often assumed to be the wallet, Lau is reasonable and objective when it comes to evaluating inquiries from the marketing team. Investments aimed at building a platform for the future and helping Mondelēz grow in category leadership are less likely to be turned down, she said. Investments that result in stock gains or that lead the company to the market leader in its core categories are also more likely to attract their attention.
“There are also some campaigns that really show how we put consumers first and create relevance and connection at the heart of these plans,” she said.
A recent report by the CMO Council found that C-suite executives have increasing reliance on the customer-centric marketing leadership. 62% of respondents consider the essential role of the CMO as “customer experience advocate and champion” in their organization. The majority of C-suite executives also associated the descriptor “brand keeper and value creator” (51%) with CMOs.
Likewise, Lau sees Marketing as the heart of the business, driving growth by keeping pace with evolving consumer needs and making sure Mondel continuesz continues to meet those needs. In addition to her daily responsibilities in finance, Lau is part of the Malaysia and Singapore leadership team. The team meets monthly to make important company-level decisions that go beyond their immediate area of responsibility and core roles such as people.
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Read the rest of the interview here:
A + M: What is the best thing about your role?
Lau: As CFO, I am fortunate to work with and develop a lot of great talent in the company, and I think investing time with cross-functional talent and mentoring is crucial. I can also work with other functions in Mondelēz, which gives me a clear overview of the entire organization and makes me the right-hand man of our managing director, a responsibility that I take seriously and take seriously.
Apart from that, I consider myself lucky that the values of the organization align with my personal ones. Mondelēz is committed to upholding its diversity and inclusion agenda, which is centered on three pillars – peers, culture and community. I particularly care about our efforts to give back through the Community Pillar, such as feeding programs for those in need.
A + M: What is the greatest challenge in your role?
Lau: As an “engineer” of corporate value, there is a constant challenge in balancing the pressure on sales and bottom line results. I work with my colleagues in the management team from Malaysia and Singapore, which requires more space for collaboration and targeted leadership.
Another challenge that I believe will be shared by many is retaining and nurturing talent. Over the years I’ve realized that this is not an easy task, but also a challenge that I really enjoy. The successful growth culture at Mondelēz, which is about that every employee has a growth mentality, feels empowered and agile, helps us to shape the new generation of employees and a highly committed workforce.
To achieve this, we have developed a leadership framework that focuses on three values: love our consumers and brands, grow every day, and do the right thing. Each value has corresponding commitments and behaviors that are required to support this culture that sets us apart in the industry and helps us lead the future of snacking.
A + M: How has the pandemic developed your role and influenced your work?
Lau: I’ve been part of the special situation team since the beginning of the pandemic to alleviate the challenges posed by COVID-19. The pandemic has changed consumer behavior from where they shop now to the types of products and brands they prefer. There is a clear preference for brands that consumers can trust and, more than ever, the company needs to live up to its commitment to growth and operational excellence. We all had to adapt and become more agile.
On a more personal level, the move to work from home has meant learning how to create space and time to disconnect from work and take regular breaks. For example, my team is encouraged to take proper lunch breaks, schedule meetings after 9:30 a.m., leave early on Fridays, and take vacation when needed. Mondelēz launched The Right You movement last year to empower employees to prioritize their wellbeing, with pillars such as The Right Body and The Right Mind to encourage them to take care of our own physical and mental health Taking care of mental health which I believe have been of great help to my team and me.
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