Feb 19, 2024
5 mins

CFO rockstar podcast: Yoana Land of L’Oreal on human-centric finance strategy

L’Oreal's CFO Strategy
Quick summary

Payhawk is a proud sponsor of the "Secrets of Rockstar CFOs" podcast, hosted by Jack McCullough. In each episode, CFOs from various industries reveal what it takes to be successful in the financial sector. In a recent podcast episode featuring Yoana Land, CFO of L'Oreal North America, Yoana shares the ultimate formula for creating effective CFO strategies.

Table of Contents

    From her early days in Romania to the prestigious boardrooms of L’Oreal, CFO Yoana Land has hit the pinnacle of the corporate world. The story Yoana shares is one of shattering ceilings, reshaping norms, and taking career risks for the sake of progression. Combining a background in IT, business know-how, and an in-depth understanding of data, Yoana digs into the varied and interesting experiences that have shaped her finance career so far.

    HBR report: how to drive business strategy and growth

    Embracing change and uncertainty in financial leadership

    Yoana's journey from IT whiz to CFO at L'Oreal North America is a story of embracing change and thriving amidst uncertainty. Her career switch underscores the need to roll with the punches (and gain diverse skills) in today's ever-changing business environment. It also shines a light on the vital skill of staying flexible, especially in the fast-paced world of the beauty industry.

    Yoana explains:

    Some of the challenges are the same. We have to make a profit, and our top line is critical. Specific to 2023, there were a lot of regulatory challenges and political challenges across the world. Specific also to the U.S., in 2024 it's inflation and elections for 2024.

    These kinds of evolving challenges underline the need for CFOs to remain agile and forward-thinking to keep up with the complexities of the global market. For Yoana, considering inflation and political changes is all part of approaching her CFO role using a strategic mindset.

    She typically asks:

    How will that affect the economy? And, how will that affect L'Oreal, however indirectly?

    Yoana's story is not only about managing ever-changing external pressures and designing a solid CFO strategy; it's also about leading through transformation. "It's what keeps us up at night," Yoana says — explaining the importance of a proactive stance in modern financial leadership and why today's CFO must navigate both the numbers and the broader business landscape.

    Leveraging a diverse background for leadership beyond finance

    Yoana's unique career path, blending information technology and finance, has had a big impact on the way she approaches financial leadership at L'Oreal. The unusual combination of skills and the way she's used her IT career in her finance leadership highlight the value of a diverse background.

    An important part of the picture, according to Yoana?

    The idea that you have to be very good at what you're doing no matter what.

    Her IT background has given her a unique angle not only on data and business intelligence but also on the broader aspects of leadership. Yoana emphasizes the value of team-building and delegation, which are crucial in the role of a CFO. No matter the discipline, "the leadership strategy, communication, and ability to relate to people is the difference between a manager and a leader," she says.

    Yoana's diverse skills go beyond financial management, focusing on strategic leadership and teamwork. As a modern CFO, she highlights the importance of teamwork, technology, and empowering others for overall business success.

    Skills are important, but at the end of the day, if you have a very strong team, you're not going to close the books yourself anymore. You're not going to do the budget, control of spend, and forecasting. You have the people in your team (that you selected) who are the best to do that for you.

    Navigating cross-cultural challenges and embracing global perspectives

    Yoana also highlights the importance of understanding and adapting to varied cultural contexts in global business operations. She shares that her experience working across different countries, including a stint in China, has given her invaluable insights into managing diverse cultural dynamics in business:

    I do believe there's nothing like learning about what's going on in China. If you have the opportunity, you should try to go there because it's a different world. This perspective is crucial in a globalized economy where understanding local market conditions and cultural nuances can be the difference between success and failure.

    "Being there on the ground, you realize that it's a huge opportunity. It comes with risks, like every opportunity. And you need to live there to see the opportunity (but also see the other side, which is the risk), and then decide what's best for your business," she says.

    Yoana's journey shows that embracing global challenges as opportunities is crucial for success in the changing world of international business.

    The role of emotional intelligence in crafting successful CFO strategies

    Soft skills, such as empathy and understanding, are just as essential as technical expertise in the finance industry, according to Yoana. The real value is in understanding people, both within the team and in the broader market context.

    The more you get into the leadership position, the less it is about your 'skillset' and the more it becomes about your ability to relate to people, understand who they are, what they want, and how to motivate them.

    Yoana's perspective flips the traditional view of a CFO's role from a 'numbers-only' focus to one encompassing a broader, more human-centric approach. And it highlights how leadership skills, like adaptability and continuous learning, are essential for success.

    "It's easy to take (skills) from one industry to another seamlessly, what you have to learn is the industry. We're constantly learning in life whether we want it or not," she states, which is vital in managing diverse teams and guiding them through periods of change and growth.

    Yoana believes strongly in the importance of honing soft skills for better leadership, team dynamics, and overall business success.

    Mastering finance change management

    In today's fast-paced finance world, success often hinges on rolling with the (metaphorical), which often means change management, whether it's strategy, process, technology, people, or all four.

    The role of a CFO is not 'just' about crunching numbers. It's about navigating the complexities of global markets, embracing technological advancements, and understanding the human element in finance. What's more, mastering a smart CFO strategy (and having the right team, tech, and attitude to bring it to life) is vital to achieving success, as finance guru Yoana exemplifies.

    CFOs in large and growing businesses (even if not L'Oreal-sized) must collaborate across departments to balance budgets and seize opportunities. Real-time spend control, informed decision-making, and finance automation are essential for saving time and avoiding errors.

    At Payhawk, our solution is a gateway to strategic financial management. With features like corporate cards, multi-entity management, and native ERP integrations, CFOs can maintain real-time spend control and make the most up-to-the-minute decisions with real-time data at their fingertips.

    As Carolina Einarsson, Finance Director at our customer, Essentia Analytics, says:

    What's great about Payhawk is that you can design and set up workflows that work for your business. For example, at Essentia Analytics, we want to centralize AP and subscriptions, but we want to delegate the employee expenses. And Payhawk lets you set that up in a way that works best for you.

    For CFOs grappling with the idea of finance change management and hesitant to move away from traditional systems, Payhawk presents a compelling case. After implementing our spend management solution, 40% of businesses have achieved ROI in less than six months — a rapid return on investment testament to our finance-professional-first approach to transforming spend management.

    Are you ready to redefine your role as a CFO and steer your business toward a future of sustainable success?

    Book a demo and discover how Payhawk can help take your corporate finance strategy to the next level.

    Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrow
    Trish Toovey
    Senior Content Manager

    Trish Toovey works across the UK and US markets to craft content at Payhawk. Covering anything from ad copy to video scripting, Trish leans on a super varied background in copy and content creation for the finance, fashion, and travel industries.

    See all articles by Trish →
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