You won’t find many CFOs as well-rounded as Robyn Denholm.
A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia, she spent five years in professional practice with Arthur Andersen before moving to the corporate side at the Australian unit of Toyota Motor, where she was in finance for seven years.
She then served in various senior finance roles at Sun Microsystems in Asia Pacific and global headquarters for a decade, before becoming Executive Vice President and CFO of Juniper Networks in the US in 2007. At Juniper, Denholm (pictured)
oversees finance, planning, real estate, information technology, business process re-engineering, field operations, investor relations, and internal audit.
She spoke to CFO Innovation’s Carol Ko and Cesar Bacani on a recent visit to Hong Kong in this first of a two-part interview. Excerpts:
You’ve been in finance all your working life. What in your experience are the most important elements for finance’s continuing success?
There’s an evolving role for finance. If you go back maybe ten years, there was a very heavy focus on compliance and regulatory things. I think [compliance] is an important role for the finance function, but it’s not the only role.
What we’ve done at Juniper is we have a very strong base of financial, compliance, regulatory and statutory [talent], and we build on top of that a very good business capability. That’s as much as the evolution of the team here in Hong Kong as it is elsewhere.
Part of our shared services strategy [a 2,000-strong global shared services centre in India services IT, finance, real estate and other functions] is to make sure we’re doing the compliance functions, the transactional functions as efficiently as we can, so we can add to these business elements.
The finance team has a very big role in the planning. We do a three-year plan at Juniper so we make sure that the resource alignment is there end to end from engineering to the go-to-market to make sure that we maximize the return from the products that we invent.
Being very much a part of the regional leadership team, finance helps steer and guide the leadership team in each of the regions. The analysis [business conditions and prospects] in emerging markets, a lot of that work is done by the finance department in conjunction with the sales leadership in each of the regions.
I have finance business partners in the regional areas, as well as in the business group areas. The business group divisional areas have a slightly different focus, whether it’s systems or software, and there’s a finance leader in each one of those and in the regional areas as well.
My finance leaders tend to be quite operational, whether it’s IT or looking at the logistics of moving things into the region or working with manufacturing to make sure that all aspects of the operation are covered.
These are non-traditional finance and accounting roles.
I’m not a traditional CFO . . . I like spending time with our employees across the world, I like working on strategy, I like meeting with customers and stockholders, and so I think it’s a great role for me.
One of the reasons why I was attracted to Juniper as a company is the innovation that we deliver to the market and also the breadth of the role and quite frankly the fact that the company is relatively young and there’s still the opportunity of taking wet clay and moulding it into what the company is as we move forward.