There’s no question about it: 2018 is all about the deal.
With a strong economy as the catalyst, companies are increasingly turning to mergers and acquisitions as a means for growth, widening their consumer base and increasing overall productivity. In fact, $2.5 trillion in mergers was announced for the first part of this year — a number that is on track to surpass 2015’s record total of $5 trillion, according to The New York Times.
And a hot-button topic suitable for the theme of this year’s OC CFO Forum.
For its third installment, the exclusive event attracted an intimate gathering of leading area CFOs on Oct. 17 at Water Grill in Costa Mesa. Century Group account accountant employment agency, Mercer, Marsh & McLennan Companies and MetLife co-sponsored Wednesday’s forum, which aims to provide a unique resource for CFOs to sharpen their understanding of emerging trends, build and maintain relationships and discover new opportunities.
“The Mercer/Marsh partnership with Century Group is a terrific way to show our appreciation to the Orange County business community by connecting finance leaders with each other to develop relationships built on learning, collaboration and having some fun,” says Janet Vreeland, Principal of Regional Market Development at Mercer.
To tackle the multifacted role of CFOs in M&A, the forum tapped panelists Jim Heiken with Bourns, Inc., Paciolan’s Kimberly Boren and Mike Schantz at Jenny Craig to share their personal experiences and insights. Former NFL quarterback, TV analyst and Vice President of New Business Development at Marsh and McLennan Companies, Steve Beuerlein, helped set the stage and moderated the conversation.
“We all know that today’s CFO is a multifaceted role involving many focuses,” he said, opening the discussion. “But the CFO’s involvement with strategic development, and particularly M&A activity, can profoundly impact the finances and operations of the company for years to come.”
For Schantz and Boren, the financial model is paramount. “The financial model, from my perspective, is the life blood of the deal. It’s the financial summation of the investment thesis for the buyer and what the seller is trying to convey,” Schantz explained. Boren also highlighted the importance of modeling revenue synergies conservatively when buying another company. “That allows us to pay a fair price … and also protect ourselves from any downsides in the future,” she said. Heiken advised his peers to always focus on the core competencies of their organization and expand from there. Because, as he put it, “diversification equals risk.”
While the CFO must wear different hats to bring a deal together, they still rely on experts to handle the intricacies and complexities of modern dealmaking. All three panelists stress the importance of having the right support throughout all phases of the transaction, which includes investment bankers, attorneys, tax specialists, insurance companies and management team. “They all have to deliver a similar message to not disrupt the process,” Schantz said.
Boren noted that this area has taught her one of her greatest lessons in the CFO role. “I can be on the naïve side and assume everyone will just get along. I’ve seen alliances being made and leadership in the acquired business be let go.” Her advice: “If you’re going to make those type of decisions, make them quickly.”
Both Schantz and Heiken have experienced mergers between companies in different countries — requiring them to effectively form a single, unifying vision for the company moving forward. For Heiken, an acquisition Bourns, Inc. made four years ago in Japan helped him learn how to successfully adjust to companies’ unique cultural structures. “As a CFO, you have to make sure that you add value and are seen as a team player. That will help them accept your ideas and thoughts.”
The forum concluded with an open Q&A with guests and continued conversation over dinner.
“Building great teams, great cultures and helping clients succeed is at the core of who we are at Century Group,” says Barnaby Wang, Senior Director of Executive Search at Century Group’s Costa Mesa office. “The OC CFO Forum is another opportunity for us to bring financial executives together and connect them with each other and with new ideas that will make everyone a little bit better than when they came in the door.”