Chief Value Officer Debuts

Now that the recession can be seen in a rearview mirror, Chris Ballinger, CFO and group vice president of Financial Management Sciences and Global Treasury, Toyota Financial Services (TFS), finds he is taking on a new role at the automotive lender--Chief Value Officer. Okay, so there is no such C-level title--as yet--but Ballinger says it reflects the shift in his responsibilities now that TFS is back in both a growth and spending mode.

Treasury & Risk asked Ballinger to elaborate.

T&R: So how has the role of CFO changed for you since the recession ended?
Ballinger: During the recession, many CFOs hunkered down to conserve capital and pare expenses, causing growth to take a back seat. The CFO was looked upon as the person responsible for finance efficiency, transaction processing and accounting. This continues but the responsibilities have enlarged. I see my role now more in terms of performance management as the Chief Value Officer.

T&R: CVO--we like the term. Now tell us what it means?
Ballinger: Sure. What distinguishes finance from other parts of the organization is the metric we use--the metric of value, which is additive. Sales groups, for instance, have targets that are set in units, such as 'If we sell x number of this product, then we will have y market share.' Those things aren't additive across an organization. Finance, on the other hand, uses the metric of value, which is the common denominator and makes everything additive. This makes the CFO uniquely qualified to be the Chief Value Officer, and to communicate this value metric to our constituencies.

 

T&R: And who are these constituencies?
Ballinger: There are two constituencies. The first is your equity, debt and capital holders, and you communicate to them through the financial statements and earnings calls, which are governed by rules-based GAAP--the traditional stuff. The other part, which is becoming more important, is to communicate the 'outside' to the 'inside.'

T&R: Another cool turn of phrase. So what is the 'outside' and what is the 'inside?'
Ballinger: OK, so prices in the external market determine the marginal costs of doing business across various business lines--right? Well, that's the 'outside.' It is the CFO's role to communicate the marginal costs that the corporation faces to the inside decision makers to help them make the best decisions. This way the decision makers at each level of the corporation know the marginal level costs insofar as value creation or destruction. A corporation can be thought of as the aggregate value of all the individual decisions.

T&R: So another of the CFO's roles is to ensure that all decisions going on inside the corporation are moving it in a positive direction?
Ballinger: Yes, and CFOs do that through transfer pricing, profitability metrics and value metrics, and exposing these throughout the corporation as a way of changing behavior. I think a corporation is less a product of a few big decisions than the product of almost an infinite number of very small decisions. Each one has a small impact, but cumulatively they produce a large impact. Added up they should assist the corporation to become more viable and successful.

To learn about the work that won Toyota Financial an Alexander Hamilton Overall Excellence Award in 2009, read Seeing Ahead of the Curve.

And about Toyota's winning Liquidity Management project, see Building a Better Model: Toyota.

Read about other CFOs to Watch in 2011.

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