Siemens says it's "addressing the world's toughest questions" in its corporate brochure, an assertion that is certainly borne out by the views of Joe Kaeser, its CFO since 2006, who joined the company in 1980. As finance chiefs focus on gauging the impact of the European debt crisis on their own businesses, Kaeser believes multinational corporations have an even more fundamental role to play in restoring confidence in the economy. "Our biggest task right now is that we go out to the public and our customer base and work with them on how we can help them finance their projects—and how we can help them to gather more confidence again to invest into the opportunities of the global market," says Kaeser, who was previously chief strategy officer.

"It is important that all over the world CFOs, CEOs and other industrial leaders go out and provide encouragement to employees as well as to the global society. Politicians and many governments in Europe—and also, I believe, in the U.S.—are just not able to provide the confidence it takes that the economy will resume again and trust is being provided. We need to take on that leadership because we can make it happen."

Siemens, which in 2010 reported revenues of almost 76 billion euros ($100.7 billion) and 405,000 employees, is well-positioned to take on such a role. Having overcome a major corruption scandal in 2006 that still lingers in U.S. courts, the electrical engineering giant is accustomed to facing problems head on. Siemens replaced its CEO in 2007 and the same year launched the Fit For 2010 program, which Kaeser says was effectively a change management program.

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