The CFO of Absolut vodka maker Pernod Ricard explains the key to success for a modern-day finance chief

You might not be familiar with the name Pernod Ricard, but there’s a good chance you have consumed its products.

The company, headquartered in France, is responsible for some of the most recognisable wine and spirits names in the world.

Among its stable of products are Glenlivet Scotch whisky and Jameson Irish whiskey, Absolut vodka, Malibu Caribbean rum, and Kahlua. The company is also known for its Kenwood and Pernod wine selections, among dozens of other product lines.

Business Insider recently sat down with Pernod Ricard CFO Gilles Bogaert to discuss his upbringing, business philosophy, and what it’s like to work for one of the world’s largest wine and spirits makers.

Business Insider: Can you tell us about your childhood?

Gilles Bogaert: I was born in a small city in the North of France. My parents were both teachers so I had no real contact with the corporate world when I was young. It was a long way from the hustle and bustle of city and corporate life.

What path did you take to become the CFO at Pernod?

I joined Pernod Ricard in 1995 from Arthur Andersen where I spent three years. Prior to my CFO appointment in 2009 I held five positions at Pernod Ricard across multiple countries. While every role in some way helped me prepare for the position of CFO, there are a couple of roles in particular that stand out. From 2003 to 2008, during a very intense acquisition period, I was head of M&A and business development, and from 2008 to 2009, I was CEO of Pernod Ricard’s Brazilian affiliate.

Do you have any routines you follow daily?

I’m not a fan of ‘routine.’ Perhaps that is surprising for a CFO! I try to reserve some time each day to take a step back, think and plan. I’ll regularly have lunch with other CFOs and executives to establish an informal network and share best practices.

What’s the best piece of business advice you have ever received?

Learn to say “yes.” The CFO position is associated with managing risks and often saying no. At Pernod Ricard, we really pride ourselves on having an entrepreneurial culture, and one way we nurture that culture is by taking calculated risks, and ensuring we say yes often enough.

Can you share any personal life philosophies you live by?

Looking after my health, both physically and mentally, and spending enough time outside of the office. I cherish the time I spend with my family friends. I play four hours of sports every week. I find travelling, meeting new people, and exploring new interests very invigorating.

How about business philosophies that drive your decisions and your daily work?

My key word is balance. Balance between my private life and my professional life. Balance between the short and the long term. Balance between the high expectations and organizational morale. Balance between time at Pernod Ricard headquarters and time in the field with our teams, between corporate finance and operational finance. My motto is ‘working seriously, without taking myself too seriously’.

What’s the most challenging part of working at Pernod?

Getting ‘buy in’. It is a great challenge. An idea is good not because it comes from the top but because it answers business needs, is embraced and is well understood by the organisation. That is the best way to ensure full commitment and, therefore, excellent execution. Obviously, our job is then to ensure efficient and discipline in the execution.

Where do you see the future of your business in terms of your roles perspective? What do you think it takes to be a modern day CFO?

Beyond the classical technical skills and gatekeeper role, I think a modern CFO needs to be good at strategic vision, leadership, business focus, team management and communication. In an increasingly complex and volatile environment, CFOs have an important role to play in helping to allocate resources to the best business opportunities, finding the right balance between short and long term, and managing risks.

At the end of the day, the required qualities of a CFO are not new: good sense and balance have always been central to this role.

What advice would you give to someone who is working towards becoming a CFO?

Be curious, share your point of view, constructively challenge and be both business-oriented and action-oriented. Helping to articulate the financial objectives with the business levers (and vice-versa) is critical to adding real value.

NOW WATCH: This is what ‘Shark Tank’ investor Mark Cuban looks for in the perfect pitch

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.