How Simona America Group’s new Deputy CFO Lynne Anderson is shaking up the finance function
Simona America Group is a subsidiary of German based SIMONA AG. With facilities located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Georgia, the company manufacturers thermoplastic products for a diverse range of applications.
SIMONA AG bought their first American company in 2004 and in 2014 began a program of expanding their US operations. The company would acquire two more facilities, more than tripling their headcount from 125 to 400, and increasing revenues from US$65 million to $220 million.
In order to help facilitate this growth, in 2015 the company seconded Lynne Anderson from her role as finance director for SIMONA AG in the UK. In her new position as Regional Finance Director, she would be responsible for all financial management activities for Simona America.
In August of 2023, she became CFO of the US Group and is on a mission to improve the efficiency of the finance function. Ultimately, her strategy would find its way to the bottom line by revamping treasury, harmonizing accounting practices, implementing new data analytic technology, and perhaps most importantly, increasing collaboration with customers, suppliers, and her own finance teams.
Getting on the same page with treasury
Anderson explains that when SIMONA AG acquired the US businesses, each one was with a different bank. The main reason for consolidating banking services was to make treasury management a lot easier, she comments. “As we grew, having separate banks was no longer efficient or cost effective. We reached a critical mass that warranted centralized banking services,” she says.
The challenge was to find a bank that was large enough to handle all three facilities and could work within their ERP framework. The bank also needed to be able to serve their employees in three different states. However, consolidating banking and treasury management between three different facilities wasn’t going to be easy. “It took us nearly a year to get all the IT in place so that we could still raise payments from our three ERP systems and move our customers over.” These things always take longer than you imagine, she adds, but having a single platform would allow staff at all the facilities to see the same thing. “It also has allowed us to have a much better overall look at our treasury, especially if we’re looking at investments. It’s given us a lot more visibility as a group. “
Consolidating banking services also meant that the company could have a dedicated banking liaison. “With this type of access, we’re now able to work with people who have a better understanding of our business needs,” she notes. “And of course, having all our cash pooled means that we’ve been able to take advantage of improved facilities.”
With all three of their locations running on different ERP systems, business analysis was choppy at best. As one of her first initiatives as CFO, Lynne would hire a full-time analyst to use Power BI to pull together otherwise disparate sources of data and drill down in real time by group, facility, product or customer. “Having the capability to pull it all together means that we’re spending a lot less time in the finance department producing reports the old- fashioned way,” she says.
Finance now spends more time analyzing what the data means for the business. “We have a much clearer view on how to drive our strategy forward, which products are most important to us in terms of revenue, and where the margins are being driven.”
Accounting consolidation and reporting was also a time consuming and complicated process at the company. The accounting was slightly different at each facility, and finance would spend hours mapping things to a general ledger for consolidation, Anderson explains.
“We discovered that we were all making a reserve for a particular item, and although we were using the same methodology, we were actually all putting it in a different place on the P&L.” The entire process was complicated by the fact Simona America Group would report in US GAAP to tax authorities, while at the same time rolling up to SIMONA AG in IFRS.
“Part of my new role as CFO is to ensure that we have consistency in processes and internal controls over financial reporting,” Anderson says.
Old fashioned face time
Anderson would also begin to more closely manage supplier and client relationships.
To that end she would take an unusual step of meeting with the finance chiefs of their key clients and suppliers every three months. “I decided to hold quarterly meetings with the CFOs. That’s increased our market knowledge and really improved our relationships with them. I made sure that when I reached out to the finance leaders I would ask if there was anything that we could do with our order patterns or inventory holdings that would be helpful. For supplier meetings, my goal was to ensure continuity of supply so that we wouldn’t find ourselves in a position where our supply chain management was coming under unnecessary pressure.”
Anderson would apply this same level of connectively to her internal finance team. “I started developing new teams-based on function as opposed to location,“ she notes. “I made sure they were able to collaborate. For example, all of my accounts receivable team came to Pennsylvania from the different facilities to share process improvement and other ideas. From that, they developed action items to take away to their facilities.”
With only four months under her belt as finance chief at Simona America Group, Lynne has begun to make some significant changes around how the finance function operates. “It was time for a transformation, she says, and collaboration will continue to be at the core of that agenda.”
Top tips for finance collaboration:
- It’s good if your staff is cross-trained so they know there’s always a place for them to grow.
- Finance teams are more interested in doing analysis than simply pulling reports. It’s important that they know that they have the opportunity to develop and apply those skills.
- To attract new hires to your finance function, data analytic technology is table stakes.
- Create an environment of collaboration. Build teams by function and give people autonomy. Let them know their ideas are valued and recognized.
Neil Brown is Executive Director of the Controllers Council, author and a professional association manager. Neil is CEO of the Chief Executives Council, COO of the Operations Council, VP Partnerships for IT Executives Council, and Chief Marketing Officer of Modern Marketing Partners. Neil started his career as a Brand Manager, then promoted to CMO. Brown has provided marketing services to leading Fortune 500 and start-ups, along with board and volunteer roles with non-profits. Neil is a frequent speaker, author and contributor to Advertising Age, Marketing News, Adweek magazine and many others. He is author of two books including “Breakthrough Branding: Brand Naming Tips & Trade Secrets”, and “Tools of the Trade: Modern Marketing for Construction Brands”. Brown earned an MBA from Northern Illinois University, and a BS-Marketing Cum Laude from Southern Illinois University.