Deloitte: How do you see the role of CFOs during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic? And how were you as CFO specifically able to help your company during the crisis?
Philipp Müller: In any crisis – but particularly one as sudden and unexpected as the COVID-19 pandemic – leadership is the priority for any company. A fast and robust assessment of the situation is critical, and CFOs have a key part to play in that, as they are the point where all the data comes together. Making decisions without a complete set of facts is one of the major challenges for a CFO in such a situation, so responding quickly is often more important than conducting a full and detailed analysis.
Deloitte: Manufacturing is one of the sectors that may benefit most from the economic recovery. What opportunities do you see for your company?
Philipp Müller: It’s something of a cliché, but Oerlikon has really “used the crisis”. We have acted quickly and decisively in some key areas, which were of concern to us. We are emerging as a stronger company from the crisis – and we can already see the signs that the economy is recovering. It matters less whether the recovery happens this quarter or next quarter; what is important is that we stay closely aligned with our customers and continue to focus on good cost and cash flow management.
Deloitte: What lasting changes do you think the pandemic will make to the future role of CFOs?
Philipp Müller: I see a number of parallels with the financial crisis of 2007/2008. I believe the best managers will learn crucial lessons from the pandemic, especially in relation to risk management and the way global networks evolve during a crisis.
Deloitte: The COVID-19 crisis has prompted many companies to push forward on digitalisation, and they will go on benefiting from these advances once the crisis has passed. Which digital advances do you see as particularly promising?
Philipp Müller: I think the need to digitalise is one of the most important and urgent changes facing companies, especially those in manufacturing, though that was the case even before the pandemic. The largest change, unsurprisingly, has been in relation to remote working. I see a quantum leap here, with much more scope for flexibility than previously existed.
Deloitte: And what are the limits on digitalisation, if any?
Philipp Müller: I firmly believe wholly remote working is not a recipe for success. There are clear limits, and being physically present in the office and working with colleagues will always be crucial to successful teamworking.
CFO of Oerlikon
Philipp Müller was appointed Chief Financial Officer effective January 1, 2020. Mr. Müller has more than 15 years of financial and strategic experience across multiple industries. Most recently, he led the investor relations functions at Baker Hughes in Houston, Texas, U.S. Prior to that, he served as CFO of GE’s oil & gas drilling business from 2014 to 2016. Previously, Mr. Müller held various financial leadership positions in GE’s industrial businesses. Prior to that, he spent five years on GE’s corporate audit staff, where he advanced to executive audit manager at GE Healthcare. Mr. Müller has extensive international experience, having worked in over ten countries during his career. He holds a Master’s degree in Business from the University of Mannheim, Germany.