From a small jeweller in Copenhagen to the world’s largest jewellery brand. Pandora’s growth journey is impressive in every way – and far from over, according to the company’s CFO, Anders Boyer.
There are good ideas – and there are ideas so good that you wonder why no one thought of them before. That is how you can sum up the story of Pandora and the company’s now world-famous charms, the small pendants that come in hundreds of variants that are easily added to a bracelet to create a unique look.
After more than 20 years, the charms still make up the core business of Pandora, now part of the so-called Moments platform. According to Pandora’s CFO, Anders Boyer:
“Although Pandora has seen such massive growth over the past two decades, the basic idea is still that customers create their jewellery by combining the charms they want. This is what separates us from other brands. The charms are the foundation of our business across age groups, social groups, nationalities and religions. Humans have used jewellery for thousands of years to tell stories about themselves. We’re just the first company to commercialise this idea on a global basis, producing more than 100 million pieces a year.”
Over the past 22 years, Pandora’s growth can be roughly divided into three phases: The first phase focused on the product, the second focused on international growth and the third focused on the brand. Anders Boyer explained:
“Until the early 2010s, Pandora was basically a manufacturer of jewellery with distribution through a network of partners around the world. We then started to open the many flagship stores we know today and increasingly doing so as our own stores. Slowly, Pandora became a global retailer with direct contact with its customers. That shift has created a lot of opportunities over the years, but also several challenges.”
A clear focus on marketing and branding
Pandora eventually needed new leadership. In 2018, Anders Boyer joined the company as CFO, and in 2019 Alexander Lacik took over as CEO. Together with the rest of the Executive Leadership Team, they have launched a new strategy focused on marketing and branding.
“We are a much more mature company now than just a few years ago, which also means that our brand is the primary growth driver. Today, we are not just running a manufacturing company or a retailer, but a global consumer brand, even the most well-known in our industry. To do so requires a new skill set and a different team. That is the journey we have now begun.”
Marketing in particular was one of the budget items that needed a thorough revision when the new strategy was launched. According to Anders Boyer:
“In 2018, we spent about 9 per cent of our revenues on marketing. Alexander and I agreed that it wasn’t enough. Figuratively speaking, you can say that we played music, but the volume was too low, and the quality of the sound was not good enough. So, we turned up the volume and the quality. Today, we spend about 15 per cent of our revenues on marketing, which is a reasonable number. What is more, we have been able to finance that investment by cutting costs elsewhere.”
But how does a CFO contribute to something as complex as marketing on a global scale? Sensibly and by using data, according to Anders Boyer.
“As a CFO, you have to realise that marketing has a completely different dynamic than the other cost categories. For example, it can make sense to increase your marketing spend even in a difficult financial situation, which is something we have done successfully. If you have the right tracking set up, you can see the results quickly and shut down a campaign if it is unsuccessful. In that sense, marketing is relatively easy to manage from a risk perspective,” he said.
Nevertheless, it has required both courage and the confidence of investors to carry out such a major transformation.
“When we started our transformation programme, we told our investors that we would need about DKK3 billion in restructuring costs, which is a large sum of money. However, it created the necessary freedom for us to test our hypotheses with sufficient impact and speed. The alternative would have been just to sit and adjust the details, and that wasn’t our goal,” says Anders Boyer.
The future is both physical and digital
Today, Pandora's Executive Leadership Team has laid the foundation for the future of the company: a global superbrand with a mix of distributors, online sales and stores worldwide.
“Today, almost 70 per cent of our revenue comes from our stores, something which gives us amazing control over our business. For example, every Wednesday we gather all country and functional leads to go over last week’s figures, and then we make decisions that are executed immediately. At the same time, we’re in direct contact with more than 10,000 of our colleagues who work in the stores, and whose knowledge of products and customers is crucial to our brand. You should never underestimate their impact, and we see them as an essential part of our continuing growth,” says Anders Boyer.
Pandora has also simplified its digital infrastructure and are now running an efficient online set-up. According to Anders Boyer:
“We know that online sales and store sales are closely linked, and we have worked hard to create a consistent shopping experience across the channels. For example, if we open a physical store in an area, we also see an increase in online sales in the same place. That synergy is extremely important and underlines the need for our continued high street presence.”
A commercially orientated finance organisation
With a solid strategy and impressive results, Anders Boyer has two wishes for the future: stable growth and resilience to withstand black swan events such as a global pandemic:
“My clear desire is to ensure stable growth rather than large fluctuations. We have also learned a lot from the coronavirus crisis, although we quickly saw consumers return to their old shopping patterns. Like many other companies, we have reconfigured our supply chain with an increased focus on security rather than just unit cost optimisation. We also keep a close eye on consumer behaviour and consumer trust, especially in light of the events that are taking place in Ukraine.”
Finally, the finance function needs to match a high-paced business – something that applies regardless of whether you are the CFO or working in a service centre in Poland, according to Anders Boyer:
“Being a great finance function in Pandora requires us to be a great partner for the business, meaning that we must be commercially orientated and that we dare to use our financial knowledge to engage in discussions about commercial matters. This also applies to me as the CFO. Of course, I have my functional role in the management team; but I also think more broadly, and that is something I am very aware of. I like to say ‘yes’ whenever possible. As long as there is a manageable risk and a potentially large gain, of course we should try it out. That is the only way to move forward together.”
Anders Boyer’s advice on how to drive organic growth
- Think like a CFO and a CEO at the same time. Say yes when it comes to testing new ideas if there is a sensible balance between risk and reward.
- Work tirelessly to understand the business. Familiarise yourself with the production and the products. Understand specifically why customers choose to buy from you.
- Look for external input. There are many things to learn from following competitors, reading the major industry analyses, listening to market analysts, and proactively seeking input and knowledge from outside.
- Approach the CFO role with courage. Have an open dialogue with investors, create the necessary freedom for you to act, and have the will to implement the strategy.