- Christine Laurens joined global executive search and advisory firm Stuart Spencer as CFO in the first quarter, succeeding Valerie Harper, now head of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific for the firm.
- The move makes Laurens a three-time CFO: she was formerly CFO at global management consulting firm Kearney, where she rose through the ranks holding numerous positions over nearly two decades. She was also CFO at Keyrus, a technology consultancy listed on the Euronext High Growth Exchange.
- Reflecting on beating the odds to hold the the top finance seats even as women still only accounted for 15.1% of CFOs at major companies last year, Laurens said, “Being a woman can sometimes bring benefits ... I’ve never approached my role with ego. I’ve always tried to approach my role with expertise and empathy, meaning that I know what I’m talking about but I’m not trying to fight with others … it’s more about the success of the firm.”
Laurens, who began her career at EY in Paris in its technology and media practice, said her approach to the CFO roles has evolved since she first took the finance helm in her late 20s at Keyrus. At the smaller Keyrus she was more hands on and at the larger organizations she’s since joined she has focused more on financial planning and analysis. But she has always enjoyed digging in to analyze data and help drive her firms' directions.
“One thing that is critical to me in any role I’ve had as CFO is to think as a business partner and therefore to use numbers not just for reporting … but it’s really to get insight and to use what we see from the numbers to help drive and make decisions,” Laurens said.
She has a track record of doing just that. At Kearney, she and her team analyzed the drivers of the business that led to a change in the compensation model to incentivize people to focus on the bottom line, she said. “When you start changing the way you incentivize people it usually helps drive the right behaviors,” she said, adding that it can “make people think, ‘well, I need to care about working capital, I need to care about the profitability of the engagements.'”
At Spencer Stuart she plans to tap into its recently implemented ERP system to harvest insights to drive strategy. In terms of macro risks, she sees the war in Ukraine as the top concern facing the firm followed by inflation and cybersecurity.
While the company doesn’t have operations in Ukraine and very limited operations in Russia, it’s a global firm doing business in more than 30 countries, she said. As such, Spencer Stuart’s finance department along with the executive in charge of risks for the firm and all business leaders are monitoring leading indicators to keep abreast of whether the company’s business is being affected so they can make adjustments. To date she has seen no change for Spencer Stuart's business, she said.
“Right now as of today we have not identified a slow down but ... things can move very fast as we’ve seen with the pandemic," Laurens said in an interview early last week. Consulting businesses could be impacted by the war because companies are unsure and therefore they may want to postpone their investments or change the way they think about their succession, she said.