Christina Johansson - Group CFO - SR Technics

As someone who has had around 20 years’ experience within the Swiss market-place, how have you found the Swiss market & working environment has changed over these years?

What, in your opinion, have been the drivers for these changes?

The marketplace in general has changed a lot, not just within Switzerland, as there has been a strong drive towards globalisation and new technologies. This has had a greater impact on Switzerland as a very international market and particularly recently there has been an increase in the speed of change as well as an increase in uncertainty. Companies have to be able to cope with change and uncertainty and adapt to it very fast. Switzerland today is less “Swiss” than it used to be 20 years ago and one reason for the change is the overall globalisation, but also the electronic world has changed our way of working. There are many more tools to use and you have to be available more and faster than you were 20 years ago.

When did you decide to explore a career in finance and why?

I have always been an ambitious person and at school I was already a high performer.  Whatever I decided to do, I wanted to be good at it! Early on, I discovered that I enjoyed mathematics so the natural step seemed to be to study Business Administration and I immediately realised this was my world. I actually have never had a day in my career where I have thought that I had chosen the wrong profession, I might have felt the company was not the right one for me, but never the role. It is the ability to be able to perform, analyse and explain numbers to influence the business that make me feel passionate about finance.

Looking back through your established career, what would you identify as a personal highlight?

One of the main highlights from my career has been to recruit and develop young professionals.  It is a highlight to see people starting out in their career and pushing them forward in achieving their professional targets.

It is of course rewarding to make sure that a company is running the right and successful way, but overall, it is also important to me that I have stayed the same person across my career.  I am still the same honest, transparent person I was when I was younger- my career has not changed me and I have stayed loyal to myself.

Why do you think there is still such an imbalance in the number of women comparative to men reaching an executive level within finance?

In Switzerland, comparative to other parts of Europe, there are very few female CFO’s, even women within executive management teams. I think the culture you are raised in can make a big difference.  I have been in an international environment all my life, but in Scandinavia where I have my roots, there is no difference between how boys and girls are raised. Your surroundings and parents make a difference and I never saw or felt the barriers that I think women of my generation had in Switzerland. There have been suggestions that there should be quotas to get women into board assignments, personally  I do not think this is the right approach – I want to get the professional chance through performance and commitment and not due to the fact that I’m a woman.

What advice would you give to ambitious women who are aspiring to reach senior leadership roles?

To get to this level takes a lot of hard work and commitment – there is no “short-cut”. You need to be stubborn and sell yourself and have the self-confidence to compete. There is no fast track, you have to be committed. Unfortunately you cannot always have it all and if you want to get to the top you do have to make choices in your life.

When interviewing candidates at an earlier stage in their career what are the common mistakes you see and what advice would you give?

Sometimes there is a lack of patience and they want too much too fast, they need to understand that a career goes step by step.  To be a good manager requires not only solid business know-how, but also a certain amount of social competence and this needs to grow through experience.  It is not something you can gain at University and it does not come over night. 

You have only recently joined SR Technics, what were the key selling points for you when you made the decision to join this business?

SR Technics is a good, well-established Swiss brand. The company is in a very challenging business environment, but Aviation is also a very fascinating business. With my experience out of other businesses I saw an opportunity to assist in further develop SR Technics.

How do you hope to impact the business moving forwards?

To support the company in the development and implementation of the future strategy. Coming from outside it is easier for me to bring in different ideas.

What do you do to help you relax when working in such a pressured role?

I enjoy quite a lot of sports, and I like to spend a lot of time in the mountains.  I find the environment de-stressing and can help you to see things from a different perspective, problems seem to become smaller and it gives me the opportunity to get some distance. I like to spend time in the Bernese Alps, both in summer and winter and Monday morning I come back to work feeling fresh and with new energy.

What do you think are the major challenges that lie ahead for Switzerland’s growth?

It is expensive to have a company and staff based in Switzerland, particularly as salary levels are very high. Switzerland really needs to focus on investing in innovation, R&D and education to keep a competitive edge.  Over time it will become more difficult to find simple roles in Switzerland, those that do not require a good level of education, which could have a particular impact for the Swiss people.  It is not possible to compete with cheaper countries from this perspective and this will get more and more obvious. The main responsibility and drive for innovation should come from industry, but the government also has a responsibility to promote innovation through subsidies and the school system. Switzerland must make sure that a large part of the population will be working in the private sector and keeps the economy running.

 

*Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the Interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.*

 
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