Reto Eberhard - Head of General Ledger - Audatex (Schweiz) GmbH - Solera Group

What would you say are the advantages of living and working in Switzerland?

Well, for me, especially if you look at the area of Lucerne to Zurich, it’s the smallest capital in the world, so, what I enjoy here, actually compared to London or New York, it’s the living standards, so you have fantastic public transportation, you have a lot of cultural things going on, for a more or less ok price and the kindergartens, the schools, the universities, are close by and they are state-of-the-art from an education point of view, so for me, it’s the way of living here – it’s easy and secure.

Yes, a lot of people have moved over because of all of these advantages that Switzerland has to offer.

Yes, this is true. It always depends on the company that you’re working for, so when you’re working for an International company, they can be straightforward and quite hard with their staff, so this is not the unique point in Switzerland, you don’t have the security, like you have in Germany, for example. This is a disadvantage. But, the job market, more or less, is quite good. So when you lose your job, and you’re up with your education, it is easier to find another job, an equivalent job, so this is good. You are still able to choose what you want to do.

That’s great. What challenges do you think are ahead for the Swiss economy over the next 5 years?

The strong Swiss franc.  The Head Office is right now under the pressure of 1 franc, 1 euro.  When they started in Switzerland, it was 1 - 1.50, and even the dollar was at 1.2; now it’s around .95, so you had an automatic increase in costs for International companies. This is certainly a challenge – how to speed up with their own process to make it cheaper, to make it faster and slimmer.  The other point is that Switzerland has to keep up the pace of innovation – Switzerland is known for all sorts of innovation – that‘s why the economy is so strong so this also has to keep the pace.

How have you seen individuals have reacted to the challenges with the Swiss franc?

Local people, surprisingly enough, love it, because there is easy shopping in Europe, or vacations become a lot cheaper, so they are not really frightened of how it harms our own economy. Further to that, what Switzerland has to seek going forward, we have to start to train out own experts – you look at the health industry - 60-70% of people working in the health industry are people from abroad, so here, we have to grow from the inside as well to train the people.  To offer them standard salaries – why a lot of foreigners are coming to Switzerland because the salaries are already high – so we have to train the people.  Health is the biggest market coming up for Switzerland as well, since also the population is getting older. I’m one of the baby boomers and we are now coming to retirement age, and we need health, people looking after us – this is a big challenge also for the economy.

How have you seen the role of Finance change over the last 10 years?

The biggest change is the fast growth of information needs, so you want to look at your results from all sorts of aspects: by area, by product code, by the smallest item possible, so in Finance, that means that all these numbers have to be imported with downloads, and not any more with posting as in the old days, manually, so you have a lot of interfaces to maintain. The other part is that it grew in SOX controls, written controls and formalised controls; this was not the case 10 years ago. It started about 10 years ago, but now, it is state-of-the-art –everything you do has to be supported, has to carry on the correct signatures, otherwise it will end up in a deficiency and so, this is much stronger than it was 10 years ago.

What would you say the biggest challenge is for companies based in Switzerland in the current market?

For Swiss-based companies, it’s still the strong Swiss franc – this is certainly one of the biggest ones. For the local companies, it’s the tax benefits foreign companies receive when they move to Switzerland – they have this tax advantage for 5 to 10 years, which the local companies don’t have any more, so they feel the pressure there.

What would you say is the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just starting out in their career in Finance?

I love finance. Finance for me, is a mirror of the company – you see everything when you are working in Finance – all the money coming in, all the expenses, so you know what’s going on. Starting a finance career you have to plan, normally when you are around 22.  Sometimes, you make a career by luck, but others make a career by planning. This is always a question when you have interviews: ‘where do you want to be in 5 years or 10 years?’ I recognise that a lot of people, they say something because they have to – they are trained to say something – but they don’t feel it in their heart.  Try to gain a profound knowledge, rather than start to work as an AP, better start off in a small company where you are responsible for the whole process.  They are exactly the same processes that you will see in even the biggest companies, but when you are head of there or you’re managing the accountants, then the door is actually open to apply for jobs in bigger companies, so plan it.

So does it make out harder to find people in general, do you think?

Today, to recruit people with process knowledge, this is quite hard, because normally, they are starting at bigger companies – they are doing their education in bigger companies, so they are always only doing little parts of the job.  Once you really understand the process, how it goes, how you’re factoring, how you’re billing, how you get the signatures, the whole process in one and you do it for 2-3 years, this is knowledge that you will always be able to use.

From your point of view, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given to date?

To say no. When you are asked to do things, especially in today’s environment, say no. Sometimes management asks you to do postings without the accurate supporting documentation, say no. When you are unhappy, change. When you don’t feel right in your position, or even in your life, when you don’t feel happy, change it. We are lucky, that in Switzerland, we are in the position, economically, for the time being, to say no to a job and go on in life and in career.

 

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

 
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