INSEAD Participant Interview

Hands-on With Finance

Antonio Castaldi

Past participant of the Finance for Executives programme
Industrial Development Manager,
Magneti Marelli - Lighting Division
June 2013

"I left the programme with deep knowledge and a “tool kit” that changed my perspective on finance and how to look at it."

Could you please start by introducing yourself?

I am Italian mechanical engineer, with a postgraduate MBA. During my career, I have worked for Wartsila, GM Europe, Tower International and now FIAT Group – Magneti Marelli. I’ve covered several positions within Magneti Marelli and am currently Industrial Development Manager, living and working in Malaysia where I have been tasked with starting up the new South East Asia operations for Magneti Marelli - Lighting Division.

Why did you enroll on Finance for Executives?

I had a personal interest in getting the right tools and knowledge necessary to define the value of a company or a business in general.

How would describe your knowledge of finance before joining the Finance for Executives programme?

Before coming on the Finance for Executives programme, I knew about accounting, mainly profit and loss practices. I knew a little about corporate finance, but it is very different to other finance issues and requires a lot more knowledge to fully understand. The programme really helped with this.

Did Finance for Executives help deepen your financial knowledge?

Absolutely. I left the programme with deep knowledge and a “tool kit” that changed my perspective on finance and how to look at it.

Do you think Finance for Executives gave you the confidence to talk finance?

Most definitely. The knowledge you learn on the Finance for Executives programme gives you the confidence to engage in financial related conversations with your colleagues at board level. The programme gives you the confidence to bring your own opinions to the table.

Did Finance for Executives meet your expectations?

Finance for Executives exceeded my expectations. The programme went over many key financial topics, in a very easy to understand and smooth manner. The variety of topics covered was very good – from corporate finance to stock market drivers, for example.

In addition, terms such as IPO and M&A were not very familiar to me before joining the programme. I now have a much clearer understanding of things like these.

An important aim of the programme is to help participants understand value-based judgement. What does this mean to you and did the programme help you understand this?

It’s very simple. If you want to buy a company, and it doesn’t matter in which field you work, you have to ask yourself, ‘how much would I pay for it?’ The answer to that question doesn’t just come from numbers on a balance sheet, or from the usual accounting calculations. You need to understand the value that company brings and how much value it will bring in the future.

Attending Finance for Executives has enabled me to finally understand the real meaning of “equity” - which Operations buttons should be pushed and how to fine-tune the company’s Leverage to increase it. This last observation explains how important the command of corporate finance is, not only for setting the CEO’s objectives, whose job it should be to increase the equity of the stockholders, but also for designing a good deployment plan of the company’s objectives to all the lower functions that exist throughout the Operational layers.

You won’t come away from Finance for Executives a specialist of all the financial technicalities that exist in an organisation, but you will have all the knowledge at your disposal to help you understand whether or not all the functions of the organisation are heading in the same direction.

You completed Finance for Executives in 2010. How much of an impact has the programme had on your work since?

A lot. I can now understand the reasoning behind some organisational decisions that I found illogical before attending the programme.

Does what you learnt on Finance for Executives still come in use two years later?

Always. The knowledge I gained about corporate finance during Finance for Executives has changed my perspective and the approach to my work. Whatever you may manage in your organisation, it is undoubtedly influenced by corporate finance. I think my biggest takeaway from the programme was the ability I gained to talk numbers.

Can you please give specific examples where the programme has been of use in the workplace?

There are many examples. The two most common are the reduction of the inventory to improve the free cash flow and the analysis of the investment conducted by the net present value.

Pekka and Urs come across as very engaging, enthusiastic and dynamic professors. Would you say that is correct?

Pekka and Urs worked hard to fit everything into two weeks. I found their teaching method interesting and was impressed by their motivation. Most importantly, they were able to transfer knowledge over to me that I would never have been able to achieve alone in such a short space of time. They helped me understand a multitude of topics, much more so than if I had just read a book on the subject.

Participants come from such a wide variety of industries. Did you find that you were able to learn from each other?

Well, I would say that the diversity of the group allowed me to learn a lot from them. People came from all over the world and worked in many different industries and markets. I think the fact that Urs and Pekka have been able to accommodate such a wide variety of backgrounds into the programme demonstrates their effectiveness as teachers.

The diversity of participants highlights the fact that corporate finance is a must, regardless of the industry in which you work and that it is needed everywhere.

I also think that the diversity is a must in any executive education programme. You can learn a lot from peoples’ different experiences.  

What was a typical day on the programme?

Amazing. Let’s start from the evening. You have to study the chapters of the book that will be the subjects of the following day. On top of that, there are articles given to you by the professors. There is so much to take in, that you can find yourself reading over dinner! Lessons start at eight and finish at six in the evening. At lunch you can enjoy the great campus environment, as well as the canteen which has everything to offer. During the breaks during the day, participants usually talk about their professional experience and the country they come from. You also have class on Saturday. Otherwise, to relax, the programme also includes out of hours activities such as go-karting, theatre trips and dinner in the castles surrounding Fontainebleau.

So, would you recommend FFE to someone in the future?

I think Finance for Executives should be a must for any individual who is about to be assigned a C-Suite function. The learning experience is second to none and the knowledge you come away with in just two weeks is impressive.

Interested in the Finance for Executives programme? If you have further questions, consult our website or contact Frederique Arlaux, the programme advisor, on +33 (0)1 60 72 42 03 or at frederique.arlaux@insead.edu.

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