Welcome to the next installment of “5 Questions With…,” an article series that highlights CFO RoundTable members and their thoughts on the profession.
Prior to iBasis, Joseph has held multiple international finance and operations leadership positions with Invensys, Dunkin’ Brands, Inc., Cabot Corporation and Solvay. Joseph has lived and worked in the U.S., Brazil, Belgium, and Malaysia, as well as has conducted business in numerous countries including the UK, Holland, Spain, Japan, India, Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Canada and others. A citizen of the U.S., Brazil and Europe, Joseph is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, and has a working knowledge of French.
Joseph received his BSc in Economics from the Universidade de Sao Paulo and his BSc in Systems Analysis/IT from the University Mackenzie. He also received his MBA, with a concentration in Finance and Marketing from Fundacao Getulio Vargas. He rekindled knowledge at Boston University (Boston and Brussels campus) and Babson College. Joseph is also a frequent speaker at financial planning and treasury events in and around Boston.
You have such an interesting background. Describe your career path for me.
There are three things that define my DNA: integrity; the dare to dream; and to be a global citizen. This is the compass that helped me become a better person, professional and citizen (and enjoy my life!).
My career started at Solvay by working in IT where I helped the company manage its information flow and be able to transform itself to be more agile and relevant. I worked very closely with finance, and ended up overseeing the treasury function for Latin America. At the time, Brazil had a very high inflation rate and dealt with multiple currency changes. As a Finance and IT professional, I had to manage the pricing and cash flow of three currencies, including the functional currency, index and U.S. dollars.
It was one of the best experiences that anyone can have, and I truly enjoyed my time in Brazil. It has helped deepen my business acumen and have better appreciation of unstable and unstructured business environments. After eight years, I realized that I had more experience to gain and pursue my dream to be a global citizen. In 1996, I made the move to Cabot, where my responsibility was to simplify management systems in Latin America. Early 1997, I was offered a job in Boston. Late 1997, I was offered an ex-pat assignment to Malaysia, during the Asia Pacific currency crisis.
During this time, I was on an audit assignment in Bombay, where I met my wife, Cheryl. We were engaged after a week, and after 5 kids and 15 years, we’re still together. Together, we moved on an ex-pat assignment to Belgium where I was tasked to merge and grow two Cabot business units together.
After two more years with Cabot, I realized after reflection that it was time to pivot my career again. I wanted to be closer to the heartbeat of the customer, and I wanted the experience of a new industry and challenges, while also furthering my concentration in finance.
I accepted a role with Dunkin’ Brands, Inc., where I helped create the economics of new concept stores and franchise models. This was a hugely interesting role which went beyond an excel modeling exercise; we spent time understanding the consumer behaviour at the restaurants. Eventually, I became the Director of Finance for International Operations, which intellectually, was one of the most stimulating roles I’ve ever encountered. Being in New England, you easily recognize the Dunkin’ brand. However, international brand recognition is another story. We had to build the brand and prove the unit economics. It forced me to think and act like an entrepreneur, which I’ve found to be a hugely valuable skill set in the rest of my career. I turned around several operations in the Middle East, Korea and Latin America and worked on the plans for the first Dunkin and Baskin stores in China!
However, while being a global citizen is hugely important to me, I also realized that I had to round out my finance skill set even further to include the more technical accounting and compliance aspects of the profession. I accepted a Corporate Controller position with Invensys, and then with iBasis where I was promoted to the VP of Finance.
What keeps this profession exciting for you?
I enjoy being able to meet and bridge relationships with people who are both in and outside of the profession. Also, I enjoy to challenge and provide a different perspective to enhance the business model.
Of course, what’s that one thing that you could do without?
Just like in music, there’s a certain cadence that you need to have in finance in preparing for your closing and reporting dates. I’m not a fan of it, but I’ve just learned to prepare for that. The only resource that my team and I have is time, so we budget our time in terms of ‘lights on’ (close calendar, tax filings, reporting, sox testing, etc.,) and ‘value add’ (looking for new revenue streams, complex business cases, building trust with our senior management team, the fun stuff).
I always look at the ‘value add’ as the most exciting part of finance. It’s beyond report production and excel; it’s the unstructured part of the profession that always leads to the best growth and discoveries. I always encourage my team to challenge the status quo and be a change agent for the company. After all, if we don’t do it, the industry will – I prefer to be pro-active!
What do you do to keep yourself informed of developments in the finance profession?
I keep up to date with the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms, as well as attend CFO RoundTable events. It’s so valuable to hear from seasoned professionals of what to do in particular business cases.
I also serve in leadership positions with several other organizations, including the International Executive Resource Group (IERG)’s Boston Chapter, The CFO RoundTable Boston Chapter, and the annual MIT Sloan CFO Summit. I’m most proud when I’m able to bring these organizations together in one way or another to learn from and engage with each other.
I also leverage a lot of business podcasts and audiobooks. You’ll usually find me listening to them while driving to work or at the gym.
You’ll have to share some of those podcasts with me! Finally, describe for me your ‘Aha!’ moment, or a moment that you’re the most proud of thus far in your career.
You know, whenever I’ve felt that moment, I’ve always felt that I’m at the summit of a small mountain. It’s that moment where I recognize the need to better myself and pivot, and further dedicate myself to becoming a great finance (and business) leader for the companies I’m with.
Many thanks to Joe for his time and thoughts! To read more of our ‘5 Questions With…’ series, click here.
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