Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » Q&A: Felipe Florez, CFO at Pharmanovia, on the importance of efficiency

Q&A: Felipe Florez, CFO at Pharmanovia, on the importance of efficiency

The CFO spoke with Felipe Florez, CFO at Pharmanovia, on what drew him to the pharmaceutical industry and his priorities for the year ahead

Q&A: Felipe Florez, CFO at Pharmanovia, on the importance of efficiency

Playing a strategic role in driving efficiency within a business is a key responsibility for any CFO. However, in the pharmaceutical industry, it can mean the difference between someone receiving life-saving treatment or not.

“Speed is critical,” says Felipe Florez, CFO at Pharmanovia, noting the importance of agility and meticulousness within the industry as “accelerating anything you can is vital for every patient”.

Speaking with The CFO, Florez shares why the his role goes beyond the numbers, how he’s building resiliency into the company’s supply chain and the most rewarding aspect of his job.

You have specialised in the consumer health and pharmaceutical industry throughout your career. What attracted you to the industry?

The answer to this is very simple – it is the ability that we have as finance professionals in this industry to ultimately help patients.

There is a more fulfilling purpose in the job! I would always emphasize that. I’ve worked in other areas which I loved, including consumer goods and energy, but in pharma, we can really change someone’s life and that is amazing.

What’s different about being the CFO of a pharmaceutical company?

There is one very important thing for the CFO of a pharma company to remember – you need to help drive things fast. The longer it takes to do something, it can mean that a person cannot get therapy in a timely manner and that can affect their lives.

In the energy business, if things take a bit longer, it means the switch can’t be flicked as quickly. That’s important but in pharma – it is a bigger issue. For example, in Oncology where I worked in the past, speed is critical. Being diagnosed and getting timely treatment can literally cost or save a life.

From a CFO’s point of view, trying to help accelerate anything you can is vital for every patient. The external interactions are a lot more delicate, so overall compliance is an area that deserves the attention of the CFO.

What advice do you have for those looking to pursue finance careers in the pharmaceutical industry?

You can’t just think about it as finance. You need to look beyond the numbers and understand the business inside out. This will help you put yourself in the shoes of a patient.

Many people can be successful in finance in pharma without needing to get into the heart of the business and what our ultimate purpose is to help patients. But if you do that, it’s a lost opportunity.

It’s a great sector and a great industry…we help patients in need. If you can get into it in this way, then it is mind-blowing, it’s very positive and fulfilling. It gives you purpose, not just as a finance professional, but as a person.

The interaction with the specialized areas of the business such as Medical, Scientific, Regulatory, etc provides constant opportunities to learn, grow, and develop professionally.

You joined Pharmanovia in March 2021. What are your priorities for the company?

The biggest challenge is around efficiency – and this is linked to my previous points. When we are efficient, we can move faster and this benefits patients. The more efficient we are, the more we can do to help more patients.

Efficiency refers to operational platform – it is vital. It is also important that everyone in the finance team knows the journey we are on.

We are working on some critical topics including:

  • We are still on a journey to drive a culture in the company that is truly international and global and performance driven.
  • In finance we have been working to improve our capabilities and capacity as we support the business growth and needs.
  • Implementation of a new ERP system and moving from SAGE to SAP.
  • Working to improve our Net Working Capital which will allows us to free resources and reinvest in the business which will ultimately help more patients.
  • Partnering with all areas of the business to improve business understanding and drive better execution, profitability, and cash generation

Pharmanovia’s strategy model focuses heavily on acquiring niche speciality products and established brands. From a finance function perspective, what is key to the acquisition process?

We are focused on iconic, branded products. Secondly, we are looking in four main therapeutical areas – cardiovascular, oncology, neurology and endocrinology – where we can address chronic diseases.

Acquiring products is one step. The next is to make these products better for more patients, which will translate into further organic growth for Pharmanovia. Acquisitions will continue to supplement our organic growth and we have more and more busine cases showing this is working.

Last fiscal year (FY21/22) was the first year Pharmanovia delivered organic growth since it was founded and we have delivered organic growth as well in the first quarter of this new fiscal year (FY22/23).

It means our products are helping more and more people around the world.

A lot of companies have recently experienced supply chain delays and challenges. How much of the company has been affected by this and how are you building resilience into Pharmanovia’s supply chain?

Part of our hypothesis is that we can improve and drive innovation with the products we have acquired. We invest in them and revitalise them.

We also believe that we can also build resilience into the end-to-end supply and make it more effective. That means trying to reach goals faster and in a more productive way. By doing that we free up resources and help margins. This has been part of the core principles of the company and to be very specific, when we acquire a product from an originator we go through a very detailed and effective Technical Transfer which allows Pharmanovia to produce the products more effectively… this work has been carried out since the early days of Pharmanovia and that helps us in times like these where inflation is rising. Nevertheless, there is still some work to be done in this area and this is ongoing.

Throughout your career, you have built up a substantial contact book and a strong network of fellow senior finance leaders. How important is it for CFOs to have a strong network of connections and how do you utilise your own network?

A strong and broad network is critical for multiple different reasons. It can help you connect to other people who may have ideas to help your business function better, it also helps you create forums where you can bounce around ideas.

In my network, I’m fortunate to have people senior to me and people who are starting their careers. I have learned a lot from everyone and it’s important to remember that no one can do anything by themselves. Our Pharmanovia team is fantastic, and the external network further complements it. The power and benefits of this “eco system” are critical and extremely important.

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