It’s hard to imagine anyone in finance relishing the challenges that today’s financial crisis presents. But many workers in their twenties and early thirties — known collectively as Generation Y or the millennials — see the current turmoil as a great learning experience, as “Start Ups” shows. The millennials we interviewed agreed that despite the short-term job uncertainty, they’re amassing knowledge about managing in a downturn, which will benefit them far into the future.
One lesson they’re learning is about how downturns often require finance to rewrite the rules. For example, “Rethinking Capital” looks at how CFOs are coping with shrinking debt markets. Some solutions are counterintuitive — such as the decision by US food company McCormick & Company to increase its leverage to make a recent acquisition — but all of the CFOs profiled in the article accept that the standard rules that they once played by no longer apply.
It’s a similar story with price increases, the subject of “Higher & Higher.” While openly discussing product price increases with customers was once taboo, CFOs note how the soaring cost of raw materials has changed all that. It’s now not uncommon for companies to increase prices every few months, without fear of a customer backlash. And there’s a big — and in many cases, new — role for CFOs to play in this regard, instilling greater discipline and analysis into the pricing process.
Finally, in the cover story “Cleared for Landing,” Nicolás Villén Jiménez, the veteran CFO of Ferrovial, chronicles the multibillion-euro debt refinancing recently completed by the Spanish infrastructure company. As he has learned when market conditions turned for the worse and the relatively routine refinancing threatened to sink the company’s expansion plans, companies brave enough to rewrite the rules in tumultuous times can reap big rewards.