Welcome to the flagship edition of Team Talks, Generation CFOs newest series, where we speak to a company about what has been going on behind the scenes. To kick off, we have Roche, who tells us about their Research and Development finance team’s recent transformation…

In February 2020, Roche launched its 10-year ambitions, designed to contribute to a doubling down on innovation.

Ultimately, our ambitions are designed to contribute to a doubling down on innovation – in particular, driving integrated solutions by orchestrating all the elements of Roche’s broad offering across pharma, diagnostics, and insights.

By amplifying our innovation efforts, we aim to create more benefit for patients than ever before – including through opportunities that emerge as we gain a better understanding of diseases, or identify through new, exciting technologies.

Moreover, in an environment characterised by disruption, we need a high level of financial flexibility to pivot quickly as new opportunities emerge.

It started with Roche’s ambition

Considering the importance of our business challenge, how do we translate this into finance, and, specifically, Research and Development Pharma Finance?

We have a unique opportunity… an opportunity to shape our own journey and impact our ways of working, while contributing to Roche’s ambitions by transforming our Research and Development finance organisation.

From siloed to network, hierarchical to self-aligned, meetings to outcome and impact, finance to business partnering, data to digital… the finance and Research and Development team came up with a different way to approach transformation.

How is Roche’s Research and Development finance changing?

Meaningful changes start with clarity on our purpose:

“Together we drive R&D Business Outcomes through Financial Excellence leveraging Innovative Digital solutions.”

Research and Development Finance created four unique and specific elements to achieve this:

    • Optimal resource decisions to increase R&D productivity
    • Act as stewards of the resources for our business partners
    • A high business centricity to Digital space looking at value creation

Research & Development Finance will operate as a “living organism”, designed for collaboration and innovation, driving outcomes through an effective and inclusive network across and beyond the organisation.

Regardless of where we sit in finance, our focus is to have an impact for patients.

Our vision for driving outcomes is built on:

    • Talent flows in a living system that’s focused on aligned outcomes connected with our purpose & ambition
    • Enabling self-managed teams to work functionally agnostic
    • In the network, we work as inclusive communities

What did they learn through this transformation?

No transformations are easy. It requires not only a radical change in mindset, but an acceptance that nothing can be written in advance. 

Here are three key learnings we recall from our journey:

First, the evolution of the Research & Development Finance function is less of a journey when compared to the real change that comes from the people and culture of the team. An individual effort from all to reinvent our mindset is definitely necessary for having a collective impact. 

Second, a clear purpose and sense of belonging are key to supporting the success of such a transformation. Not only does it require each of us to adapt to the changes, but to understand why and contribute collectively to the vision.

Thirdly, important learning is our priority, as is defining common and compelling focused areas. Where do we set the main priorities? Where will we get the most value, and quickly, in a fast-moving environment?

These questions keep evolving; this is one of the big aspects of our transformation: adapting ourselves toward the needs of the business, and finance at same time. 

Carmen Kerschbaum, SVP and Global Head, Finance and Operations Pharma Research & Early Development, used this analogy for describing best this transformation, quoting T.S. Eliot: 

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” 

Excited to enter a new world and build new opportunities

The team moved towards an open network model which allows not only the increase of business centricity in our operating model, but also generates different levels of outcome and impact. 

Leaders of the team have expressed their excitement about this transformation.

Patrick Wallach, Head of Product Development Finance, said:

“What excites me most is that we are building a network that is open and scalable and provides a breeding ground for our people to thrive.”

Henry Eng, Head of Finance Genentech Research and Early Development, also remarked that:

 “With this R&D Finance Transformation, I am excited that we are now set up to allocate our investments in a way that can change the paradigm of drug development.”

Carmen Kerschbaum, SVP and Global Head, Finance and Operations Pharma Research & Early Development highlighted:

“ I am truly energised and excited as a leader to empower such a transformation where any individual can pick his passion, have an impact and help us to achieve our finance ambition.”