03-06-2024 10:30

Nordic CFOs reflect on the current business environment

Treasurers have moved into the role of risk managers in today's world of constant change and uncertainty. CFOs from three Nordic companies - Matas, Epiroc and Zealand Pharma - shared their key focus areas at the 2024 Treasury 360° Nordic conference in Copenhagen.
Treasury 360 panellists standing
The "CFO Perspectives" panel at Treasury 360° Nordic in Copenhagen on 23 May 2024. From left to right: Henrik Immelborn, Managing Director, Nordea Debt Solutions & Loans (moderator); Henriette Wennicke, CFO, Zealand Pharma; Håkan Folin, CFO, Epiroc; Per Johannesen Madsen, CFO, Matas.

Treasurers are working in a challenging environment of higher interest rates and geopolitical tension. That was a recurring theme at Treasury 360° Nordic, the annual conference bringing together hundreds of finance professionals for a day of networking, inspiration and knowledge sharing in Copenhagen. 

The geopolitical situation was up front and centre with the opening keynote speech from former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He emphasised the crucial role businesses play in global security, for example, by building resilient and sustainable supply chains.

“Brave new world” was the phrase used by Nordea’s Johan Trocmé to describe the current business environment when he introduced one of the event’s content tracks. He pointed to higher interest rates, macroeconomic uncertainty and unrest in parts of the world as key concerns. 

“The role of the treasury has shifted from process automation to risk management,” he said. 

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former NATO Secretary General, gave an opening keynote speech on the current geopolitical reality. Photo: PostTrade 360°

‘We need to be more resilient’

In one panel session, “CFO Perspectives,” led by Henrik Immelborn from Nordea Debt Solutions & Loans, CFOs from three diverse Nordic companies – Matas, Epiroc and Zealand Pharma – reflected on the new world order. Asked about the difference compared to a few years ago, Epiroc CFO Håkan Folin noted that geopolitics are playing a bigger role than before. 

“We are thinking a lot more about the geopolitical landscape, where we should source and how we should set up our supply chain,” he said. “Things aren’t going to go back to where they used to be. We need to be more resilient.”

Zealand Pharma CFO Henriette Wennicke echoed that focus, given the biotech company’s reliance on third parties for manufacturing and clinical trials. She also noted that money is no longer “almost free” as it was a few years ago. The company is now also focused on limiting financial risk after its exposure to Silicon Valley Bank, the US bank that collapsed in 2023.

From a business perspective, it is all about scenario planning, said Matas CFO Per Johannesen Madsen

“As a CFO, you end up being close to the scenario planning process as you get questions from your banks about what’s going to happen next,” he said.

"As a CFO, you end up being close to the scenario planning process," said Matas CFO Per Johannesen Madsen.

Sustainability in focus

All three CFOs emphasised the growing role of sustainability for the treasury function and the company as a whole. All agreed that this is driven by multiple stakeholders, such as consumers, regulators, shareholders and banks. 

Matas has recently committed to setting Science Based Targets and has also integrated sustainability into its financing with a sustainability-linked loan with three KPIs. Epiroc has an ambitious ESG policy of having 70% of its total long-term financing be green or sustainability-linked.

“With a number of reporting requirements coming closer, ESG will have an impact on our everyday work. We need to be auditors on these matters as well,” said Zealand Pharma’s Henriette Wennicke.


Industry megatrends

Panel moderator Henrik Immelborn asked the three CFOs what they see as the “next big thing” likely to transform their sectors. For beauty and well-being retailer Matas, it is using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the omnichannel customer experience, for example, to create a more personalised shopping experience for consumers.

“We believe omnichannel will be the winning model going forward,” said Matas CFO Per Johannesen Madsen. He noted that Matas invests 3-4% of its revenues in capex in this area, the bulk going towards new technology, automation and distribution.

“This requires a lot more trust that something is going to come out of the technology investment. That’s different from in the past,” he added.

For Epiroc, sustainability is the gamechanger. The Sweden-based manufacturer of mining equipment is focused on helping miners reduce their CO2 emissions, for example, by shifting to electric vehicles and equipment. The company invests around 3% of its revenue on R&D related to electrification, digitalisation and automation.

“Sustainability will have a huge impact on us as a company and the whole industry,” Håkan Folin said.

Demographics are the key driver for Zealand Pharma, which is focused on developing the next generation of medicines for treating obesity. 

“Today, 50% of the population in the US is obese. If you look at the trajectory, Europe is just 15 years behind. We’ve been investing in this for 10 years. In pharma, you need to make investments early to be ready at the right time,” Henriette Wennicke said.


As insights shared on the panel and the wider conference made clear, resilience, innovation and foresight are key to thriving in the current business environment and turning challenges into opportunities.

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