Marc Rivers

was appoint­ed Head of Finance for the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals Divi­sion of Roche in Feb­ru­ary 2013. Pre­vi­ous­ly he was Region Finance Head of West­ern Europe, Region Head of Finance for Asia Paci­fic and Head of Finance for Glob­al Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Devel­op­ment since join­ing Roche in 2005. Pri­or, Marc held var­i­ous finance roles at Eli Lil­ly includ­ing Region­al Finance Direc­tor for East­ern Europe, CFO of Japan and var­i­ous finan­cial roles at Lilly’s US head­quar­ters. Marc obtained a Mas­ters in Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Car­oli­na in 1995 and is a dual US and Swiss cit­i­zen.

INTERVIEW

Finance’s ideal role is to help society to make the most value-creating choices possible.”

By Kristin Köh­ler

Marc Rivers, Head of Finance, Roche Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, explains why he’s seek­ing the truth in finance, what to do when the truth gets uncom­fort­able and what role finance can play in busi­ness and soci­ety in the future.

Marc, you are seek­ing the truth in finance. Why?

On my office wall I have a Chi­ne­se cal­lig­ra­phy with the say­ing from the Book of Han “Seek truth from facts” . Our team in Chi­na select­ed that quote as the mot­to for our finance depart­ment as an embod­i­ment of the noble pur­pose of finance. Whether it is in accu­rate­ly report­ing the finan­cial results or in fore­cast­ing var­i­ous sce­nar­ios and options, finance’s role is to be a reli­able source of unbi­ased objec­tive real­i­ty. That is our noble pur­pose.

There are cer­tain­ly those out there who would argue that the finance pro­fes­sion is not the right choice for truth seek­ing, e.g. think­ing of account­ing mis­use, fraud etc. How would you respond?

Many pro­fes­sions have been abused by indi­vid­u­als not liv­ing up to their high­er selves and unfor­tu­nate­ly finance is no excep­tion. In the end the respon­si­bil­i­ty lies on each of us indi­vid­u­al­ly to hold our­selves to the high­est stan­dards. One prac­ti­cal way to help us do this is to keep in mind that we are serv­ing oth­ers. One of my favorite quotes about ser­vice is from Rabindranath Tagore, a Ben­gali writer and poet:

I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all ser­vice. I served and I saw that ser­vice is joy.” Cer­tain­ly the prob­lems that finance has faced are symp­toms of society’s embrace of the excess­es of mate­ri­al­ism and ego as we have drift­ed away from those time­less val­ues taught us by our elders. We need to do our part to hold our­selves and our pro­fes­sion to high stan­dards. By improv­ing our­selves and our imme­di­ate sur­round­ings we are mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.

What role does finance play in your com­pa­ny, and what do you attrib­ute with the finance role per­son­al­ly?

Being a great finance pro­fes­sion­al requires not only great tech­ni­cal skill, it also requires great char­ac­ter. Impec­ca­ble hon­esty and enor­mous courage is nec­es­sary to hold the mir­ror up to the orga­ni­za­tion even if the truth being told is uncom­fort­able. If done in a spir­it of ser­vice then this will help the orga­ni­za­tion to become stronger and health­ier and more valu­able to the world.

Three con­di­tions are nec­es­sary for trust to exist: com­pe­tence, good intent and good char­ac­ter. For finance to be a trust­ed part­ner we must know our stuff, have the desire to help the orga­ni­za­tion and have impec­ca­ble integri­ty.

You have been in finance for quite a while now. Has the role of finance changed over the last few years? Where is the finance pro­fes­sion head­ing from your per­spec­tive?

Cer­tain­ly the role of finance has evolved over the years. Ear­lier in my career I saw many exam­ples of the busi­ness and even finance peo­ple them­selves putting finance into the lim­it­ed role of score­keep­er. I have seen expec­ta­tions with­in finance and from the busi­ness rise so that finance pro­vides not only an accu­rate pic­ture of what hap­pened but also eval­u­ates options which are for­ward­look­ing and which help to inform bet­ter deci­sion mak­ing. This requires finance peo­ple to have a very solid under­stand­ing of the under­ly­ing val­ue dri­vers of the busi­ness to get insights into what is pos­si­ble. We have also improved our com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills which then allow us to effec­tive­ly trans­mit those options in a man­ner which influ­ences the busi­ness.

How do you inte­grate your vision with­in your dai­ly work and, most impor­tant­ly, how do you get your staff on board?

Work­ing in a health­care com­pa­ny with a strong pur­pose of ser­vice to patients sets the con­text in which we prac­tice our pro­fes­sion­al skills. Sto­ries of patients remind us about our pur­pose every day which in turn helps us to remem­ber the high­er pur­pose of finance. Nur­tur­ing a cul­ture of ser­vice-mind­ed­ness and val­ues helps to bring out the best in each of us. Every­one wants to do work which is mean­ing­ful. What is more moti­vat­ing than that?

If this were a per­fect world, what role would finance play in the future?

Finance’s ide­al role is to help soci­ety to make the most val­ue cre­at­ing choic­es pos­si­ble. Finance pro­fes­sion­als would then be rec­og­nized not only for their pro­fes­sion­al and busi­ness prowess but just as impor­tant­ly for their moral fiber and rec­ti­tude of con­duct.