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How Can Finance Help The Business Add Value?

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Anders Liu-Lindberg
Finance Master | Finance Transformation Expert | THE Finance Business Partner | Writer
When the discussion falls on Millennials and what they want from their work and careers there’s one word that dominates: “Purpose”. In fact, Millennials are even labeled “The purpose-driven generation”. This got me thinking in terms of what I want to achieve with my career in Finance and my writing no less. At the same time, I was thinking about an article from one of the Top Voices of 2016 on LinkedIn, Jeffrey Towson on how he got 300,000 followers in 18 months where his point #1 was an interesting one.

“Choose one valuable question to focus on”
That immediately made sense to me in terms of giving my career and writing a purpose and made it clear as to what I was really trying to achieve. I’ve been exploring many aspects of current trends and developments in the finance function and despite having written series of articles revolving around the same topic they never really had a focus stemming from a purpose. At least I hadn’t made it clear to myself. Now it has become clear though and my writing going forward as well as what I strive to achieve in my day job will explore the single question of.

“How Can Finance Help The Business Add Value?”
Why is this important?

Late last year I wrote an article titled “Why Transforming Finance Matters” discussing if Finance (or more specifically the people working in the function) was even needed. At the end of the day at the core of every company, it’s about creating value. You typically do that by solving problems and so this is also what every day should be about for Finance. How can the function help add value by solving problems together with the business? If the finance function can’t provide any answers on how to solve the problems that the business has set out to solve, all it will ever do is the minimum legally required. However, that doesn’t bring purpose to all the young people coming into finance and accounting. To a purpose-driven generation, it has to be about something more than the paycheck at the end of the month and doing the bare minimum. That’s why it’s important to answer the question of how Finance can help add value to the business. The answers will bring purpose to those that choose a career in Finance and open the eyes of the business to how Finance should be an important partner in achieving its goals.

Decomposing the question

Before going in-depth with trying to find answers to the question let’s start by decomposing the question itself. What does it actually mean?

How: “in what way or manner; by what means” i.e. it’s about finding ways, means, and manners in which Finance can help the business add value. It’s about exploring different paths and aspects of HOW to help.

Can: “to be able to; have the ability, power or skills to”. The word itself leads to two questions.

1.      Why is it "can" and not "shall" and should Finance even do this?

2.      Does Finance have the ability and skills to help?

As for 1) I firmly believe Finance should do this referring back to the discussion about purpose. While there are many legal reasons as to why Finance exists then I believe that it’s the value adding part that is the true purpose of Finance. Moreover, this is more about whether or not Finance actually has the ability, power, and skills to do it rather than the intent to do it. All the good intentions in the world matter none if there’s no capability to actually do it. This leads to 2) which is about exploring Finance’s current skills and abilities but certainly also the power that Finance has in the company and the ability to make an impact.

Finance: This is not so much about the official definition of the word but simply put about “the finance function”. It’s the department that almost all companies have which often includes accounting, tax, financial planning and analysis, treasury etc.

Help: “to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need”. This is about helping someone else to achieve their goals. It can be the business overall but also line managers, other departments etc.

The Business: In broad terms, it’s the company in which the finance function operates but it can also be line managers, departments etc. as per above. Seen from the outside it’s the entity in which people have invested their money and demand a return from.

Add Value: There’s the addition i.e. the opposite of subtraction meaning there has to be more of something when Finance is done helping. That more of something is more value and whereas value can be defined in many ways such as shareholder value, stock price etc. I’ll define this as discounted cash flow meaning that all the helping that Finance does should eventually lead to a positive cash flow. In many cases, this can be indirect and difficult to measure but Finance must put on itself to quantify the value and how non-financial measures ultimately translate into cash flow.

The start of something bigger

This is the question I’ve been trying to answer through my so far ten years in the finance function and having made it explicit gives me a new sense of direction. That’s why in 2017 you will find that all my writing will be centered on this question just as establishing Finance Business Partnering 2.0 at Maersk Line was in my day job in 2016. My latest series “The CFOs Roadmap To Transforming Finance” and “How Finance People Can Be More Successful” both explored this question although not explicitly expressed but going forward all articles will explicitly express what part of the question they explore and they will have tangible actions and suggestions on how you or your finance function can improve on how to help the business add value. There’s no fixed end in sight as the world will continue to evolve and new answers to the question will pop up. Are you ready to explore and answer this question together with me?

What’s the question you’re trying to answer in your career and have you found your purpose? How do you think Finance can help the business add value? Having defined this question probably won’t lead to 300,000 followers over the next 18 months like Jeffrey experienced but hopefully, it will make the purpose of my writing crystal clear. Ultimately I do hope it will help you in your career or your finance function actually helping the business add value. As always I very much appreciate your like, comment and/or share.

For more articles about finding a purpose with your career or how Finance can help the business add value please continue reading below. You should also join my Finance Business Partner Forum where we will continue to discuss this topic. Last but not least you can follow me on Twitter for continued insights on developments in the finance function.

Careers and finding a purpose:

How To Break Free From A Stereotype

If I Was 22: Stop Thinking About The Future – Focus. 
Anders Liu-Lindberg is the Senior Finance Business Partner for Maersk Line North Europe and is working with the transformation of Finance and business on a daily basis. I have participated in several transformation processes among others helping Maersk Drilling to go Beyond Budgeting and transformed a finance team from Bean-counters to Business Partners. I would love the chance to collaborate with you on your own transformation processes to help you stay out of disruption. If you are looking for more advice on how to get the most of LinkedIn I also have a few tips to share as well as if you want help in your job search. Don’t be shy! Let’s get in touch and start helping each other.

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Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds

Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as "remarkable".

Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.

Scientists at the University of Southern California say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy.
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It could also help the elderly whose immune system becomes less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases.

The researchers say fasting "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.

"It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California.

"And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.

“Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells.

In trials humans were asked to regularly fast for between two and four days over a six-month period.

Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to ageing and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumour growth.

"We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system," added Prof Longo.

"When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged," Dr Longo said.

"What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?"

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.

"While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy," said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.

"More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”

"We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system," added Prof Longo.

However, some British experts were sceptical of the research.

Dr Graham Rook, emeritus professor of immunology at University College London, said the study sounded "improbable".

Chris Mason, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at UCL, said: “There is some interesting data here. It sees that fasting reduces the number and size of cells and then re-feeding at 72 hours saw a rebound.

“That could be potentially useful because that is not such a long time that it would be terribly harmful to someone with cancer.

“But I think the most sensible way forward would be to synthesize this effect with drugs. I am not sure fasting is the best idea. People are better eating on a regular basis.”

Dr Longo added: “There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial.

“I have received emails from hundreds of cancer patients who have combined chemo with fasting, many with the assistance of the oncologists.

“Thus far the great majority have reported doing very well and only a few have reported some side effects including fainting and a temporary increase in liver markers. Clearly we need to finish the clinical trials, but it looks very promising

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