Delphine Bernard of ‘Kinship’: “Spending vs. earning is also an important concept to understand”

Spending vs. earning is also an important concept to understand. Having a bank account really showed me what happened when I let money sit in my bank account and accrue interest, rather than immediately spending it on a toy. As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing […]

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Spending vs. earning is also an important concept to understand. Having a bank account really showed me what happened when I let money sit in my bank account and accrue interest, rather than immediately spending it on a toy.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Delphine Bernard.

Delphine Bernard is a Global Chief Financial Officer with over 20+ years of experience. She partnered with C-suite and Boards to help high-tech companies through worldwide hyper-growth expansion. Bernard groomed startups to become public companies and prepared 2 multi-billion dollar high profile IPOs as well as closed 9 global M&A transactions that ranged between 200M dollars to 7B dollars +.

Bernard drove strategies that provided solutions to mitigate risk, improve controls, and reduce costs. She is technology savvy and launched digital transformations of the finance function. With in-depth knowledge of worldwide statutory accounting and USGAAP she established legal entities and ensured local compliance in APAC, APJ, EMEA, LATAM, and the Americas.

Currently, Bernard is the Chief Financial Officer of Kinship, a business division of Mars Petcare, the global leader in pet health, nutrition and services. With growing data and analytics capabilities, a 100M dollars venture fund, a pet care startup accelerator, industry-leading technology and consumer businesses like Whistle Labs and Wisdom Health, Kinship is working together with its partners to transform the future of pet care. Bernard oversees all elements of Finance, and partners closely with business development, product and legal on mergers and acquisitions.

Prior to Kinship, Bernard was the Global Head of Finance Operations at Uber and oversaw a 40M dollars budget. Over four years she built a centralized global organization and transformed the finance department to operational excellence. She improved financial accuracy and implemented controls, policies, and corporate governance for an 84B dollars+ IPO, three regional divestitures and three major product acquisitions. Bernard managed 10 Global Senior Directors and Directors as well as oversaw 250 employees and 500 contractors. Prior to her move to San Francisco, she started with Uber in Amsterdam, as International Financial Controller in charge of 65+ countries. She excelled in optimizing the close process and accuracy of the financials as well as brought local companies to compliance. Bernard was a member of the GDPR committee and director on the board of Uber Freight Inc. In the past, she held multiple board of director seats for Uber international subsidiaries.

Prior to Uber, Bernard was the Senior Group Controller at Microsoft for the Skype division. She joined Skype in 2008 when it was part of the eBay family. She assisted with the spinoff in 2009 and led the treasurer function during the interim period. After the spinoff, she helped the company become IPO ready and implemented systems, policies and controls globally. Bernard collaborated on the August 2010 S1 Filing and addressed SEC, legal and investor questions. One month later, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Skype and closed at 8.5B dollars. Bernard partnered with C-Suite to perform financial due diligence, led Skype’s global team, and integrated systems into Microsoft to become a 365 Office product.

Bernard has a Master of Business Engineering from Louvain School of Management. She is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School Executive Education, where she continues to take courses and learn about leadership and strategy. Outside the office, she enjoys traveling to discover new cultures and spending time with her two children and husband. She has lived in 6 different countries and embraces diversity and inclusion.

Passionate about people and leadership, Bernard is the founder and co-chair of Women of Kinship. She previously founded Women of Finance at Uber. She wrote 2 articles about leadership: published on LinkedIn on April 3, 2019, The puzzle of a global team; published on Medium on July 18, 2018 Ready for a change? How to embrace change and use it as a growth opportunity.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?

I always wanted to be a businesswoman, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. As a child, I would get so excited when we were given things to sell to raise money for our school. It just felt natural.

But as I grew up, I began gaining a better understanding of what the business world entailed and realized that finance is a much broader field than just simply working at a bank, or becoming an accountant. During my last year of high school, we ran a “Small Business” contest between schools. We created a company selling small dustbins for cars. I really enjoyed creating a business and running it. However, I realized that I was much more attracted to the idea of helping people build their businesses, rather than starting my own. After getting an MBA and Masters in Business Engineering, I gained expertise in different fields in finance across different industries — with stops at Skype and Uber, and realized that I felt most fulfilled in the startup and tech environment.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

For me, it’s more of a takeaway rather than a story. People don’t realize how creative and fun finance can be. Yes, it’s about numbers, but by understanding the numbers, you can tell a lot about a company and be creative in your problem solving and helping a company meet its goals. Finance is more than just spreadsheets. The numbers tell a story, if you can present the story in a way that the audience engages with and understands. Prior to Kinship, I worked at a company where we were very non-compliant in our financial processes, and it wasn’t a priority for the company. I realized I needed to work differently to pass the message and change the way the company was operating. I found a fun, eye-catching, and branded way to engage with our audience. Our team voted on a cartoon mascot, and we used the mascot on our communications to the company to make compliance less scary, more fun — we even made a cartoon training video! We managed to improve our compliance metric by over 80%.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m very excited about what we’re building at Kinship, both as a business, as well as the opportunity to build the foundation of our finance department. We’re doing a lot of work to create better value and efficiencies across the finance team, and I believe the more advanced the finance team is, the better it is for the businesses’ evolution. I’m really focused on people, processes, and technology, and how they work together to make the team lean and efficient. The better we are, the better we can support the business in real time and better projects for the future, which ultimately helps our customers. We’re currently working on updating our legal structure, financial systems, and reducing silos. We have a core team working on enterprise resource planning to provide a compliant and unified platform. An efficient team ensures nothing gets missed, and an all hands-on deck scenario ensures our customers’ needs are being met.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Kinship stands out not just because of the nature of the business we are in, but due to our purpose. We are helping pet parents every day by bringing them innovative solutions and empowering them to be the best pet parents they can be. Navigating life as a pet parent is typically very fragmented, and the market is full of misleading options that don’t necessarily prioritize both the pet parent and the pet itself.

Kinship is also very diverse, and not just in its mission statement or in gender diversity, but also in its culture and employee backgrounds. The more diverse we are as a company, the better we are able to reflect and see or address the diversity of our customers.

What I find in today’s corporate culture is that a lot of companies have mission statements but don’t live them…it’s just a box to tick. I’m truly impressed with how we live our D + I across the company. It’s unprecedented. I’d grown accustomed to being the only woman in the room. The only mom. The only non-native English speaker. The only foreigner. But that’s not the case at Kinship and that’s something to be proud of.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

While I agree that there is work being done, and things have shifted, more needs to be done. A lot of this change can be attributed to giving more empowerment to colleagues and peers who in the past were not being awarded the space they deserved to share their talents. While this is fantastic, there is still a lot of work to do.

In the finance sector there has been change, but it’s not enough. We not only need diversity in gender, but also racial diversity, and diversity of background. I think finance will struggle most in trying to achieve diversity in backgrounds, because of the emphasis on having an Ivy League education, which in turn affects job placement. That needs to change but I’m super optimistic, especially when I see all the new talents joining the market.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

There are a number of ways we can support women moving forward:

Recruitment — we need to have the right source and funnel, as well as consider the differences in recruiting men vs. women, or how to reach different backgrounds. Some candidates may lean more on their networks for job opportunities rather than relying solely on LinkedIn. Or if you are working to improve diversity, ensuring that you are recruiting at universities with strong racial diversity. It’s also important to remove bias as much as possible. There is great software out there to aid this, but also it requires effort. Having a diverse hiring panel that meets with potential candidates and is open to people’s differences is key. Studies have demonstrated that it doesn’t take much more time to have a diverse talent pool! And even if it does a tiny bit, it’s worth every penny.

Promotion — It’s important to nurture employees based on personality types. Everyone is different, and I always like to say that you shouldn’t confuse confidence with competence. As a manager, it’s important to work in a system that is based on facts, goals, objectives, true performance, and numbers. People have different personality types and lead different lifestyles, and it’s important to be adaptive to that, supporting them how they need to be supported. A working mom or dad will have different needs than a single man/woman. An introverted new hire will have different needs than a confident employee who has been with the business for five years. Make sure to rely on data and tangible facts. Don’t rush and partner with your Talent team through the process.

Mentorship — Lastly, setting up your employees for success. Implement programs to help them grow and stay with the company, whether that’s through coaching, or mentorship.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

Education is key to these numbers and is key to changing them — if I could change anything it would be access to free, quality education for all — and not specific to financial education. The more accessible and affordable education is, the better our society will become as a whole. Financial literacy will follow. As it stands, the rich just become richer, and it becomes harder for the less fortunate to gain access to better opportunities. As they say, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Access to assistance from financial institutions is also key. I wish you could go to your bank (online or in person) and ask questions. This is part of the social value of banking, and anyone should be able to access help without agendas, politics, or being sold on the new product. When my husband and I first bought a home, we had loads of questions and went to our bank with them.

Finally, I’d like to see more free, easy to access, trusted communication about money. Information gets people talking. If you read an interesting and straightforward article about investing, share it with your friends and loved ones. Start the conversation.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

The first lesson would be to understand the value of money. I started working quite young at a local McDonalds and as a babysitter, which led to a true understanding of the value of money. I knew how much work it took to earn that dollar! I think this is the most valuable financial lesson someone can teach a child. It’s key.

Spending vs. earning is also an important concept to understand. Having a bank account really showed me what happened when I let money sit in my bank account and accrue interest, rather than immediately spending it on a toy.

Lastly, the power of financial independence. I’ve been financially independent since I began college. I worked at a bar to pay for school and my other bills, and it was a great feeling to know that I was able to provide for myself. It wasn’t easy, but as a young woman, that was incredibly empowering and rewarding.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are 100 of them who I can truly thank because I’m grateful for some many people. I truly believe that you take a little bit of everyone you meet along your journey. They let me try, and fail, but kept me moving along my path.

I also think it’s important for women colleagues to support one-another and help each other grow. We are more powerful together, while we are lifting each other up. This is the only way to break barriers and continue to ensure not only that our voices are heard but that diversity is prevalent in the workplace.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.”

It is important for me to never allow anyone to tell you that you are not capable of achieving what you want. You need to own your dream and show the persistence, resilience, and conviction to make it happen.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

For me it would be to continue to empower women to use their voice, support them, in their ability to accomplish their dream, and give them the ability to continue to dream big. It could truly change the world. I believe this starts with young children, especially young girls. We need to help them dream big. This is what I say to my daughter: never let anyone tell you that you can’t make your dreams come true!

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