Meet the CFO of PepsiCo Australia

'Connect all the way down the line,' says Andrew Townend CPA, the CFO of PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand. Photo by Rohan Thomson.

A strong background in business strategy has given Andrew Townend CPA the skills to drive big change at PepsiCo’s snack food and beverages business.

Fact File

Joined PepsiCo: January 2011 (Frito-Lay North America division); August 2014, became CFO of PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand
Based: Sydney, Australia
Qualifications: Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Tech University; Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Chicago
Formerly: Senior director, strategy and business development, PepsiCo Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa; senior director, strategy and mergers and acquisitions Frito-Lay North America; investment banking analyst in mergers and acquisitions at J.P. Morgan; consultant, project leader, and principal at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Team: 60 in the finance team across Australia and New Zealand
Annual sales: More than A$1 billion

1. Getting there: “Building new muscles”

I started my career in investment banking, working with clients in mergers and acquisitions. I then worked at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) with a range of corporate and private equity clients on matters of strategy and operations and transformation. At that point, I had a strong desire to join an operating company rather than be an adviser. 

I joined PepsiCo at the beginning of 2011, and the transition from consulting to corporate was familiar, because as a consultant, you’re working very closely with corporate clients, and you bring that consulting skill set to the role.

There are a few things you have to focus on when you make that transition. One is learning and understanding, at a deep level, the operating business and really adapting to the culture. Another challenge personally was taking my experience in corporate finance and strategy into a CFO role. It took courage to recognise the different strengths I could bring to the role, not having come through the ranks in operating finance or as an accountant. Through that process I also learnt that I needed to build new muscles in financial control. 

Coming to Australia was exciting. Towards the end of my second year in Europe the opportunity in Australia opened up, and it was really the right fit. One of the big drawcards for me moving to PepsiCo was global mobility and the opportunity to become a CFO. The opportunity to move to Australia fulfilled that promise. With my wife being from New Zealand, it was a very easy choice. 

2. Role: “Seek growth”

When I began as CFO, one of my first responsibilities was to conduct a strategic review of PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand’s largest operating business – our Australian snacks business. The task was to holistically review our performance, including soliciting feedback from customers and employees. 

We put forth a transformation plan to change the way we work with customers, adapt our portfolio and business models, reduce our cost base, invest in our strongest and most innovative brands, and shift our culture to become more agile and customer-centric. 

We made some tough choices, including consolidating our manufacturing geographic footprint, but these allowed us to increase our competitiveness and secure funding to invest in future growth. 

Business performance has turned around, and we are now focused on our innovation portfolio. In snacks, we’ve recently launched a wholegrain cracker range under our Sunbites brand. 

We also have a very strong innovation pipeline in the beverages market: an example is Gatorade G Active, a sugar-free flavoured electrolyte water. For the active consumer, a no-sugar hydration solution with electrolyte replenishment is a fantastic proposition.  That’s another example of innovation that plays to consumers’ changing tastes.

Professional Development: Connect in person. Andrew Townend FCPA is speaking at CPA Congress 2017. Find out more.

3. Game changers: “Sustainability Initiative”

One of the most important projects in my career was at BCG, establishing the Sustainability Initiative. It was a partnership between BCG and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that produced an eight-year research program at the intersection of sustainability, business and management. 

I had done work in the alternative energy and environment space at BCG. Through the project I worked with the head of BCG’s strategy institute and the head of the alternative energy practice to engage MIT and design this partnership, and co-author the inaugural publications in the MIT Sloan Management Review

The initiative looked at the social, economic and environmental factors which create both constraints and opportunities for businesses through the lenses of management and leadership. 

We engaged with thought leaders around the world to create a conversation around sustainability, with practical insights to shape the managerial agenda for sustainability for business leaders.

Developing the Sustainability Initiative with BCG and MIT significantly raised my awareness of the choices confronting business leaders, and the impacts of those choices on stakeholders, especially future generations. 

At PepsiCo, our mission is Performance With Purpose. Our agenda for the next decade is to substantially increase our efforts to improve the products we sell, protect our planet and empower people around the world to contribute solutions to shared challenges. It’s an ambitious yet clear-eyed outlook: business and its leaders can play an important role in shaping a better future. 

Lessons learned & best advice

Keep learning

In today’s changing world, leaders need to embrace with humility what they don’t know. Each year, challenge yourself to learn a new topic, to build new domain expertise to stay relevant. 

Actively connect

Connect all the way down the line. As leaders, there’s a risk you sit too much with your leadership team or direct reports. But taking the time to mentor and coach, and connect with people on the front line, is a great learning opportunity and highly valued by those whom you engage directly with.

Be clear about skills needed

Set a clear vision of the set of capabilities the finance function must build. At PepsiCo, the vision for our finance and IT function is to become proactive thought leaders and agile business partners. We prize business partnering, strategic thinking, balancing the short and long term, and leveraging digital data to convert information to insights. We reward people who build these skills and display constructive behaviours. Clarity of direction and behaviour shape the culture you’re seeking to create and drive results. Over time, it enables you to build capability and effective talent pipelines. 

Maintain a balance

Each of us has endeavours outside work that energise us. For me, I love playing the guitar. If I haven’t played the guitar during the week, it’s a reminder of the importance of balancing energy expenditure with energy renewal. Our work is a marathon, but a good marathon is a series of sprints. I manage a series of sprints with restorative breaks along the way. 

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October 2017
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