Patrick Visser - Vice President Global Internal Audit and Control Assurance at Universal Music Group

Finance & Accountancy
21 August, 2023

Patrick Visser is the Vice President Global Internal Audit and Control Assurance at Universal Music Group in the Netherlands. He started his Audit career at PwC, before moving to KPN, Biomet, Stryker, and Angelini Pharma Company.

How, in your opinion, is the role of the senior Finance professional changing?

The current business world asks for more real-time insights, both from a past and future perspective, to allow for fast and preferably more fact-based decision making. The role of the senior Finance professional must adapt to that evolving expectation.

They need to play a meaningful role in delivering the right data insight at the right time and the right level of detail to the C-suite to support the decision-making process. I would expect that the senior Finance professional will take a lead role in exploring opportunities for a more intelligent process automation.

All of this will enable the Finance function to spend more time on analysing data, predicting trends, and predicting outcomes, rather than doing a lot of manual, repetitive work.

This trend started a couple of years ago, but is still as relevant as it was back then. My expectation is that we will only see more of that.

How do you approach strategic workforce planning?

Firstly, I’d say you need to have a good sense of what you’re trying to accomplish business wise and what you’re working towards. Define what your strategic initiatives are, which might require different or new capabilities compared to what you currently have in your team.

From my perspective, it is important to think about whether we have the right expertise to deliver on our strategy or not.

Flexibility is important, as well. Can we scale up and down when we need to, in terms of resource levels? I strongly believe in having a strong core team that is supplemented by a strong co-source partner. Having a strong partner allows us to gain an outside-in perspective; the expertise helps management to decide that certain things must be done.

Bringing in the flexibility, the experience and the expertise can definitely help in making sure you achieve what you want to achieve.

How do you think your management style works for you and your team?

As a leader, my goal is to always ensure that we create the right environment for the team to excel and to remove roadblocks when they appear. I am focused on empowering my team, mostly to create a positive flow of information and ideas, instead of me telling them what to do.

I tend to place a lot of trust in my team, but only after we’ve developed a system of checks and balances, so that I’m sure the output of our work consistently meets our quality standards.

I lead my team with a lot of trust, and it tends to work well, because it gives a level of freedom and empowerment to the team. Typically, people like that and it engages them. We use their experiences and their innovative capabilities to always challenge the status quo.

How can we accomplish wellbeing for all employees?

Wellbeing can mean different things for different people; it is important that we understand what it means and what is important to each individual team member, as well as what a work-life balance means to them.

What works for one might not work for someone else. Since the COVID pandemic, we’ve all been working more from home and we still operate with more flexibility, so the need for more attention on mental wellbeing is more prevalent than ever before.

One of the effective ways to accomplish mental wellbeing could be partnering with a specialised company that provides mental coaches to employees, where employees can make appointments with them whenever they need advice, or when they just want to soundboard with someone outside of the team or the company.

Secondly, it’s about having an open dialogue between a manager and an employee. Maybe we need to spend more time on that than ever before, because the world has changed, and remote and flexible working is now an established part of business.

You don’t see each other in person that often anymore, so you risk loss of connectivity and the social element of work, which I think is really important for people’s engagement levels.

What advice would you give to yourself five years into your career?

A couple of things come to my mind. The first one is to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, because - when I look back - when I was stepping out of my comfort zone, I was taking on stretch assignments and going all in without a fear to fail.  

From my perspective, complex challenges become an essential opportunity to learn. Make sure you learn from everything and don’t make the same mistakes again - and try to get the best out of it.

The second is, dare to take decisions, even if you don’t have all the answers - even if you don’t have all the data – try to make decisions and utilize the skills and experience of those around you, because you will find out quicker if it was the wrong decision, and then you can course correct, learn and move on.

That also leads to the third thing from my perspective, which is, don’t overthink things too much - it can paralyse you. Just experiment and try to learn along the way.

You have worked in a number of different industries. How do you think it has added to the success of your Finance career so far and what you’ve learnt?

It’s all about context and perspective. You can learn from what works well, but also what doesn’t work well, in one industry versus the other. I think that’s also true for one company versus the other, even if it’s in the same industry.

For example, some industries are more progressive and innovative when it comes to technology differences and support processes compared to others.                          

So, if you have experience and go into another industry, you can take that knowledge and your experience with you to challenge the status quo, and think more about what could be, instead of accepting what is.

That has aided my experience and my progression, because I’ve been fortunate enough to work in different industries, and I’ve always been able to take learnings from them - the good things and the bad things - through just asking some critical questions and challenging the status quo.

That is the beauty of having been in multiple industries, but also different types of companies, even within the same industry.

How do you feel Finance can help accelerate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives?

Finance can lead the charts, because we are the experts in processes, systems and understanding how transactions turn into numbers.

Similar to Finance, ESG initiatives will also be included in annual reports. We look at the recently published CSRD [Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive] regulations, which are far reaching.

Finance can play a big role in accelerating these initiatives, by coaching and training non-Finance departments, because the ESG initiatives will impact non-Finance departments more than, for instance, Sarbanes-Oxley [the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002] has ever done.

Through the training and coaching amongst Finance departments, they can also help build the governing process and the controls that will support the reliable reporting of non-financial information.

Most Finance teams are used to such processes, so they can be the ultimate gatekeeper in a sense; even if there’s an overlapping process or there are overlapping tools that cover both aspects.  

Finance can make sure that both aspects are covered for the financial reporting and the non-financial reporting. At the end of the day, it’s all in the same annual report, it’s going to the same stakeholder group, and then Finance can be the ultimate gatekeeper in reviewing that data based on their understanding of processes.  

Finance can play quite a big role in this - it can possibly become the leader, and I think that’s what most companies actually do. There are a couple of ways to accelerate these initiatives, just by leveraging the available knowledge, process, systems, and controls.

Thank you to Patrick for speaking to Hannah Mallia, Head of Executive Finance recruitment in our Finance & Accountancy team in the Netherlands.

Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment