Taking an Accounting Perspective Towards Teamwork

When Thierry Deleger meets new colleagues, he takes in what he can learn from them just as an accountant takes in financial information

Thierry Deleger’s love of finance stems from the viewpoint it affords towards a business as a whole: “Finance is everywhere. Everything you do in a company will have a financial impact. In finance you look at the horizon in the distance, you take a global view in terms of where the business is going and where it came from.” Deleger sees finance as a strategic support function for any business, and enjoys being in a financial role because it exposes him to everything that goes on in the company. 

Deleger began his career working in accounting, explaining that he appreciated the structure and technical aspects. When he rose to the rank of CFO at RATP Dev, a multinational transportation company, his role became more global in nature. As CFO, Deleger’s duties focused mainly on strategy and legal procedures, but he always maintained a deep respect for the accounting function. “Everything you do eventually relies on the quality of the accounting information. It’s what you publish. It’s the company’s foundation and past. You need to understand your past in order to know where you’re going in the future,” he says.

Also essential to Deleger’s outlook on business is his multinational experience. Deleger was educated in France and began his career there. While working for Sodexo in Paris, he accepted a transfer to a recently-acquired subsidiary in the United States, where he has lived for the past 18 years. Deleger emphasizes being mindful of the business and life lessons he encountered over the course of his career thus far, both in terms of being a successful financial manager and in terms of acclimating and respecting a team’s culture in order to foster strong professional relationships.

At Deleger’s first stop in the United States, one of his responsibilities was developing and implementing group reporting tools post-acquisition. These requirements (forms, data points and deadlines) were very new for the local team, according to Deleger. He devised a methodical and inclusive approach to educating the local team and to brainstorming with them on how to better implement given their existing systems and processes. Because Deleger deeply values teamwork, he doesn’t lead via top-down mandates. “When you ask people questions about the organization, its structure, and the work, and you’re interested, they are super responsive because you’ve paid attention to them.” Deleger focused on learning how things were done at the subsidiary and took care not to brutally impose Sodexo’s methods. “My approach is to arrive with an open mind and ears, to ask questions and look at documents like an auditor would do,” he says. With this approach, the exchange of information and procedures between Deleger and the local team was reciprocal.

“Finance is everywhere. Everything you do in a company will have a financial impact. In finance you look at the horizon in the distance, you take a global view in terms of where the business is going and where it came from.”

In his most recent role as CFO at RATP Dev, Deleger remained focused on sharing his knowledge with colleagues while also keeping an open ear toward others’ areas of expertise. One of the challenges he took on was making sure everyone from non-financial backgrounds understood the significance of the company’s financials. “They needed to understand not just how the numbers are calculated, but how to influence the numbers, as well as the root causes of the numbers we have and how to implement plans to change future outcomes,” he says.

Deleger was also tasked with setting up human resources at the RATP Dev New York office. He took on the technical aspects of this such as payroll and administrative processes, as well as led efforts to produce the employee handbook. However, he was also a strong advocate for hiring a Vice President of Human Resources. He describes that having an expert in this role was essential: “Human Resources is your best asset. You don’t have a machine, you have people, and you need to retain and grow talent or the company’s growth will be limited.”

When Deleger needed to negotiate with banks on RATP Dev’s behalf, he treated the banks like a partner. He described the importance of being upfront and transparent, and pointed out that the banks were another entity that he could learn from. As RATP Dev was moving their United States headquarters from New York City to Fort Worth, Texas, working with a local bank proved to be an asset in terms of grasping the market dynamic in a new location.

 Aside from looking for the lessons in his professional experiences, Deleger’s outlook towards his international exposure is also poised towards personal development and growth. He explains that one of his most surprising take-aways is that the relationship to authority can differ drastically between cultures. For someone who values team-building as inherently as Deleger, these differences are paramount to determining an appropriate management style. Some teams expect precise direction, and others see over-explaining an assignment as an affront to their capabilities.

As Deleger looks forward towards his next project, one thing that is certain for him is the team component. “I want to find a team where I can play a role and contribute and learn.”