Interim manager and "Jack of all trades"

As a child, Hellek Bråthen dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot. He grew up to become a business economist and gets his adrenaline rush by working as an interim manager. He has just completed a successful project as an interim CFO with SF Kino and is looking forward to enjoying a few days in the mountains.

Hellek Bråthen is a qualified business economist and authorised financial analyst. He has more than 20 years’ experience in the financial sector, having worked on corporate assignments in the Norwegian capital market, held the post of Finance Director at a company listed on the stock exchange and managed an investment company.

Interim CFO with SF Kino

He was recently hired as the interim CFO of SF Kino, whose CEO, Ivar Halstvedt, gave him the following testimonial earlier this year.

"Our new interim CFO has worked extremely well. Each month the quality of our reporting has improved and things are much better organised. I look forward to passing on the good routines to the permanent staff when he completes his assignment this autumn.

As with any true interim manager, Bråthen has extensive experience and expertise, which has been incredibly beneficial in interim management positions with companies such as Voss of Norway and SF Kino.

"I am a "Jack of all trades". I know finance, I get involved with accounting and I can take the overall responsibility for organising finance whilst also working with the board of directors as a corporate secretary," Bråthen summarises.

Appointed honorary engineer

Bråthen's special interest in physics meant that he became an active contributor in discussions at an operational level even early on in his career. To contribute beyond your trade and role is an ability that all great CFOs should have:

"Even though the main focus will often be cost control, I have often provided input on revenue growth too. Everything we do in respect of presentations, invoicing and pricing is quite closely linked to the CFO role. My first job was as a controller with ABB, where I also acted as Assistant Project Manager in the development of an earth fault indicator for intermediate voltage grids. I was the only economist among 400 employees, the majority of whom were engineers and I was honoured when they declared me an honorary engineer. The same happened at Statnett and Enitel," explains Bråthen.

Involved in starting Enitel

As Finance Director of Statnett, Bråthen was involved in starting Enitel when the two companies got together to develop a competitive telecommunications network in Norway:

"First we created a business plan. Then we had the task of selling it. We travelled all over the country and presented it to fifty utility companies. The message from the utility companies was that we would need to get on the stock exchange to succeed. I was expecting a great deal of resistance but they wanted to get involved. We were very pleased and I created a financing plan which we then implemented.

Enitel was listed on the stock exchange in 1999 and valued at nearly 2 billion Norwegian kroner.

"The company did unfortunately go bankrupt. We were part of an industry where there was extensive establishment of new companies and we probably underestimated the freedom Telenor had with regard to adjusting prices in its favour," Bråthen reflects.

Sunday - Sunday

Some may remember the weekly newspaper Søndag Søndag (Sunday Sunday). Following court cases and subsequent bankruptcy in 2006, the newspaper was closed down. But in the beginning the newspaper was in "steam" which could have ended as a success story.

"When I started we sold 4,000 copies of each issue. The only way to increase sales was to expand distribution. In just a few summer weeks we increased from 400 to 1500 sales outlets and sales quickly accelerated to 15,000 copies. In two years we had reached 60,000 but Dagbladet and VG then entered the arena with their Sunday newspapers.

"I have never doubted that the value of what I deliver matches my cost"

Bråthen has also worked within the pharmaceutical industry. In one company where he worked as a CFO he was involved in the development of a drug.

"In the pharmaceutical industry it is crucial that you are capable of commercial and medical thinking at the same time. In the company I worked for we looked at studies from a phase of the disease progress of the patient group which was uniformly good. For this reason we also wanted to get the American pharmaceutical authorities on board. We considered whether we needed to adjust our recipe for success and take greater risks, both medically and commercially, to increase the possibility of gaining approval. The Chief Medical Officer and I had a lengthy discussion about this and he accepted my reasoning for working for maximum value and extending the work we had already performed. The product was a success as it was no longer ethically sound to offer placebos as part of the clinical trial process. Two years later the company sold for a double-digit billion amount and I have never doubted that the value I provided matched the money I cost the organisation.

Interim management

Hellek Bråthen is looking forward to his next assignment and is currently enjoying a few quiet days in the mountains, nurturing his passion for skiing. When asked what he likes about being an interim manager, he responds as follows:

"I enjoy seeing new companies and business models. This always has consequences on how finance and accounting are structured, managed and reported and it is interesting from a professional point of view. It is also exciting to meet new industries, organisations and, not least, people," Bråthen concludes.