Peer Talk Profile: Joao Tavares
João Tavares has worked to Sicredi Cooperative Bank in Brazil since 1998. In 2012 he was named CFO and started the job with fresh ideas and a little nervousness. Would other departments be open to his ways of being more efficient?
“I needed to be more confident as a CFO,” he says. “I needed to show to the other financial institutions in Brazil—not only to my company—that I am an effective and strategic manager.”
Sicredi recognized his work, making him CFO, executive director of finance and administration of the bank, headquartered in Porto Alegre, in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. However, there was more to achieve.
In early 2015, Tavares had a loftier goal: to become known throughout Brazil “as a leader in my sector. The way I found to measure if I was on the correct path was to become elected one of the most relevant finance executives in my state.”
That is where the Executive Education Program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Buisness came in.
“I discussed it with my colleagues and decided to participate in the Advanced Management Program,” Tavares says, selecting the only senior executive program to offer an individualized course of study with the option to choose elective courses.
“Professors Harry Davis and Craig Wortmann helped me focus on my image and my self-confidence. The first session, I decided to establish a goal—to win a prize by the end of 2015. The most important help Chicago gave me: the importance of my personal story. The importance of telling my history.”
The program’s format encourages participants to share experiences with one another, so they learn from their peers—from a wide range of industries—as much as from their professors.
“We shared some visions with other colleagues and professors,” Tavares says, and he learned to tell the stories of his successes without feeling he was calling undue attention to himself.
Back in Brazil, he started telling his story to his peers at other institutions:
“I changed Sicredi’s department a lot in the last few years,” he says. “The department was very professionalized and effective as a traditional financial department. However, I believed we could add more to the organization, being strategic and helping other departments to achieve the goals. I changed it from a traditional financial department to a financial consultancy and strategic planning department. I used the skills I achieved at Chicago Booth. It helped me to think wider. My goal was to make the department a pilot and not a passenger.”
He continues: “I thought at that time that we needed to change our department’s influence in the company. I thought we needed to influence the decisions, influence the way we do the job not only to show the shareholders that everything is OK but also to help the other departments in Sicredi to do great work.
“I changed our department. Instead of searching for and tracking the numbers, we helped other departments understand how to make more with less, how to save money and be more efficient in terms of managing investment portfolios, product portfolios.
“We changed relationship with other departments. We became like consultants to the other departments to help them improve in terms of finance and projects.
Today the department is seen not only as responsible for the correct numbers, but as a strategic partner. We participate on every important decision of the company. At the same time, I started telling my history to the other guys here in Brazil.”
Sharing that story raised not only Sicredi’s profile but Tavares’s own profile, too.
In 2015, he was appointed to the IBEF-RS Financial Executives Brazilian Institute board. And in October he achieved the goal he set during the first week of the Advanced Management Program, being honored by IBEF-RS as one of the top financial executives of the year in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
After that, in February 2016, International Finance Corporation, part of World Bank Group, honored Sicredi as the best structured financial operation in the world. Tavares and his team were responsible for the structuring and for executing the operation.
“I’m very happy and very proud. Chicago helped me not only to be more creative but more confident,” Tavares says. “I used some concepts and findings we discussed in our classes, especially regarding telling my story. Additionally, the Chicago Booth brand helped me to express my management style, focused on meritocracy and long-term results.
“I’m very happy not only because of the recognition, but especially to see that my goal was achieved. Everyone in the Executive Education Program is responsible for this new phase. Thank you, sincerely.”