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30 Most Inspiring Leaders to Watch 2021

‘Believe in the power of leadership, behaviors and culture to drive strategy. Keep humble and flexible to new different approaches’: Agustin Correa, CFO of Wunderman Thompson Colombia

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Wunderman Thompson is a global marketing growth partner—part agency, part consultancy, part technology company that inspires growth by applying inspiration everywhere across the consumer journey. Wunderman Thompson Colombia is part of a global company of 20,000 professionals in 90 countries, part of WPP Company. The company’s ambition is to become a growth partner consultancy firm to clients - by providing creative consultancy and technology solutions.

Wunderman Thompson was formed in 2018 when parent WPP merged agencies J. Walter Thompson and Wunderman.

Agustin Correa (CFO) Spoke Exclusively to The Silicon Review.  Interview Highlights

Q. What’s your story? Please walk us through the challenges you have faced and the accomplishments you have achieved.

My role since 2018 was to restructure and transform the company from a traditional creative agency to a growth partner firm by leading cultural transformation and creating our vision for the business - while at the same time all efforts were invested on building this vision through talent acquisition and developing our people’s skills.

Through developed vision and strategy, my objective in the execution was to divest on complex stakeholder, management and legal entities structures and to put efforts in one unique vision driven by the investment (and development) on talent with martech capabilities, maintaining creativity as the foundation of all of our solutions and human experience in the centre.

The result of this was a more diverse, agile and simple business. In numbers, WT Colombia improved in 2019 with over 19 points percent its Profit Margin and speeded up its cash generation dramatically by building new internal (SOX compliant) processes and more valuable relationships with our clients - that brought big improvements on our Net Sales. Our north has always been to invest in our talent and martech capabilities. We developed creative approaches that allowed us to reduce our operating costs by 1.4 million dollars a year since 2019, with strong taxation and administrative less expensive structure. And since then, we have been able to keep improving all of our KPIs.

Q. What challenges and opportunities have you faced during your time here and how have they affected your role?

We used to have an oversized business with unnecessary costs and complex management/ shareholders structures, with different visions and opposite objectives within company departments, and many different finance departments for the holding network. The result of this was a heavy, retard and static company that needed to be shaken and taken out of its comfort zone.

When looking into this landscape in 2018, I saw a great opportunity to lean, focus and speed up our business, to share through my experience a new way of working that could bring the company again to the top of mind and build a growing identity through our behaviours that would be contagious to our clients. We have been able to build new capabilities, new unique vision and focus on +WT strengthens.

My role was positively affected since I have built (and I still continue doing it) a personal brand of adding value to the company, of being a key partner on setting our (unique) Company objectives, on not knowing whether if I am a person with commercial, tech, creative or HR background but with clear financial foundations in all of the analysis that can contribute to building profitable and compliant businesses.

Q. Tell me about your leadership style. How do you ensure everyone in your organisation understands your vision and works towards it?

Great communication within all team members and transparency has always been a must. I am obsessed with working all together every day in decision making, building a culture of constant improvement, and sharing my knowledge around change management skills to help everyone deal with this constantly changing world. I am sure that I have the best finance team that generates me a very big responsibility to continue motivating them and giving opportunities while at the same time developing their career path and helping them to achieve all of their professional goals.

The reason for giving such importance to communication (in all of its ways through leadership) is because strategy is at the heart of every decision and through the knowledge of it from all of our collaborators is that we succeed. Since leadership is what drives our behaviors, and through behaviors we drive our culture and considering that culture is what makes our Strategy execution possible in each one of Wunderman Thompson’s Colombia collaborators, I am constantly working on building a better leader version of myself.

Q. Who do you look up to and why?

There is a phrase in social media right now saying, “Be the senior you needed when being a junior,” and I think that is basically part of my personal vision to conduct my role and keep growing. I had great leaders within my life who taught me what I wanted to become while at the same time what I didn’t want to be. For sure, there are opportunities on my side, and I will continue trying to recognize those to become every day a better version of myself.

Specifically, there is no one unique person I admire, but I admire each one of the people that surround me because of something. I look up to my wife because of her capacity to love and keep our family north on what really matters; I admire my grand-parents because of their humility, my parents because of their ability to fight every life battle they have to cross, my best friends because we can keep same jokes and relation than when we were 10 years old, my former CFO because always being able to find a simple solution to (initial) complex business situations and other leaders that have impacted on my career because of their ability to keep positive in difficult situations.

Q. Given that growth is hard to achieve in the ever-changing, complex, and uncertain world of rising consumer expectations and disruptive technology, how uniquely does Wunderman Thompson bypass these barriers and turn the tables for its clients?

From my role as a CFO, the main support to this ever changing world remains in the next three aspects:

  • Investing in the best talent: This means hiring the best people in the industry, with diverse backgrounds and experiences that could make our offer richer;
  • Divest where no added value or unnecessary complexities that produce lack of agility and speed on our business;
  • Developing "change management" skills to pursue acceptance of this ever changing world rather than frustration; leading behaviors to spread our identity and culture among the company, as a foundation to drive our strategy.

Q. For those seeking to emulate your success as CFO in your industry, what advice would you give? Are there any specific tips or techniques that you feel are crucial to being at the top of your game?

Believe in the power of leadership, behaviors and culture to drive strategy. You can be the best technical resource of the company, but without the best talent on your side, you won’t be able to show and implement all of your capabilities at the speed that the current changing environment requires. Keep humble and flexible to new different approaches.

We need to be  informed in all operational and financial technologies to be implemented in the company since our wide knowledge of the company. All areas are obsessed with tech and implementing them to “check” a need. But misconnections among business implementations make companies unable to get the full power of technologies when making decisions and taking slow (often not fact based) decisions. All company areas lose much of their time reconciling information from different sources while we should get this automatically and invest our time/effort in analysing and decision making.

We need to keep building the CFO role into the Chief Value Officer we are becoming every day, making every decision count on our business P&L. We need to communicate with all levels and areas of the organization and share our business perspective to become finance proposition part of all areas knowledge and foundations when doing business.

Q. What plans for transformation are you pursuing to remain relevant now and in the future?

We need to keep diving into our strategy. We need to become bigger and healthier as a business, more relevant, and focus on our ideas being built around clients. We have to build relationships and great experiences with all of our stakeholders. With this, we will continue to inspire all to contribute to building a better, inclusive and fair world.

For 2021 we will keep growing and investing in martech and commerce capabilities. We have strong assets, experience and credentials among them and this will help us to strengthen reputation in the market.

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Leadership | Wunderman Thompson

Julian Mercado: He serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Wunderman Thompson Colombia. Julián is an authentic and proactive leader that reflects the passion and proactiveness of the +WT Network. Mercado has more than fourteen years of executive experience within the WPP ecosystem and a proven track record in year-on-year net sales growth, operational cost optimization and profit maximization. In 2015 was appointed as MD driving the company to steady year over year growth from a business perspective and leading long-term relationships with key clients. In 2019 he successfully led the launch of Wunderman Thompson in Colombia as part of WPPs transformation strategy. A strong challenge both from a cultural and business perspective.

Agustin Correa: He is the Chief Financial Officer of Wunderman Thompson.  With over  seventeen years of experience in the service and Sporting goods industry, fueled by a CPA, geared toward building strong collaborative teams, and inspired by the hope of contributing to building a better, diverse, and inclusive world. He believes in the power of organizational culture that inspires us to be motivated to develop corporate strategy and objectives. His expertise lies in the constant search for business opportunities to enhance business development, promote efficiency and invest in compliance with the strategy. He has been involved in numerous companies’ mergers and acquisitions. He was born in Argentina, a citizen of the world and a current resident in Colombia.

“Being a growth partner allows us to understand our client business, discover technological and department silos within the company and how the brand is communicating with their consumers. By this, we are able to conduct our growth strategy for our clients in order to achieve their short term goals based on their reality and join them to build their future and execution to thrive.”