Natalie Knight joins Ahold Delhaize today as its Executive Vice President Finance. Natalie will lead and direct Ahold Delhaize’s Financial Reporting, Finance & Accounting, Tax, Treasury & Insurance departments. Her nomination to Chief Financial Officer will be submitted to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Shareholders in April.
Natalie comes from the dairy cooperative Arla Foods in Denmark, where she served as CFO and Member of the Executive Committee. Arla Foods is the world’s largest producer of organic dairy products with sales in more than 120 markets. Before that, Natalie spent 17 years at adidas in Germany and the U.S.
Why did you join Ahold Delhaize?
Ahold Delhaize is one of the leading retailers in the world. It has a unique position with transatlantic leadership in the US and Europe – and that matches my own experience. I’m American and have worked both sides of the Atlantic. My career has shown me all aspects of retail from products in stores to consumers to what makes a real brand.
It’s exciting to be part of a leading company at a time when retail is reinventing itself.
What are your plans coming into AD?
I am very interested in getting out to see as many retail sites as possible early in my tenure.
This is how I like to learn a business – to go and see people who are delivering our services and our products. See what our stores and the rest of our organization look like, what are the margins, what are the opportunities to go to omnichannel? I want to go beyond the theory and connect with our team and our associates. You just experience something differently if you get out and see how people are working and the different banners that we have.
What do you think is important for the future of retail?
The next decade will be a decisive one for retail. We’re facing competition from discounters, industry consolidation and new players. Omnichannel offers unprecedented opportunities, but it will also need investment. Scale and efficiencies will help us achieve that to some degree, but we’ll need to look beyond that too.
Success in any business comes from delivering products and experiences where quality, relevance and value allow us to create a unique trust with our customers. Working in the dairy industry really taught me what it takes to be successful in a low-margin business.
So, I admire and will do everything to support Ahold Delhaize’s Save for Our Customers program, because this is how we can deliver our brand proposition and gain customers’ trust.
Another key factor for our future is digital experience, the omnichannel journey. So, understanding how we make digital transformations will be critical going forward as a success factor.
How do you see the role of CFO?
Our role in finance is performance management. How can we make strategy tangible, how can we deliver that strategy?
We are also the conscience of the organization. We need to make sure that compliance is done appropriately. We are also the guardians of the cash. If these safeguards are in place, then the business has the confidence it needs to be commercially active.
We also use connectivity. We’re involved in the business from the beginning to the end from where we source products to the consumers. So, we can connect all the pieces.
In a wider sense for business – what should companies focus on?
I would say sustainability and inclusion.
Sustainability is getting a broader definition. It’s about having healthier lives, healthier choices and a healthier planet. As a business we want to drive the agenda on this and have just launched our Healthy and Sustainable ambition. Food retail is in a pivotal position to do this, in the center of the supply chain. So we want to show that we are committed to change.
On inclusion – the further I get in my career, the more I care about the topic. We need to have role models, we need to offer opportunities. We need to be aware of unconscious bias and most importantly aim for 100% inclusion - bring people with different backgrounds and biographies together as our associates.
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