Long-term commitments with one company, particularly for CFOs, are rare nowadays. Therefore, CFOs who celebrate 10 years with one organization must not only be doing something right but almost certainly have something to say about employers who have kept them from departing for potentially greener pastures.
For Andre Maciel, global CFO of Kraft Heinz, his 10-year stint with one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world is a moment to savor. After joining the company in 2013 and taking his first executive position within Kraft Heinz as U.S. CFO in 2015, Maciel took on the global CFO role last March.
Two things ultimately keep Maciel around, he told CFO: culture and people. Rather than the amenities and accolades of leading such a large and globally influential organization, Maciel credits his decade of service to Kraft Heinz to the environment that the company has constructed and the people who make that environment possible.
Global CFO, Kraft Heinz
- First CFO position: 2011
- Notable previous companies:
- Anheuser-Busch InBev
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
ADAM ZAKI: You just celebrated 10 years with Kraft Heinz. What has made you stick around?
ANDRE MACIEL: At the top of the list is that our company values and culture match my core beliefs. Our culture of ownership, of doing the right thing, and daring to do better every day — those are beliefs that motivate me. The way we act and work together is to advance a shared agenda. I believe the Kraft Heinz culture is a competitive advantage.
"I have many professional mentors, but the first people I think of when I think of 'successful people' are my parents. Nothing was given to them."
CFO, Kraft Heinz
Beyond culture, I'm motivated by the opportunities ahead for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. Many wrongly believe the tech industry is the only place to see innovation and agility. The food industry is evolving at a record pace, and we’re shattering the myth that CPG is big and slow. We’re driving innovation across every part of the company, and finance plays a big and exciting part in that transformation. Finance is not just a support function at Kraft Heinz — we help drive our company strategy, and that’s very exciting to me.
What is a common trait among successful people that you've noticed throughout your career, whether in college, finance, or other professional or personal experiences?
MACIEL: I have many professional mentors, but the first people I think of when I think of “successful people” are my parents. Nothing was given to them. They had to fight for everything they had and never took anything for granted. Hard work was the only option for my parents. I credit them for my work ethic; their life approach has made me humble and grateful for what I have. That mentality has certainly stayed with me as I've advanced in my career.
When I think of other successful people that I’ve worked with, I find a common trait is that they effectively balance ambition and pragmatism. They dream big, think boldly, yet operate with clear and transparent directions. They face challenges head-on, think through alternatives, pursue what they believe, and do so with resilience. All of these are traits that I hope to cultivate in myself.
You've been a leader for a long time. What do you do, personally or professionally, to maintain or enhance your leadership skills?
MACIEL: I say this genuinely — to remain sharp, I seek feedback on my performance. I encourage my teams, both up and down, to share feedback on a rolling basis because I want to hear how I can do better. Sometimes, the feedback can be tough to hear, but I don’t fear it. I also make the time to reflect on the feedback, so I can change my actions and behaviors moving forward.
In your experience, how do you balance maintaining your relationships with and managing the morale of the CEO, other executives, shareholders, and employees?
MACIEL: Since becoming global CFO, balancing the relationships and priorities of different stakeholders has become a significant challenge. To help me navigate those challenges, I try to always consider the shareholder perspective in my decision-making. If I think about them first, I feel I’m best set up to succeed. I challenge myself to understand how my decisions impact shareholders by asking myself if we are making choices that drive long-term, sustainable growth and value.
Maintaining strong relationships with peers might be the most challenging because we all have different ways of addressing a given challenge. You need to learn to say “no” and explain why, and also learn to hear “no” and to find common ground. When it comes to my relationship with Miguel Patricio, our CEO, I deeply respect his vision and want him to be as successful as possible. I’m often in a position where I'm bringing some balance, helping him see alternatives and different consequences to help contribute to the strategy by removing potential issues.
“We can’t treat employees like kindergartners. We need to share tough information with employees so they feel invested in helping to find solutions to challenges.”
And finally, as it relates to employees at Kraft Heinz, one of our core values is ‘we champion great people.’ I think we have a duty to find a way to be vulnerable and transparent with them so they feel equipped and empowered to move forward and deliver their best work product. We can’t treat employees like kindergartners. We need to share tough information with employees so they feel invested in helping to find solutions to challenges.
What parts of new and emerging technologies excite you the most?
MACIEL: I am most excited by the potential that technology lends to use data at scale to streamline and accelerate decisions and free up time for people to do more strategic activities. Digital transformation enables functions to move away from manually updating spreadsheets to more quickly synthesizing data and forming smart, strategic recommendations. With the freed-up time, teams can focus more on change management, a critical focus for evolving organizations.
I’m also excited about the evolving role that AI will play in our business. Generative AI, in particular, can be a game-changer. We’re applying AI across many parts of our company, including assisting with the management of supply chain forecasting, and it’s making us far smarter, faster, and more efficient. Leaning into new technologies and finding partners that allow us to go further and faster are key components of our mission to lead the future of food.