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bbi-2023-04-“You win the hearts, you win the world”
f2m-bbi-23-04In the spotlight – women in leadership-Cindy Yao

Cindy Yao holds not one, but two leadership roles at one of the industry’s leading companies. She talks about combining her responsibilities as Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President at the Markel Food Group, the importance of leading a team while being a team player, and creating a Leadership University to support next-generation trailblazers.

Catalina Mihu: You were recently recognized as the 2023 Large Company Virginia CFO Of The Year by Virginia Business magazine. Congratulations on the award! How would you outline the priorities in your responsibilities today, in your double role as Markel’s CFO and Executive VP?
Cindy Yao: First of all, people/team have always been my priority regardless of what role I have. You need to always be present for your team. I regularly am in contact with them. I work with our China team when it’s my night and their morning. The time zone difference helps me juggle all ­priorities better. At the same time, financial reporting, and compliance especially as part of a public company, is ­always most important with a clear deadline. I meet with my finance team regularly to understand what is going on. For the first few years after joining the company, we put comprehensive policies and governance in place, and now all the teams can work on their day-to-day tasks together to make sure all the bases are covered.
Regarding my double role, they complement each other: the business role helps me to understand our business deeper and broader. It helps me to see what is important for our customers and our teammates. It provides me the ability to be a better strategic partner for the CEO, presidents, and other business leaders: What KPIs are more effective to drive what behavior and results? What are the customer voices? What reporting is meaningful for business users and for operations? Having a finance ‘hat’ also means that I can be more vigilant to make sure we comply with regulations and tax requirements. If we start doing business in a new country, or a new region, for example, I can collaborate with the team quickly and understand what risks and regulatory requirements we need to consider. So, my two roles help each other: the finance role helps me be a better businessperson and the business role helps me be a better operational CFO. It is more effective and efficient.