Finance leader Amol Chaubal kicked off his finance career working with Procter & Gamble, India, stepping into an operations-oriented role that umbrella’d manufacturing, engineering, product supply, and finance. Looking back, Chaubal says, it’s where he first learned the principles of operational excellence.
From there, he spent 11 years with Novartis in various positions across various regions, including Switzerland, Canada, and the U.S. It’s with Novartis that he earned his first CFO position and where he learned that “in this business, talent is the most important thing.”
In May 2021, Chaubal was appointed CFO of Waters Corporation, a position that has led him to study ever more closely the war for talent and the steps that Waters must take to compete.
As he puts it, “New Age” life sciences companies with deep financial incentives are now competing with well-established corporations for talent. Chaubal thinks that the ultimate resolution of this tension may come from creating New Age companies within well-established infrastructures.
Chaubal: There’s a war for talent under way. This is the problem that we are trying to solve because it holds the keys to our future. Innovation in the life sciences industry today is taking place like never before. If you look at the life sciences tools index, it outperforms not only the S&P 500 but also the Biotech Index and the Tech Index. Three commercial life sciences companies, with tools that are basically ideas, are going through IPOs of more than $4 billion or $5 billion. Completely unheard of, right? This has created a war for talent because all of these small, New Age, nimble science and innovation companies can attract talent with deep financial incentives, while well-established companies struggle to retain this talent.
The problem that we are trying to solve is how to create these New Age companies within our well-established infrastructure so that we can nurture this innovation and not have to go out and buy these New Age companies with steep revenue multiples who just stole our talent. This is complex, uncharted territory. You must completely change the financial structure of how you engage the talent and create the same motivations that they would have in these New Age companies.
We are going through how to set up these programs so that they have dynamics similar to what you find when there are rounds of funding through venture capital or what there is with an early-stage public company. This takes time. With all of these, you have to fix your plane while you’re flying it, too. This is where it’s critical because we are a top-of-the-end-margin company, and our investors expect us not just to maintain these margins but also to expand them.
The questions really are: How do you push productivity to get a tailwind on margin? How do you invest a portion of this tailwind into high-growth areas?
“‘When talent moves to less-funded start-ups, the nagging question becomes, ‘Hey, will you get the next round of funding?’ But when talent is under the umbrella of a well-established company, this is never the question.”
– Amol Chaubal