Rendezvous with Marc Thöni

Numbers, numbers, numbers!

Marc Thöni has always been fascinated by the world of figures and data. Anyone expecting Marc to be your archetypal financial expert, an introvert devoted to numbers, would be completely wrong. Marc exudes openness, spontaneity and joie de vivre. “I just love people in all their diversity and uniqueness,” says the man from Eastern Switzerland, who is also very partial to Zurich’s culinary diversity.

Apostroph Head of Finance Marc Thöni

“There came a point when I wanted to move to the city. I started to work for KPMG in Zurich, then did supplementary training as a specialist in finance and accounting, and stayed there for six years.” That’s when there was an opening at Apostroph Group. As Head of Finance at the heart of Zurich, he found exactly what he was looking for: a whole range of exciting projects and lots of good bars and restaurants close by. He goes there with friends for a drink and to talk, sometimes just general chat, but also “deeper”, more serious conversations. And even after a long, hard day at work, you will often find an enthusiastic Marc behind a hot stove because, “For me, cooking and eating well are essential!”

Marc, what characteristics does a good Head of Finance need? Well, first of all, they have to be au fait with the digital transformation. That is the only way to optimise processes. Naturally, a Head of Finance also has to have an overview of the finances at all times. The structure of the financial system should be as clear and as simple as possible for employees and customers to understand. Threads run together in Finance so you always have to keep the big picture in mind, while at the same time being able to think outside the box, act as a team player and work together on improvements and solving problems. Generally, executives should be a kind of mentor for young talents who want to further their knowledge.

And what makes a good annual report, apart from the financial section? Good storytelling and credibility. In other words, telling stories that reflect the company with its challenges and targets – and not just from a sunshine perspective. The printed version should be supplemented with an informative and attention-grabbing web version – with interactive design, visualised graphics and good videos. Every year I watch with interest the Swiss annual report rating issued by the Harbour Club, a partner of Apostroph for many years now. There is even an awards ceremony where they celebrate the best annual reports.

Is the branch you work in relevant for you as Head of Finance? The reason why I decided to work for Apostroph as opposed to any other company was not so much the industry but the corporate culture. I saw an opportunity to optimise the entire financial area here and realise my countless ideas. I turned the entire department upside down in my first few months here.

As a financial expert, are you something exotic in the Apostroph language world? Not at all! I love the interaction with my colleagues – and I love languages.

Which ones do you speak? German, English and French. And I’m constantly improving my Italian. I’m just fascinated by the connection there is between language and culture.

You grew up in Buchs/Canton of St. Gallen, but you don’t have an Eastern Swiss dialect. How come? That’s true. I see myself as being multilingual. I know all the dialects in Eastern Switzerland, from St. Gallen, Rheintal, Liechtenstein, to Graubünden, even including Vorarlberg, but I speak Zurich dialect. I find that it’s easier to get on with people and be more open with others if you speak the same dialect.

What role does AI play in your area? There is a lot of artificial intelligence in our area. Examples are OCR, i.e. the reading of supplier invoices, the automatic matching of incoming customer payments with the invoice, and the entire controlling process where parameters are set and can then be continued automatically.

Do you think AI will ultimately make you obsolete as a financial expert? On the contrary. But it is essential to have an inquisitive mind and always be willing to learn new things. Not everyone in finance has that capability. That is why the finance industry often seems much less innovative and modern than it actually is. I find the possibilities offered by digitalisation incredibly exciting and am always looking to get to know new tools in all areas and use them wherever it makes sense.

Marc Thöni, please complete these sentences!

The language that sounds the most attractive to me is … Turkish.

A good day starts with …sunshine on the balcony where I have my first coffee, smoke my first cigarette and listen to the birds chirping.

And ends with … a clean and tidy flat – otherwise I can’t sleep (laughs).

My favourite subject at school was … definitely cookery!

My own personal paradise is … somewhere on Lake Como. I spend a lot of weekends there – it’s where I go to recharge my batteries!

People who know me well would probably say I have the following three attributes … impartial, helpful, conscientious.

A credo I live by … Never judge a book by its cover.

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