From the archives: Sharing the know-how

Navneet Govil, CFO of SoftBank’s Vision Fund unit, told our online 2021 CFOs & COOs Forum about how a network can facilitate knowledge sharing among portfolio companies.

SoftBank’s CFO network helps portfolio companies bridge the gap between private and public offerings, Navneet Govil, managing partner and CFO of the SoftBank Vision Fund, told delegates viewing our CFOs & COOs Forum held online in 2021.

The network started with its Fin-Connect Summit in 2019, Govil said. There, CFOs from Vision Fund’s then-90 portfolio companies assembled in person and exchanged ideas and best practices. With new investments, the network has since grown to 150 companies. SoftBank’s network also helps prepare CFOs to face demands of the public markets by providing feedback in forums designed as quasi-roadshows, Govil said. These IPO summits occur four to five months before planned IPOs. There, potential institutional investors listen to CFO presentations, while other portfolio CFOs observe. IPO readiness is the issue. “This way, institutions get a heads-up about what’s coming. It’s good for portfolio companies to see how they are pitching their stories.”

SoftBank had announced a partnership with IonQ in the hope of using quantum computing to make the best use of data produced by the 150 portfolio companies in the CFOs network, he explained. Govil said robotics can ultimately streamline and make financial and accounting procedures more efficient. The aim is to speed accounting processes, sharpen forecasts and ultimately incorporate predictive possibilities.

Faster processing should allow for deeper insights into trends emerging among portfolio companies. This should make it possible to share information about trends emerging across various sectors.­ Faster handling of information should enable portfolio companies to provide the kind of quarterly guidance now demanded of companies going public, he added. The goal is to move financial reporting from being simply descriptive toward something prescriptive, and finally to forecasting risks and ­opportunities

On the changing demands on CFOs, Govil noted that SoftBank focuses on what he called the three Cs: character, capability and collaboration. However, managing rapid change demands agility and the ability to work with “constrained resources” as portfolio companies stretch themselves to grow in a transforming economy.

In 2021, SoftBank’s Vision Fund unit managed two vehicles: a $98.6 billion four-year-old fund; and a $30 billion, two-year-old fund. These funds have participated in high-profile IPOs, including Airbnb, Doordash, Uber, We- Work and, most recently, Coupang.