A CFO with Heart > Harry Marfatia CFO, APAC Telix Pharmaceuticals

When Harry Marfatia joined the fast-growing company Telix Pharmaceuticals Limited in 2020, he had no prior experience of the pharmaceuticals industry. He tells CFO Magazine how his approach to continuous learning helped him to meet the challenges of those early days and spurs his continued success.

After completing his undergraduate degree in the Indian state of Gujarat, Harry Marfatia was able to choose whether to complete his Master of Business in Professional Accounting in Australia or the United States. He chose Australia for the simple reason that he loved cricket.

“As a kid, I once spent about 80% of my pocket money seeing Shane Warne when he toured in India. I can still recall seeing his hand go up to spin the ball – it’s a sweet memory.”

Marfatia began his studies at Victoria University in 2005 and he supported himself financially by washing cars. Ambitious and highly driven, Marfatia studied hard, got his first graduate role, saved some money and returned to India to find his life partner.

A lifelong learner

Over the next decade, Marfatia held increasingly senior roles at some of the biggest companies in Australia, including IBM, Origin Energy and Telstra. He became a CPA in 2008 and in 2020 he obtained an Executive MBA from Melbourne Business School. This was a critical step in progressing his career to the CFO level, he says.

“For 18 months, I shared a class with 60 very senior executive leaders from Australia and New Zealand, as well as China, Hong Kong and Singapore. I learned so much about the psychological aspect of leadership, as well as finance, sales, marketing and operations.  “Those 18 months of continuous learning through 10 hours studies consecutively for 4 days every month, and industry excursion experience in Malaysia made us more resilient, global and commercial.” Marfatia explained.

In 2020, Marfatia joined Telix Pharmaceuticals as group finance director. The company provides a range of diagnostic services and therapeutic products for cancer patients which are in different phases of development.

Marfatia joined Telix Pharmaceuticals at an opportune moment to apply his newly acquired skills from completing an MBA. The company was in the process of commercialising a product for prostate cancer patients in Australia and the United States. The company was growing rapidly and it created three geographic entities – the Americas, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and the Asia Pacific. Marfatia became APAC CFO in 2021.

“My role is to make sure that people with prostate, kidney, and brain cancer across different parts of the world can access our products. I get out of bed every morning knowing that what I do will help to improve the quality of life of patients and their families,”

Harry Marfatia, CFO – APAC, Telix Pharmaceuticals Limited

Habits of an effective CFO

Before Marfatia joined Telix, he hadn’t worked in the pharmaceutical industry before, so there was a considerable learning curve. He reached out to many team members to share their insights into products and the industry, and he leaned on his practice of daily learning, which he has maintained since his student days.

“I try to leverage every opportunity in my day-to-day life to learn about the industry and business that I am operating in. If I’m in the car, I’ll listen to a podcast, and I learn things on YouTube as well. I also attend networking events once or twice a month held by the Melbourne Business School community.”

Marfatia spends up to an hour every day reading the Australian Financial Review. He reads whenever he has a small window of time: at breakfast, on the train to work, and after his children have gone to bed in the evening.

He also creates informal learning opportunities within Telix Pharmaceuticals.

“I’m always ready to share my knowledge and to learn from others. I love interacting with other people, which is why I never have lunch at my deck,” he says.

“We have a small canteen area and I always go there and talk with people. Every day it’s someone different – it could be the product development teams, sales and commercial teams, the receptionist or the administration team. Everyone offers something that helps me to understand the business better.”

As a CFO, Marfatia needs to be across what is happening in the business right now, and what may happen within the industry over the longer term.

“I always tell my team that you should be looking into a microscope with one eye and through a telescope with the other,” he says.

An evolving finance function

Marfatia believes that having both a broad and deep understanding of the company helps him to understand the multitude of data that is at his fingertips nowadays, and to know when to trust his gut feeling. It also helps to be on the front foot as the finance function continues to evolve.

“Once you know what’s happening in the business, you have a better idea of whether to challenge the data or trust the data when it’s presented to you,” he says.

Another area that is constantly changing is cybersecurity – Marfatia considers it one of the biggest challenges currently faced by CFOs.

“Cybercrime is a big threat to business, and data protection is critical in the pharmaceutical industry in particular, because we hold patient data. As CFOs, we need to consider the merits of investing in a subject matter expert in the cybersecurity function to secure systems and data.”

Career tips from Telix Pharmaceutical CFO Harry Marfatia

Don’t dwell on what went wrong

“Sometimes CFOs take things too personally. We are important stakeholders of the business, but we cannot always get the results that we want. It’s important to understand any mistakes, but don’t get too bogged down in what went wrong. Learn from it. Trust yourself and your team, and then move on for better future.”

Back yourself

“Self-belief is so important. I have always believed that if I believed myself, then others around me would believe in me. The person who is driving your growth is yourself, so make time to invest in your learning and development.”

Never stop learning

“There is a fine line between overconfidence and lack of confidence. If you become overconfident and create a sort of ‘comfort zone’ for yourself, you will never leave it. You will not see what else is happening around you. It’s important to keep talking to other people every single day, because you will learn from them.”