Big interview

internal workings. “There is an enormous complexity inherent to financial data,” says Peter. “Throughout the company, and particularly in the finance division, digitalisation is an important and ongoing process. That means that we continuously implement new digital tools that help us to handle this complexity more efficiently.” To explain what he means, Peter takes the example of BMW’s financial reporting, which is now seamlessly handled by a real-time monitoring system. From there, the CFO continues, data and automation have burrowed into every facet of the company’s operations. Data analysis is particularly important here, with BMW now able to easily track the “take-rate” of particular car features – which can in turn inform designers’ future priorities.

Keep the change

Dr Nicolas Peter and his team are pushing new technology and digitalisation across the company.

industry.” That begins, appropriately enough, with the cars themselves. Both the BMW iX and BMW i4 models are being made greener, while the company also hopes to have around 12 all-electric models on the road by 2023 (part of a broader field known as e-mobility). By 2030, meanwhile, Peter expects 50% of BMW’s global sales will consist of all-electric vehicles. The company is also looking to cut resource consumption before its cars reach the dealership. By using predictive maintenance on production lines, for example, it has cut the number of vehicle parts being scrapped. At the same time, BMW is also investing in a number of green energy projects. At its plant in Leipzig, in eastern Germany, wind turbines produce 26,000 MWh of electricity. In South Africa, another factory is partly run on biogas – courtesy of methane from 25,000 cows.


With dealerships closed and consumers wary to buy, BMW’s sales slumped in 2020.

BMW 10

All this is obviously good news in the fight against climate disaster. Yet as Peter’s allusions to competitive advantage and global sales imply, this green pivot is also crucial for BMW’s financial future, once again explaining why the CFO was so keen to move forward even as the pandemic raged. Look at the numbers and these aggressive tactics make sense. With the global electric vehicle market set to jump by 40.7% between 2020 and 2027, getting in early is a business no-brainer. Not that BMW’s growth strategy is limited to wind turbines and farting cows. On the contrary, Peter and his team are pushing new technology across the company, with digitalisation probably one of the most striking areas of change. Take sales, where staff at BMW dealerships in over 60 markets can now advise punters remotely, giving virtual tours of new cars and helping customers configure their vehicles at the click of a button. A similar tweak was applied to BMW’s sales partners, meaning, as Peter explains, that customers will ultimately be able to buy their dream car online – then get it delivered directly to their door. The same principles are being applied to BMW’s

Guiding a global company through one of the most dramatic moments in its history might not leave much time for personal reflection. Yet amid lockdowns and economic thunderstorms, Peter is still eager to reflect on how important his long career at BMW was to his current, frantic tenure as CFO. “From a personal point of view, to deal with this complexity, it is helpful to have worked in different divisions of the company and to have developed a broader skill set,” he explains. “Throughout my various functions over the last 30 years, I have come to fully understand key facets of our company and business – internal financial steering, individual market dynamics, customer interfaces and sales volume planning and financing.” It’s unsurprising, too, that Peter emphasises how important diverse experiences are across BMW’s management team. Executives are encouraged to change their role every three to five years, and similar rules are in place for managers too. “Having a broad network and knowing the company from various perspectives,” Peter suggests, “is crucial.”

This same spirit is being applied to BMW’s wider team. Eager to accompany every employee on the “journey” towards a greener digital future, Peter is promoting training for every single one of BMW’s 120,000 employees, with one in three now drilled in e-mobility. It comes as no surprise that 2021 brings more of the same. Over the course of this year, BMW plans to train 75,000 of its German staff in future technologies – covering everything from e-mobility to data and analytics. “Change is our constant companion – and it is important to embrace it and to reap the inherent opportunities,” says Peter. “That is my personal motto, even more so in the years to come.” A good line, and perfectly fitting for a global company like BMW. Having survived the upheavals of Germany’s twentieth century, BMW seems fit to attack the challenges of our own time just as vigorously. ●

Finance Director Europe /

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