New Vice President for Finance and Controlling

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Stefan Spiegel will head up Finance and Controlling at ETH Zurich starting on 1 April 2023. The 52-year-old Swiss manager and finance expert boasts extensive leadership experience in state-affiliated firms and stock-listed companies.

Stefan Spiegel has over 20 years of management experience, from Finance Director and Head of Controlling to project manager for organisational development in domestic and international companies. Before switching to ETH Zurich, he served as Chief Financial Officer and Executive Board member at SBB Cargo AG, the SBB rail freight subsidiary. His time in this post has given him familiarity with the unique features of organisations funded via public financing mechanisms as well as experience dealing with public authorities and agencies. Starting on 1 April 2023, Stefan Spiegel will be taking over the reins from Robert Perich, who has decided to step down from the Executive Board as of 31 March 2023 (see internal news article from 15.03.2022 ).

Spiegel is known as a patient and persistent team player with a diplomatic touch, especially when it comes to digital transformation and organisational development. One of his achievements in this regard was to introduce AI assistance into planning, reporting and decision-making processes. "I consider myself to be a swift and innovative decision-maker, and I place a lot of value on having a meaningful vision, setting realistic goals and communicating openly with all stakeholders," says Spiegel.

From physics to finance

Spiegel originally studied Theoretical Physics at the University of Zurich. He graduated in 1997 and then went on to earn his first professional stripes at Baloise Insurance. From 2001 to 2007, he worked at the Post Office Network division of the Swiss Post, where he ended up serving as the division’s Head of Controlling and also as interim Finance Director. During this time, he shared responsibility for transitioning the organisation from a service-oriented state-run enterprise to a corporate business unit. Ensuring that employees, managers and unions were involved in this process was always important to him. The changes implemented in the Post Office Network division, particularly in financial corporate management, were recognised with an EFQM Award for Business Excellence.

After two years as VP Controlling at the stock-listed trading company Valora, Spiegel moved to Swiss railway operator SBB in 2009, where he oversaw the reorganisation of the Corporate Controlling unit until 2011 and also served as project manager for reorganising the entire company’s financial organisation with over 700 employees. Since 2011, he has been CFO and a member of the Executive Board for the SBB Cargo Group, where his responsibilities included financial accounting, bookkeeping, reporting, planning and controlling, operations research, customer invoicing, risk management and oversight of auditors and federal agencies.

Digitalization with AI and linking up divisions

During his tenure as Finance Director at SBB Cargo, Spiegel drove the firm’s financial turnaround, introduced a new SAP-based bookkeeping system and initiated the digital transformation of SBB Cargo and its finance department, which benefited from the use of AI and machine learning. In March 2022, Spiegel authored the whitepaper entitled " external page Using Predictive Analytics for Planning & Strategy " on this topic. He also wrote a practical, non-scientific manuscript called "Management Physics", a humorous take on what managers can learn from the field of physics.

"I am very pleased to have Stefan Spiegel on board," says ETH President Jol Mesot. "He is an experienced manager who knows his way around the corporate world and understands the uniqueness of federal institutions. His affinity for digital technology and his knack for communication also make him ideal for working together with the other members of the Executive Board to develop ETH Zurich in financially strained times."

In addition to completing continuing education in finance, organisational development, leadership skills and data analysis/machine learning, Spiegel also has an Executive MBA from the Vienna University of Economics and Business and the University of Michigan’s Carlson School of Management.

Once he steps into his role at ETH Zurich, he will head up the Executive Board domain for Finance and Controlling and take on partial responsibility for digitalising the university’s administrative processes. Spiegel’s remit includes financial strategy and planning, the budgeting process, financial management (including cash management), controlling and risk management.

"This new challenge at ETH Zurich both excites and inspires me," says Spiegel. "I’m really looking forward to using lean, goal-oriented processes and innovative modern tools to build on the excellence and user-friendliness of financial services and financial controlling for all stakeholder groups at ETH, to contribute to the national and international standing of this top global university, and also to create a motivating working environment."
Florian Meyer