Resuscitating the Spanish economy—a lesson in strategic thinking

José-Maria Fernández, SF ’10After a precipitous free fall beginning in 2008, the Spanish economy, the fourth largest in the Eurozone, is beginning to climb out of recession, and there is nothing serendipitous about the recovery. José-Maria Fernández, SF ’10, Director General of the Spanish Treasury, and his team devote a major share of their working life to in-depth analysis and strategic thinking on how to finance the country and the implications for taxpayers in the short, medium, and long terms. “All our thinking translates into a relatively small number of decisions and actions,” Fernández says—actions, of course, that have wide-ranging impact and potentially long-term consequences.

“We raise approximately 240 billion euros a year selling bonds and bills globally to investors while executing only 50 or 60 funding transactions annually,” Fernández adds. “We probably spend 90% of our time designing, evaluating, and revising our financial strategy in light of market, economic, and budgetary conditions. That means only 10% of our activity is devoted to execution.” The equation, he believes, is as it should be.

Strategic thinking should not stop at the doors of the C-suite

Fernández says that although, much of the strategic thinking originates at the more senior levels of the Treasury, “our strategizing doesn’t stop with top executives. It is also our job to promote a culture of research-analyze-evaluate-act and, when necessary, reconsider. If we are successful managers, the process cascades down to different levels of the organization. This enables a much wider group of professionals to generate ideas and contribute insights that help us achieve our goals.”

Everyone at the Treasury, Fernandez says, is expected to be a part of this process. “When you are assigned to a department or a project, we encourage you to apply what you’ve learned and to speak up if you believe we need to explore new options. Having this well-established process gives me a trusted cadre of colleagues, good access to information throughout the organization, and most important, time to think. Without that, I can’t possibly imagine how I could do my job.”