When the prominent US financial services firm Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2008, the implications were felt right across the world. As a result, 2009 proved to be a difficult year for many businesses. This included the Europe-based automotive and industrial company Schaeffler AG, which was in need of some critical changes. Klaus Rosenfeld, the former CFO of Dresdner Bank, was brought on as CFO and tasked to optimise the corporate and capital structure of the group. After achieving success through the implementation of several complex transactions, he was then temporarily appointed CEO while also holding onto the CFO position. In June 2014, Rosenfeld was officially given the CEO role. In October 2015, Schaeffler became publicly listed.
“I started with the group in a very difficult time,” Klaus recalls. “My key competencies as a former banker were instrumental in getting the company’s corporate and capital structure back on track after the Continental AG takeover [!in!] and post the significant automotive financial crisis that happened thereafter. One of the key reasons for me accepting the role as CEO was the fact that Schaeffler is a great company with an outstanding operational business. I saw a great opportunity to develop this business further.
“I had the chance to really understand the company during my years as CFO. Although I am not an engineer I had my concept ready, I had my ideas, and I knew what I felt needed to be changed. We are on a very good track to bring this company forward. From my point of view what really matters is performance. It’s about strategic direction and clear leadership from the top. That is what motivates me every day.”
Following his appointment as CEO Klaus had 4 key areas to concentrate on. First he rolled out a long-term strategy called ‘Mobility for Tomorrow’ to lead the organisation forward in one common direction. Next he created a more modern and globally-minded corporate structure, while also ensuring the right people were on board to lead and live the changes. The third element was to initiate a cultural change and instill a performance-oriented approach built on 3 core areas: transparency, trust, and team work. Finally, he incorporated several group-wide strategic projects into Schaeffler’s initiative program ‘One Schaeffler’.