Brainlabs Case Study: Building a finance function May 13th, 2022

Buy and build has been a strong and growing strategy for PE funds over the past five years; a recent survey we conducted showed 38% of PE-backed businesses were embarking on an acquisition-led strategy as a key part of their value creation. Both executing on M&A and integrating businesses are fraught with difficulties – with a recent stat showing 80% of listed company acquisitions do not add value. Here at Finatal, we have worked with funds and portfolio companies on numerous occasions to help ensure the success of the buy and build strategy. We wanted to share a recent case study – for Livingbridge backed Brainlabs to demonstrate how it can be done.

Case study: Brainlabs

Finatal spoke to Olivier de Canson, Chief Financial Officer of Brainlabs, to discuss how he has built out his team to deliver on their strategic growth plans.

The existing team at Brainlabs was led by the CFO with a lean core finance team but with significant gaps across M&A and integration. It had been fit-for-purpose for a business with strong organic growth potential but lacked the varied skillsets and abilities to execute a global buy-and-build play.

The Brief

Brainlabs had expanded significantly over the past 3 years since Livingbridge invested, and with CEO, Dan Gilbert, at the helm, had identified further international growth opportunities. The systems/ processes and infrastructure was starting to creak and the business needed more bandwidth from a corporate development standpoint.

The Solution

Dan approached us to deliver on a rapid search to find the right-quality CFO. Having placed Olivier as the new Group CFO, we had a strong understanding of the standard of finance function he sought to build to support the global expansion strategy. With a background across Apple’s rapidly expanding Emerging Markets division and EQT’s VFS, Olivier had clear expectations of a best-in-class finance function for Brainlabs.

First, we were engaged to hire a full-time Director of Global M&A - someone who could carve out a distinctive M&A function, responsible for delivering the acquisition strategy from origination through to deal execution. Utilising Finatal’s waterfall model, we were able to rapidly build out the team with a Senior M&A Manager and Interim support to increase buy-side bandwidth. Within 4 weeks, Brainlabs had established an M&A function that could successfully drive deals at pace.

Finatal continued to build out the team with an FP&A Director to implement a new and efficient group FP&A structure. With various lines of communication across the function, and more plugging in via new acquisitions across North America and UK, the business needed a single source of truth to deliver regular financial planning and forecasting to the investors and the CEO. With the successful hire of a highly experienced, global professional services candidate, Brainlabs could continue to scale without sacrificing the quality of FP&A on the journey. 

With Brainlabs enhanced capacity across M&A and FP&A, the business was able to drive growth harder than ever before. However, the SLT’s did not want Brainlabs to stand-alone, but rather to integrate companies and to scale into an international offering for their clients. We needed to help Brainlabs prepare for a future as a significantly larger, unified global business. By using market information across other PE buy-and-builds, we helped designed a distinct but separate Integration function.

Finatal built out the team with a Chief Integration Officer with vast experience across Private Equity buy-and-builds. Again, leaning on our waterfall model we were able to successfully hire an Interim Integration Director and full time Integration Finance Manager. Now with focused and dedicated resources, the evolution of Brainlabs’ value creation strategy could be supported. The M&A team, strengthened by an M&A and Integration lead hire, could continue to ramp up their buy-side spree with a clear strategic offering to potential targets.

Along with the dedicated finance function and M&A team, data professionals provided the cornerstone of a fully scalable Brainlabs. This enabled the brand to prepare for the emergence of new technologies. The implementation of SnowFlake Data Warehouse set solid structural foundations to ensure BrainLabs scaled at pace. Not only did this key data hire create and add value, but this prevented further structural issues arising over time.

The Result

With Olivier’s rapid team expansion, the result had two valuable strands of impact. It clearly had a profound effect on the business itself, but it also allowed him to flourish as the CFO Brainlabs hired him to be. By creating a new finance function aligned with both organic and inorganic growth strategies, the balanced support effectively prevents Olivier from being lost in the detail and enables him to keep him focused on the future performance of the business. With increasing demands from investors and an extremely ambitious CEO, it was absolutely critical for him to have capacity to be the true business partner and leader Brainlabs required.

Olivier de Canson

Kudos to Finatal, they understood our needs and ambition very quickly, and have found suitable candidates at the pace required by Brainlabs.

Bottom line, they have been a reliable and trusted partner to facilitate the transformation of the finance function, as expected by the business, the CEO, the Board and the PE investor.

Daniel Gilbert

We were introduced to Finatal through our investors, Livingbridge, as we needed to both bring in a new CFO and a corporate development director with the business having scaled up hugely, and with a potentially transformative acquisition on the table. Both were time-critical hires – while also needing to match the calibre of management we have brought into the business across the board, and to be able to work in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial culture while also satisfying the demands of investors. I was really impressed by the calibre and turnaround of the project.


Finatal collaborate to fully understand the requirements and nuances of each business and, should the diagnostics reveal the need for change, are able to leverage an unparalleled talent pool of senior finance talent. If you would like to discuss the topic further or are interested in hearing more about what Finatal has to offer, don’t hesitate to contact Jack Lane on [email protected]

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