Liautaud Alumnus and CFO of AUDI AG Receives UIC Alumni 5 Award

Axel Strotbek, CFO of AUDI AG and 2013 recipient of the UIC Alumni 5 Award, will speak with students this Friday, October 11, from 2:30-4:00pm in 605 Student Center East.  Mr. Strotbek is a 1991 MBA alumnus of UIC Liautaud. This event is free for College of Business Administration students, but registration is required to attend. Seats are limited. See the full listing of UIC 2013 Alumni Five Award Recipients by clicking here.
Axel Strotbek Steers Audi AG’s Financial Success
-Blog post written by Sara Langen-
When Axel Strotbek MBA ’91 was at UIC, the world changed. As the international student sat in front of his TV in Chicago in 1989, he watched his German countrymen tear down the Berlin Wall.
“It was a wonderful time,” he remembers. “It felt strange and very emotional because I had been to West Berlin many times and I had relatives in Eastern Germany my whole life, and all of a sudden it was gone.”
The nation he returned to was much different from the one the industrial engineering student left after receiving a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service to pursue an MBA in the U.S. Unification brought new economic opportunities to his home country, and by the time Strotbek graduated from UIC, he had job offers for 10 of the 11 positions he had applied for.
It was part rational decision making, part gut instinct that led him to choose the Volkswagen Group—a move that has propelled Strotbek to the top of the German automotive industry, where he now serves as chief financial officer and is a member of the Board of Management for Finance and Organization at Audi AG.
Throughout his career, Strotbek has piloted numerous businesses within Volkswagen, including the company’s China operations. As executive vice president for finance from 2004-07, he helped make the Chinese subsidiary profitable again after its market share had fallen 50 percent.
His success there led Volkswagen to select Strotbek to head up Audi’s finances in 2007, just before the global economic crisis blindsided the auto industry. But once again, he was in the right place at the right time. Thanks to his instincts, Audi continued to succeed while many competitors logged losses.
“Audi is run like a big family business—very fast decisions and a very special spirit,” Strotbek says. “It’s very technology-driven and always progressive in ideas.”
It was this flexible nature that allowed Audi to develop a crisis management plan that focused on expanding again as soon as possible. As a result, Audi made moderate reductions to its infrastructure investment and overhead while increasing product investment, Strotbek explains.
“We had some backfall, but we never had a loss,” he recalls. “We had a [profit] margin that some other companies are happy to have in regular days.”
Strotbek’s expert handling of the crisis launched him to the forefront of world economic discourse as an in-demand speaker and participant in the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
But the biggest reward for the CFO is being a leader in an industry that he loves.
“For people, cars are an emotional product because you can drive it, you can love it. It’s the third largest investment in everybody’s life,” he says. “The motivation comes from the product. If you love cars, there’s nothing that can motivate your business life like this one.”