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Episode 28, Anders Liu-Lindberg, Co-Founder Business Partnering Institute

  • Posted 29 Jun 2021
  • Richard Holmes
  • Podcast

Anders Liu-Lindberg is Co-Founder of Business Partnering Institue.

Based over in Europe, Anders is a renowned finance business partner, and a leading advisor to senior finance and FP&A leaders on how to succeed with business partnering.

He is s respected speaker, and he is the co-author of the book “Create value as a finance business partner”. Having worked for large corporations for the majority of his career, he decided it was time to crack the code and business partnering and in 2018, and he co-founded the Business Partnering Institute.

He has nearly 60,000 followers on LinkedIn, and people listen to what he says.

Check out Anders work here https://businesspartneringinstitute.org/

To contact Richard Holmes please call 0403 513 720 or reach out on richardh@hprconsulting.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardholmesfinancerecruiter/

Please note that this has been transcribed by AI/Bots so there may be typos and the occasional strange things happening. Richard Holmes 0:01 Welcome to the numbers people Podcast, where each week we're going to be speaking with some highly regarded senior finance professionals and create experts looking into the ins and outs of what makes finance people and their teams great. The podcast is proudly sponsored by HPR Consulting, a leading executive finance recruitment firm. I'm your host Richard Holmes. Richard Holmes 0:27 In today's episode, we welcome Anders Liu-Lindbergh. Based over in Europe and is a renowned finance business partner, and a leading advisor to senior finance and FP&A leaders and how to succeed with business partnering. He is s respected speaker, and he is the co-author of the book “Create value as a finance business partner”. Having worked for large corporate for the majority of his career, he decided it was time to crack the code and business partnering and in 2018, and he co-founded the Business Partnering Institute. He has nearly 60,000 followers on LinkedIn, and people listen to what he says. Anders Liu-Lindberg 1:03 Anders, How are you? Great to have you on the show. And doing very well that Richard then thanks a lot for having me always appreciate an opportunity to come and share my thoughts when people are willing to listen. Richard Holmes 1:13 We're about to you know, I'm busy you in Denmark. Anders Liu-Lindberg 1:16 Yeah, so I'm in Copenhagen, we have summer coming, I guess it's winter down where you're at. And actually, the weather's turned out nice now. So I just need to enjoy it for as long as the last because she would never really know, Richard Holmes 1:27 I'll be invited on his on the show. Anders came onto my radar a few years ago now. And he was quite prominent on LinkedIn posts, and a lot of articles around finance, business partnering. And here in Australia, that finance business partner term really came around a few years ago. And it's really prominent these days and followed Anders on LinkedIn and connected within a few years ago and just went from the corporate world. And then he moved instead of his own business, the business partner Institute. And I was just saying just before we recorded this, under this got nearly 60,000 followers on LinkedIn. So what he's saying people are listening, good to get a different view in terms of what's happening to the rest of the world. Like we find in Australia, we are a couple of years behind in a lot of contexts from a business point of view. So I thought it'd be a great guest to have on the show and impart his wisdom and explain what he's doing in his business. And then what we can do down here in Australia, Anders Liu-Lindberg 2:15 Thanks for that, we establish the business partner Institute back in 2018. After a few you know, they said one and a half years of conversation between myself and Michael, my co-founder to say, there's an opportunity here for finance in general, to drive the value creation agenda, rather than just the best minimize the cost of finance agenda, which you really had seen in the past 10 years, you know, offshoring the outsourcing the automation and new systems coming in, was kind of like, you know, this negative downside, some people are losing their job kind of agenda. But we knew that business partnering was a great opportunity for us to come back and say, well, it's not about minimizing cost, it's about creating value. And we as finance professionals have so many opportunities to create value. In fact, we talked about the unfair advantage of finance, because we have commercial acumen, we have analytical capabilities, we have a cost value chain perspective, access to financial, non-financial data, and we have a seat at the table. I mean, who else in the business has that? No one. So we need to leverage this unfair advantage. But we also saw that you know, finance professionals across the world was struggling to actually do this, they were stuck. They knew they had to do it up until the 510 years, nothing really was happening on this agenda here. So we thought, perhaps we can come together and help unlock this potential. And that's what we did. So we found the company. And it's definitely growing, and I think personally was a bit of a start around the pandemic, when it was at its highest. But now, I mean, the market for business partnering is huge, it's growing, and many companies are excited. And I think the best thing that we are seeing is really that companies are willing to invest in their people, not just systems and technology. And I think that is really the trend that we will continue to see for the next 10 years. So it's just a great time to be in finance. Richard Holmes 4:05 I completely agree with this and listening to the other guests on the show. It's an exciting time to be in finance, like you said, in terms of the breadth of the role we have in finance, it's a good place to be the finance function is evolving, then, as you said, even here in Australia, a lot of companies are realizing it's the people are investing the training development of these finance business partners. And that's where it's going to be so it's is an interesting and exciting time. Anders Liu-Lindberg 4:27 Absolutely. But of course, we have to recognize that it's hard to succeed with a business partner, right? Because it is just different from sitting being an analyst crunching some numbers behind the screen where you know, you always send the email or the report comes in some sort of dashboard to whoever needs and you don't have this engagement on tax with people, right. So you can generate a lot of insights information that people don't know but can help make better decisions, but you're not good at delivering this insight to them. So you're not influencing their decision making. If you don't have influence, you will have no impact. You will not be able to drive this value creation agenda. Right. So that's why we say return our business partner we say insights types influence equal to impact, you know, drive performance management, optimizing the business. And so I think finance people are generally quite good at that. Yes, we can always do better. And with analytics and data science and all these fancy things coming in, we will generate even deeper and better insights. But it's the influence bit where we have struggled without naturally relationship builders, without naturally great communicators. And we don't naturally have a, say even a curiosity about what's going on in business, be curious about the numbers. But honestly, the numbers tell you nothing. If you don't know what's going on, in business, by itself, these are three components that we really have to work hard on as science professionals to be great business partners. And that's, of course, also where we have our my main focus is really to, to help these finance professionals become the SE influencers in their companies, so that they can drive better decision making and strong execution, Richard Holmes 6:01 with their experience. And as I'm working in finance, it's known to be more conservative, and it's more reserved personalities within that function. I mean, from a people point of view, but learning of learning to influence and tell that story. I guess that's the big challenge for what you're trying to achieve for all finance people to kind of break up the shell, and sit in a room with sales and marketing and operations and really kind of have that voice. Anders Liu-Lindberg 6:24 Absolutely. And of course, you know, we've been used to, you know, numbers need to be 99, if not 100%, correct, right. Otherwise, we have done a very poor job. Yes, correctness and accuracy is important that what numbers need to be high quality, we don't want to go to the market with accounting misstatement correction or something like that, right. You know, if you look, internally, I think we need to move a lot more to the infamous or famous 8020 principle 80% is good enough to have a conversation, if you want to stop 90% accuracy all the time, we get where we are right now, which is even better as business partners, spending up to 70% of their time, just crunching the numbers and doing some reporting. I'm not saying it's not needed, definite 70% of the time, you have no time partner. And if you have no time for partnering, you will not become good at it and reflect on myself my own journey. And you know, I wish I had become good at it sooner. But it took me 10 years, from my first heard about business partnering until I was performing business partner, things could have been done to shorten that journey. Also, you know, it's not natural for me as a finance professional, either to be a business partner. So I had to learn a lot grew a lot, chance myself a lot. But then when I was there, why he was nice, it was a fantastic feeling to have that impact day when I went to work in the morning. I was always, you know, happy to go to work. But you know, I went to work happily in the morning and thinking, Okay, you know, I'm not going to do my work today. But when I went home, I was more energized than when I came to work. Because it's been such an impactful day with business stakeholders. I was like, wow, can we get this from finance, and oh, now we really driving the agenda. And they were so happy about getting this support from the business partner. So happy just to see if it works, right. I mean, you spent 10 years, and suddenly just clicks, it just works. I mean, there's fantastic feeling. And I really just want to have many more finance professionals across the world, having this feeling this sense, great sense of accomplishment, and you're going to perform to much bigger heights in your role. When you crack this code, Richard Holmes 8:29 I can imagine and just listening to you, then it's interesting for someone like yourself, who took 10 years to finally put all the pieces together. And this is where we need to be. And we hear that here in Australia where people are doing some really good commercial things. But that blend of experience, they're doing a lot of the more manual clunky work and it's taken up a big portion of the role. I mean, from your experience, and is Is there like a perfect kind of finance, business partner duties and responsibilities in terms of where that position should have up because very much here in Australia, finance, business partner, commercial manager, unless it's kind of blurring to one role. It's quite generic, very significantly completed company in terms of their value of finance, business partners and commercial. Anders Liu-Lindberg 9:09 I think the key point is I think many profiles can actually be good business partners, if you tell them exactly what it is and what it takes, because then they can make up their own choice and they will need to do something ever. He is a good business partner spends their time differently. They spend their time working on the key priorities of their stakeholders, not some key finance priorities. You know, as long as we make sure we comply with statutory requirements, and you know, the finance systems works, okay. And the quality is kind of there. We don't need to do more. We no one will praise us or give us a pat on the back if we if our numbers are 99% accurate. I'm not saying it's not important. No one in the business cares, right. They want us to come and help them work on their key priorities, help them meet or beat their targets. That's a great business partner. I think, you know, anyone can do that. Just go to Ask your main business stakeholder. If if it's clear who that is, if it's not clear, you need to figure that out first. Let's say it's clear. Go ask them tomorrow. Hey, you know, I'm curious about you know, your business and what you're doing, you know, what are some of the key priorities you're working on at the moment? Then they'll tell you because people love to talk about what they do, right? I mean, here, we love to talk about what we do, the people that that stuff. So they'll tell you about it, then you ask, okay. So you know, how can I help you sell to those parties that used to getting help from you, but, you know, show me what you can do? And let's talk about it. Right? So the opportunity is there, then you need to become like a problem solver, build that relationship? And you need to, of course, you know, you're still doing some analysis. I mean, there's not that that is not there anymore. It's just a different kind of analysis where you say, what is it my stakeholder needs, you know, analyze, you know, the situation and then come up with some potential solutions. That's what good business partners do, is not so much about the numbers, actually. Richard Holmes 10:55 And it sounds so simple and is just start by asking the basic questions, how can I help, and they'll tell you something, and then that's where you got to focus the value on and this marketing manager or sales director needs this Michigan diploma, it ultimately helps your career as well, isn't it because Anders Liu-Lindberg 11:10 you get respected? Yeah, and I love that you say simple, right? Because business partner is simple. It's just hard to do. Because it's outside of our comfort zone, it's not difficult or complex to understand, go talk to a stakeholder, find out what they're working on, help them deliver successfully on that. And just do it again and again, and your career will blossom, and you will probably come manager, and then you'll help others do the same, then you might become ad or head of finance, or CFO, and then you will help even more do the same. And at the same time, you're just becoming a more and more impactful business partner, because you're going through the ranks as well, right? Go have the conversation, show them what you can do, come up with recommendations, take action and get feedback in terms of is working on a plaque, no simple four step after 10 years in my last row, it worked after three weeks, three weeks in a row. They were telling me Wow, we've never seen this from clients before. Let's do some more of that time. So it is very, very simple. First, you know what you need to do you feel the same relatively comfortable doing it. And that's why we focus so much on giving people simple, practical, actionable tools. So for instance, to have this conversation, the stakeholder we would say, okay, you know, first let's just map down what stakeholders you have, maybe you just have one, maybe you have a few, What's your relationship with them? Do they trust you? Do they like you wash their brand, a few and so on? And then you start up? Okay, who is actually the most important stakeholder? You pick one of them? And you got the conversation? Without three parties? What are those? And your plan for how to solve them? It's that simple. Why aren't companies doing that? Do you think? So? I guess they just have a lot of stuff to work through in terms of you know, they're still working on their final transformation, automation, new platforms, new systems, and tools and whatnot, they're still working on this more digital transformation kind of agenda. But I think if you focus on the people, they will do great work, they will help create more value in the company, and they will free up resources. So you can also fix you know, everything you need to fix on the back end. Because yes, there are always things we can do better on the back end, but you know, take care of people first and then everything else will somehow magically sort of self out. It's fascinating. And this, when you focus on the people rest falls into place. I Richard Holmes 13:23 think it all stems from there's multiple famous quotes about getting that people born function, right, and the rest models. Anders Liu-Lindberg 13:28 And I think you know, the people that gender historically has not been very strong in finance, you know, if we talk about the business partner agenda, like many CFOs, and senior finance leaders has probably been like, pressured by the consulting firms to be forced and whatnot to say, this is something new you need to do. So they did something with almost like with one arm twisted behind their back course that wasn't effective. Now, it's becoming more and more apparent that this is what they need to do. You also see a senior finance leaders losing their jobs, because they're not business partners. It's not no longer enough just to run a tight, efficient ship and finance. You cannot be the CEOs right hand or left hand whatever you want, then just didn't cut it anymore. They need more than just the financial expertise. Yes, that's also important, but they need you to help them make the best possible decision. Now more than ever, it's becoming clearer, that it's the people at the end that we need to focus on more, I think the pandemic has helped, in essence, I mean, we are super busy. We always have to almost have to turn down clients because we don't have enough capacity to help them but running so many learning journeys with different companies to help them become better business partner. We're doing a lot of consulting engagements in terms of bigger organizational projects. That market just wasn't there 510 years ago, but now it's there. It's very strong. There's just a few people I can deliver on this because it also require that you have practical experience. If you've done the role. It's not just a consulting thing. You also have to have done the role because then you know, daily reality, daily struggles that the people you try to help your change. What are they struggling with? Richard Holmes 15:00 Essentially a couple of times on does and we see it now here in the nature of my role where I'm not an extrovert. I'm not like that. It's not me kind of thing. But I've interviewed people throughout my career who are introvert, but they're very good at the job. And it is just about asking the right questions, intelligent questions, like you don't have to start the party or anything like that you can go into and have a chat with anyone, even if you're introverted. I do hear that as a bit of a bit of an excuse. We'd say more shy, reserved people, and what would be your tips for those kinds of people who want to do business partnering, but just be aware? I'm not that personality for you got any tips? Anders Liu-Lindberg 15:34 Yeah. So I mean, I'm an introvert myself, you will not necessarily be energized by everything you need to do to be a good business partner. Certain aspects will energize you, other aspects will not, I think, in most roles, it's like that. So we just need to create awareness around one isn't as part of the role that is not going to energize you to think about it but not energize you is that you also be concerned about, you know, our, is this relationship going to turn out? Are they gonna like me? Are they going to hate me, or they're going to say no, to me, you know, what's going to happen there. So the tips is really to have these simple tools or techniques that will help you win, let me give you an example, which is not the business partner as such, but something I you know, I made networking, a priority of myself learn to be good at networking, was not great about mentoring, and I go into this room of people don't like me, I'm just gonna go to the corner, and you're no stranger to my wife. That's me, right? And I'm sure other people probably listen to this podcast will think the same thing. So I said, I've tried to read it and study it and say, Okay, what can I do to become better at networking, and of course, you will find a lot of information. But what really take the trick for me was this simple thing of finding what's called an open three. So three people in that room having a conversation in a relatively open stance. So what that means is that they probably don't know each other, but they're probably having a good conversation, for whatever reason, they found each other as part of this conversation, you know, be standing there alone in the corner, it's not likely someone's gonna go talk to me, right. And it's not like, I'm gonna go talk to them. So you know, you don't want to find the loner, Help Center, wherever sound you need to get into the game. And to be able to have a conversation, it's very likely that they know each other already maybe even came together. So it's probably more like private conversation, there's going to be difficult to get into, if you find more than three, you know, let's say four, or five or six, it's more like a crowd. And it's most likely that one person is dominating this conversation. So they're really the conversation, the center of the conversation. And if you're lucky, maybe you can get it running, but you don't expect to really be locked in. And if the three you find your stand really close together, maybe they also know each other came together to open three, I used that trick. And suddenly, networking just became a lot easier. I scoured the room, I found what the heck do we create? Let me just go there and say hi. And yes, it's still, you know, outside my comfort zone, but I did it. And it worked. No small tricks. It's same business partner told you about the simple model we use, we're going to have the conversation before, right? You have simple, easy to understand and apply models like that. introverts will be great business partners, right. And because they have that reflection, I think they can ask great questions, completely agree on this. I Richard Holmes 18:09 mean, I know a lot of interesting people in the brilliant, this is perception. business partners have to be big personalities and extroverts in command, the room kind of thing. I don't think that's the case at all, I think you can actually get the position of the balance business partner, even if you are a bit more shy, reserved the interview personality, Anders Liu-Lindberg 18:25 unfortunately, of course, you do see and then many job descriptions that they do want extroverted people, when they look for business partner shine, because they feel well, you know, you have to like going out there talking to people and doing all that stuff, don't necessarily have to like things to be good at it, you just have to be comfortable with it. And then of course has to be enough things in the right role that you're going to like, I guarantee you, any finance professionals out there, introvert or extrovert, they will like the impact that they can have, they can be like me having more energy when I go home from work than when I came because I impact make people happy. I help them solve their goals and their priorities, right? If that's the goal, we can be happy about, even though there will be certain elements that is still uncomfortable for me today. Right? If I had to go into a new business partner role, you'll still be uncomfortable with me to go have the conversation. But I will know exactly how to run the conversation, what I would want to get out of it, and how I could help that person. I can execute very, very well. Richard Holmes 19:22 So I have the confidence. It's never as bad as what you anticipated. The first time you meet, you're speaking to that stakeholder you've never spoken to before and asking those kind of questions. Probably in your own head, you're thinking Oh, he's gonna hate me and look foolish. I'm sure that wasn't the case. We touched on the future of violence. And I think finance across the globe, not just here in Australia very much is in that finance, business partnering data analytics. So I think it's a kind of a crucial tool to have if you're making a career in finance. If you don't have that. Obviously, there's going to be niche technical roles all the time, but I think it's a crucial skill set to have. Anders Liu-Lindberg 19:54 Absolutely. I think you know, if you can do the business partnering aspect, you can be good Fast professional anywhere in the world, you see these roles popping up all over the place. You know, sometimes it's a multinational companies that are bringing it into the local context. In most of the major markets in the world, this is also coming locally. I don't have the numbers on this, right. But if you were to, let's say, every six months, maybe just do a search on open business partner roles on LinkedIn, for instance, I'm sure you would see a huge growth. This is just one war. And yes, to some extent, you know, it's a fashion thing, right? They were nice to have business partners. I think we're at the wave now, where these roles actually are going to count. Senior finance leaders are investing the people, not just Richard Holmes 20:35 the tools and the tech, with your knowledge as well. I mean, do you see particular regions countries have more of an appetite for business partnering? Or is Europe more advanced and say, Asia, Anders Liu-Lindberg 20:45 I think certain parts of Europe, but definitely more advanced? Look at where I'm at in Denmark, I think Denmark is one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of business partnering, UK, certainly also up there, because they probably started that movement in the first place. But if you go to versus us, don't really see it. And I think, first part of it is, is it a role? Or is it just an activity slash mindset is first and foremost activity or mindset, and then sometimes the role, but you don't see finance business partner roles, for instance, in the US military is all about the fpn, a financial planning and analysis. And by all means, they should do business partnering, I don't see it as a big theme there. So I think that's going to come with full force in the next five to 10 years. But if you look at, let's say, you know, I think Southeast Asia and Australia also come up and see that I think those are really popping up now in South Africa as well. So I think there's one of the least the old Commonwealth countries and these they're really coming strong with this is just a big global trend vanished, it's gonna continue to grow significantly year over year, I turn to knowledge, which is a good time to get on board to train if you're not already there. And if you're under pain, you will become a great one, because that's the route to the CFO suite. Now, you know, it's not going through the CPA and your answer ranks anymore. Richard Holmes 21:59 We've certainly seen a trend here in Australia last few years, where CFO, senior finance people are going into that CEO, MD role. They tended to go out to eat stillbirths to a certain extent to sales, people who I think is Yeah, they play such a big part by these people in the business like you touched on before it's taken. If you want to invest in yourself and have that confidence to ask those questions. I mean, the world is your oyster, Anders Liu-Lindberg 22:21 and actually think that their business partners can be great salespeople now have, you know, gone to the other side of the table, become an entrepreneur in my own company? Of course, we are still small by any means, right? We are we are probably going from a startup to a scale up here in the next year. What I found is so I've never done any selling in my life first, right? I mean, never ever, I think I went once on a sales call with another guy, but he was just at the end of it. So we really just had a lunch, right? Can I sell? I'm not sure. But what I found is that, you know, it's not this cold calling kind of thing, or this used car salesman that people associate with selling, it's relationship building. And what is business partnering is relationship building. So if you're a good business partner, in your in most industries, almost bound to be a good salesperson as well. That's key, you know, you're probably also a good candidate for becoming an MD of the company or something like that. I think it's so natural that we'll see for CFOs I would not say that the CFO is going to be the route to the CEOs, but I think we're gonna see more CFO soon. And that's also what you're saying, Richard going in that direction, either just out in the business, or taking the top spot? Richard Holmes 23:26 No, it's a fascinating marketplace, and nothing, it's only going to go in one direction. And we've touched on if you're interested in it, and you've got the confidence when you can really make a really great way in finance, what advice would you give them into the younger people can run through finance in the listening to these podcasts and hopefully, pick on your website, which I want to give everyone later. We're a good couple of tips from you know, even Anders Liu-Lindberg 23:44 though there's, you know, the change and transformation is still there, I think early on is very important that you still find some sort of way to get and understand the basics. You know, at the end of the day, you know, there are still some debit credit happening, there are still some classic financial processes. But as automation takes over more and more of that you're going to be further and further removed from these processes and you know, the handicraft offerings and accounting, I think, you know, mid to long term will pose kind of a danger to our whole profession. Because we still need to add ground and we still need to add to strengthen the numbers. But if you have absolutely no idea about how the numbers come about, you're going to be faced with lots of challenges because you are going to be asked in times Okay, so why is the number like this? And if you can't answer no then dead in the water right? You might not be able to answer this but definitely be able to go back and figure out so find a way to get the basics I still think there's value in you know working in a bank for the for the first two, three years of your career and he has just got out of different clients and see what they do and learn a bit about it and you know, go to an inventory account and find out how to do that. You will learn some basics that will be invaluable for you are thinking later on that because you should be an accountant by trade and do the debit credit, but you just need to know how it works. And it's difficult to find those roles and companies nowadays because it has been automated outsourced, so Find a way to get the basics in the first two, three years, it might not be very exciting or fantastic work. But it will help you a lot as you grow. Once you then have to get into an analyst role, actually you learn more about how to actually analyze, use the numbers. And then you know, in those five years, you all have the foundation to start in your business partner journey, get that basics first, that foundation first, and go into the business partner track. Richard Holmes 25:26 I think that's really good advice as well getting the basics down, making sure you know what you're talking about. I mean, though, probably the worst thing you could do is have a chat with non finance stakeholders and not actually know the background of what you're talking about. I think it's that having that natural curiosity, isn't it? How can you add value, Anders Liu-Lindberg 25:41 I started in a role as a controller, controller, and Denmark is not like a controller in the US. So it's like kind of like an entry level job for some at least, and honestly, didn't know much about now. IFRS or accounting standard or anything like that. So I was sort of like just skating this surface. And people were coming to me asking questions that I had no idea, right, get the basics. And then then you can do all the things you want to do have Richard Holmes 26:03 the audience as well. Anders used to work for Merkcs Shipping, which is a huge global company in tech. Imagine the finance team would have been fairly decent size and quite a matrix organization. Was it hard to make a name for yourself? Anders Liu-Lindberg 26:14 I don't think it was hard to make a name for yourself as such, right? Because, you know, started in a graduate program. And you know, towards the end of that program, we had the group CFO come in and say, now you need to be business partners, right? Move from the trunk of the car to the driver's seat and help be that coat guy. Right. So you know, all we have heard all these words before. That's what they came up with. So if you could be a business partner, you had a business partner, or I think it was easy to make a name for yourself. The business partner we did back then was really not that good. If I look at it in hindsight, but those few that really did it. Well. Looking back, I don't think I was proud of them back then. They are VPS today, right? Even though they started at the same time as me and I never made it to VP, right. So it was easy to make a name for yourself that you really knew how to do it right away. Richard Holmes 26:55 It's been great to have you on the show. It's always insightful listening to people like yourself, and I'll put all your contact details if you want to reach out to me I know London is very busy at the moment. So we can maybe talk slightly he may come over to this part of the world and do some work. I think your website is business partnering institute.org Is that right? Glasses is bad on LinkedIn to the newsletters. They're having 30,000 fibers by now but they run every week. They say lots of content coming out. So feel free to go back to that Anders Liu-Lindberg 27:21 free to sign up of course and you get a strange email.
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