What I learned at the Bank of America Merrll Lynch Conference – Treasury in a Connected World

I am pleased that I was able to attend this wonderful conference given by BoA Merrill for their clients. I enjoyed having the opportunity to be the first speaker at the conference, and was honored that many of the following speakers referred to some of my remarks throughout the day and a half.

You can read about what I talked to the audience about in the press release issued post-conference by BoA Merrill, as well as a summary of the conference.

I wanted to share with you is what I learned attending this conference.

Capitalism – Compassionate capitalism is alive and well. Listening to Peter Markell, CFO at Partners Healthcare Systems discussing how his organization is making money helping people was truly inspiring. My personal beliefs include the idea that making money is good, and doing good makes money. It was nice to hear this confirmed by Peter.

Talent – Talent management, including within finance, as well as at the executive level, is a continuous challenge. Winning companies have the talent challenge figured out.

Personal Brand – Finance executives care about their personal brand. Throughout the conference, people came up to me to discuss their LinkedIn Profile and what they could do to improve their brand. This conference reconfirmed to me that too many finance executives are not sure what to do about their personal brand and therefore ignore it until it is too late.

Digital currency – I finally had an opportunity to understand bitcoin, how it works, the risks as well as the opportunity to change and improve treasury, banking and business payment paradigms.

Latin America – I listened to and spoke with a number of people within the bank and companies about the opportunities and challenges of doing business in Latin America. I walked away with a better appreciation for some of the operating, talent, cash management and cross cultural management issues that companies working in this exciting area face.

I would like to thank the team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the opportunity to share some of my knowledge with the attendees, learn new and important information, reconfirm some of my core beliefs, and most importantly, meet wonderful people who enjoy making a difference.

Which one of these points resonate with you?

Together, CFOs and CEOs Create A “Can Do” Culture

Guest Blog by Shane Berry, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global Client Group, Global Corporate Payments, American Express Company

You can also read my related blog – CFOs should be more confident when dealing with their CEO

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To anyone perpetuating the misconceptions that CFOs are accountants, bean counters or number crunchers – among many other outdated stereotypes – it’s time to put them to rest. To the CFO community, these are all but laughable characterizations, reminiscent of a time when CFOs only played an advisory role to the CEO.

Over the last 10 years, the quintessential CFO has been completely redefined. The modern CFO has become the CEO’s strategic partner, emerging as an action-oriented leader with the power and insights to make big decisions.

Countless CFOs have embraced this grab the bull by the horns mentality, resulting in a dynamic role where the CFO is taking action and forging initiatives that have historically been left to other executives, such as the COO or CEO.

Carol Tomé of Home Depot, for example, has championed a number of strategic initiatives since the early 2000s. She slowed new store openings from one every 48 hours to two per year in order to invest in technology, employees and operating efficiencies. Similarly, Mark Loughridge at IBM is credited with simplifying IBM’s message and developing a clear vision for the company to help investors and customers understand what IBM’s future would hold after selling its PC business. Last year, Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead took on additional responsibilities as group president of Global Business Services, expanding his role. In this new position, he assumed duties that include overseeing global financial, technology and supply chain operations.

Figure 8 - Amex report June 2014

Copyright © 2014 CFO Publishing LLC

As these power moves continue, the dynamic between the CEO and CFO is changing significantly. According to the seventh annual American Express/CFO Research Global Business & Spending Monitor, 92% of CEOs rely on CFOs to be either an influential or determining factor in operational decisions for the company.

Traditionally, CFOs would step in at a much later point in the decision-making process, acting as an ad hoc advisor. However, given the unique level of understanding CFOs have of the company, it makes sense that CEOs would tap CFOs as a key decision maker, or at least maintain a higher level of integration.

Since 2008, this relationship has really kicked into high gear. Still shaking off some of the post-recession paranoia, companies are hyper-aware of the need to balance costs in what is still considered an uncertain economic environment. So, in an effort to make every dollar count, CFOs are heading up strategy themselves, and are now weighing in very early on in the decision-making process.

In our research, we found that companies increasingly view CFOs as a catalyst that moves the business forward. When CEOs and CFOs come together, it promotes a “can do” culture within the company, as they are able to troubleshoot and align on the best course of action in real time. Looking to the future, CFOs will continue to work with CEOs more closely and stretch past their normal functional boundaries in order to add new value across the business.

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I would like to thank Shane for his contribution to this blog.

You can view Shane’s LinkedIn Profile, or read Shane’s Bio here.

The CFO & CHRO: The discussion continues. Listen in.

On Wednesday August 13, 2014, I was interviewed on DriveThruHR by Nisha Raghavan.

In our discussion, we touched on a few points about the relationship between Human Resources and Finance. Here are some of the topics Nisha and I discussed.

  • Who should HR professionals report to? The CEO or CFO?
  • Discussed CHRO Moves and CFO Moves and the difference between the visibility CFOs and CHROs get.
  • Discussed Samuel’s new book, and what it says about the importance of the CFO having a strong relationship with the CHRO.
  • HR and Finance are critical support functions that need to work together to make the business successful. A deeper discussion follows on how HR and Finance can work well together.
  • How CHROs can benefit from a close relationship with the CFO, as well as how the CFO can benefit from a close relationship with HR. A business partner approach is very effective.
  • Where should companies find finance talent? Everywhere. The right senior finance talent is much harder to find and attract. Companies cannot afford to hire the wrong CFO. There is not only the cost of hiring wrong, but companies are missing the upside of hiring a great CFO as well.

Go ahead and listen in to the entire conversation:

Internet Radio with DriveThruHR on BlogTalkRadio
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Samuel’s CFO Blog is published by Samuel Dergel, CFO and Finance Executive Search Specialist and Finance Executive Coach.

The Accidental CFO

I am very fortunate to be involved with the careers of senior finance executives, whether I’m hiring them for my clients, coaching current and future Chief Financial Officers, following their careers and sharing their moves with the world, or impacting people just like you with my blogs and my CFO book.

I see, speak with and come across many focused senior finance executives that plan and prepare their career to be in the right place at the right time who are ready to become CFO for the first time. 

Yet a number of senior finance executives become CFOs by accident. A typical scenario I have seen is ‎where a company CFO leaves (this is usually unplanned for by the company), and the CEO and Board need to make a quick decision as to what to do to fill their CFO spot. In these situations, they decide (again, without much planning and foresight), to make one of their senior finance executives the new Chief Financial Officer.

As someone who helps companies hire the best CFO for their needs, my opinion is that this is not always the best solution for the company. However, these are companies that do not have a business relationship with me (yet), so they haven’t asked me for my opinion. I’m not saying that this is a bad solution. In fact, it could be a great solution for the company. I am saying that the probability is that if they haven’t done any proper succession planning for this important role, they may be making a strategic and costly error by hiring the wrong person as CFO.

Whatever the situation for the company, it is up to the newly promoted CFO to make sure that the company made the right choice, if only so that this new CFO can truly benefit from this unplanned career opportunity.

Here is some advice for the senior finance executive that finds themselves as a newly appointed, yet accidental, CFO.

[You will see links to previous blog posts that touch on these subjects. For a more comprehensive overview of how these subjects relate to the success of a CFO, I recommend reading my book, Guide to CFO Success]

Relationship Management – This is the biggest area of change for the new CFO. Whatever your role was prior to your ascension to the CFO throne, you now have to deal with new relationships.

Plan – Too many senior finance executives I have spoken with that have been promoted to the CFO chair, when asked how their role has changed since their promotion, tell me that their job hasn’t changed much. This people are missing a critical opportunity. You must plan for any new role as CFO. You also must know what is expected from a real CFO.

Lonely – Now that you’re finally CFO, you will understand what it means to be lonely at the top. You should prepare for it, and find ways of managing this new experience.

Development – You may not have planned to become CFO so soon, or at all. But now that you are CFO, what are you doing to further your development to become the best CFO you can be? In my book, I recommend that CFOs negotiate a Professional Development spending account that can allow them to pay for the courses, coaching and conferences they need to become a better and more productive CFO.

Coaching – I find that the Chief Financial Officers that I work with in executive coaching are motivated to become even better CFOs. I truly believe that most CFOs would benefit from having a confidential confidant and coach to help them better focus, improve and plan for their success. For a new CFO who didn’t plan to become one so quickly, if at all, having an executive coach can make a big difference on the way to become a successful CFO for the company your work for today, and to your future employers as well.

If you are an accidental CFO, or may find yourself in this position one day, take these recommendations to heart. You may be fortunate to find yourself in the CFO chair, but do not squander this wonderful opportunity.

CFO: Your Best Opportunity to Impact Your Organization

Yes. I’m biased when it comes to this conversation.

But I’m not the only one that thinks this.

Numerous CFO research studies, surveys, roundtables, panel discussions and webinars bring up the talent topic again and again.

Talent is a challenge for the CFO.

I have had a successful speaking circuit this past spring, including panel discussions in New York and Toronto, webinars to diverse groups of finance professionals (CPA Canada and APQC), and presentations in Washington and Baltimore. The talent conversation keeps coming up again and again.

I even received this report from Deloitte in my email this morning. Here is what they have to say on the subject:

“Talent availability—and costs. Finding and developing the right talent is invariably a top agenda item for transitioning CFOs. In fact, when we ask CFOs what they would like their legacy to be, a large number actually talk about leaving a sustainable organization that can foster finance talent. To get there means identifying people not only with the necessary skill sets, but also intangibles—such as curiosity and the ability to team—that will help finance become a better business partner. It comes at a cost, though, in terms of developing effective performance management systems, compensation systems, training programs, and coaching. And while human resources should be the natural support organization in all these areas, CFOs often find they have to rely on their own teams to do the work. Still, without the right people in place, there are bigger costs: the inability to execute on a CFO’s critical initiatives and a lack of good finance ambassadors throughout the organization.”

My CFO Advisors, in my blog earlier this year titled The Sleepless CFO,  listed talent as one of the top 3 things that keep them awake at night.

The CFO Relationship Map (mentioned in previous blogs, and in more detail in Guide to CFO Success), shows that CFOs rely on their Finance Team to support them to become the best CFO they can be. Yet CFOs continue to have challenges with talent.

Talent challenges for the CFO include:

  • Not having the right talent they need today
  • Not having a talent plan for the future
  • Not aligning the talent in the finance team to meet the real needs of the organization
  • Not using career planning to keep, motivate and develop the best finance talent
  • Inefficient or ineffective hiring processes for the talent needed today and tomorrow
  • Not having an effective relationship with HR to positively impact the finance team

Talent is an opportunity for the CFO

Yet, with all these talent challenges, the CFO has a great opportunity make a significant impact. These challenges are not insurmountable, they just need attention.

CFOs that pay attention to these issues, even if not getting perfect scores, are in a position to have a significant impact on their personal success, the success of the people that work for them, and the entire organization.

CFO: What is your biggest finance talent opportunity?

CFOs should be more confident when dealing with their CEO

The Chief Financial Officer is always concerned about what their Chief Executive Officer thinks. And too often, they believe that their CEO does not take their input as seriously as they would like them to.

Well, CFO, here is some research that shows you should have more confidence in yourself.

Figure 8 - Amex report June 2014

Copyright © 2014 CFO Publishing LLC

According to recent research from American Express and CFO Research, “CEO-level executives in the survey tend to give more weight to their CFOs’ input than even their CFOs themselves recognize.”

To summarize, 92% of CEOs believe that you (the CFO) are either an influential or determining factor in helping them come to strategic and operational decisions, while only 77% of CFOs feel that they have that same impact on their CEOs.

As I have discussed before in this blog and in my book, the relationship between the CFO and CEO is a significant key to the success of a CFO.

You may be more successful than you think.

BlueSteps Interview – Executive Search Consultant Q&A: Guide to CFO Success

I was recently interviewed by Bluesteps, a service of The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), on my recent book, Guide to CFO Success.

Here is an excerpt from the interview. To read the interview in its entirety, please click here.

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BlueSteps chats with Samuel Dergel, Executive Search Consultant at Stanton Chase International, who recently published Guide to CFO Success.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with the AESC and BlueSteps about the CFO role and your new book, Guide to CFO Success. Can you tell us about the work you do at Stanton Chase International?
 
I work in executive search, with a focus on the Office of Finance. Working across the United States and Canada, as part of our CFO and Financial Executive Practice, I help companies hire their next Chief Financial Officer, and work with CFOs to build a finance team that will ensure their success. In addition to working with CFOs and other Financial Executives, I do executive coaching.
 
In your book, you talk about the reality of the CFO role vs. what the CFO role is perceived to be. How do you define the CFO role?
 
The role of the Chief Financial Officer is a critical one for all organizations. The Board and the CEO set the expectations for the CFO, and it is important for the CFO to deliver on these expectations. In essence, the role of the CFO is whatever the company deems it to be.
 
Guide to CFO Success focuses on all stages of the CFO’s career, from searching for a new executive job to building out her team. Which career stages are most CFOs unprepared for when managing their careers?
 
Career transition. CFOs may be well trained to be great CFOs, but no Chief Financial Officer has been trained to become a CFO in Transition. My experience shows that CFOs who are focusing on their career at the same time as their CFO role for their employer are at an advantage over those that just give 110% to their employer. CFOs who continue to develop themselves and network properly throughout their career minimize the chances that they will ever be in transition, or, if they end up in between opportunities, their network will quickly activate to their advantage.

Other questions answered in this interview include:

What has changed about the CFO role in the last 5-10 years? How have long-standing CFOs adapted to these changes?

In your book, you discuss in transition CFOs and the best ways to cope with searching for a new position. What advice do you have for CFOs who are currently in transition?

How can a CFO candidate best present himself to get noticed by executive recruiters in today’s marketplace?

In your book, you highlight the importance of “critical early wins” for a newly hired CFO. What should a new CFO focus on during the first few days and months on the job?

A major theme in your book focuses on the importance of focusing on one’s own career even when happily employed. Why is it important for CFOs to focus on both their career and their employer?

Do you have any recommendations for CFOs who have difficulty finding the time to focus on their career while they’re employed?

One unique thing about your book is that you focus on the CFO as a leader rather than the CFO as the technical, number cruncher. A significant part of being a leader is maintaining strong relationships. Which relationships do most CFOs find to be the most difficult and what recommendations do you have for CFOs to navigate those rocky relationships?

What changes should CFOs prepare for in the next 5-10 years? What new skills might they need? What will they need to be able adapt to in the workplace?

To read the interview in its entirety, please click here.

25 Quotes from Guide to CFO Success

A number of my followers are excited about the release of my upcoming book, Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals in the United States and Canada on March 31, 2014. (Available in the United Kingdom on April 9, 2014)

While you may have to wait a little longer to get your copy of the book, I extracted quotes from the book I thought might wet your appetite.

If you find you find these quotes relevant and interesting, you can let others know about the book by:

    • Sharing the Slideshare presentation on social media
    • Sharing your favorite quote on social media
    • Recommending the book to someone who would appreciate reading it.

Stay tuned for further updates, including speaking engagements and book signings.

Thank you for your continued support,

Samuel

The Sleepless CFO

Being Chief Financial Officer can be stressful. The responsibility that the CFO bears for the company they work for is not a 9 to 5 job. Most CFOs I have met and spoken with agree that the role takes up most of the hours they are awake, and even some of the hours they should be sleeping.Couple In Bed With Husband Suffering From Insomnia

So what keeps the CFO awake in 2014?

To find out, I reached out to my CFO Advisory Group. My CFO Advisors were instrumental in providing me with relevant and realistic input as I wrote my upcoming book. Guide to CFO Success: Leadership Strategies for Corporate Financial Professionals is published by Wiley & Sons, and will be available at all fine bookstores end of March 2014.

I recently asked my CFO Advisors what top their top 3 concerns that keep them awake at night. After reviewing their responses, here are the top 3 current issues that are keeping CFOs from getting a good night sleep.

#3 – Team

CFOs are worried about their team. Some CFOs are concerned about how to continue to grow and motivate their staff. Others are losing sleep worried about retaining the staff they need or dealing with the aftermath of unforeseen resignations. There are some CFOs who are unsure of how they will succeed in acquiring and developing the new talent they need to make their team even better.

Regardless of the type team based challenges facing the CFO, they know that they can only be successful if their team is strong enough to support them. When the finance team is not giving the CFO what she needs to succeed, this can cause anxiety and sleeplessness for even the most experienced CFO.

#2 – Growth

Growth can be an issue for many CFOs. Or, rather, the lack of growth is the real issue. Most for-profit companies define success as making more money, and for the Chief Money Counter, growth drives corporate financial success. It is the Key Performance Indicators of this growth that informs the CFO if the company will reach their targets or not.

When companies are continually growing their revenue and profit, all is good. Few companies though, do this regularly and consistently. Financial success for most organizations can only come when sales rise and profitability continues an upward trend. For the CFO, who knows they are king when the results are good, and the court jester when the results aren’t, losing sleep over growth is understandable indeed.

#1 – Cashflow

Cash is King. The ultimate responsibility of whether there is enough cash to do what needs to get done rests with the Chief Financial Officer (even when their team does the technical work). CFOs are concerned with cash from all sides, whether they are collections issues, access to capital and lending or how to make decisions about allocating cash in the most effective way.

Cash is, by far, the most common issue that is keeping my CFO Advisors awake at night. What is interesting about this response is that cash was a concern for most of my CFO Advisors, yet they all come from different industries and company sizes. It seems that cash issues are a challenge in most, if not all companies. While the type of cash challenges will certainly change based on the situation facing a company and its industry, most companies, and therefore most CFOs, are anxious and losing sleep over cash.

What is keeping you awake at night?

Samuel’s 2013 Recap + Top Ten Blogs of 2013

2013 was an interesting year for the Chief Financial Officer. I find it fascinating that the office of the CFO continues to receive more attention from the general business press, vendors trying to make inroads in to the C-suite, and from CFOs themselves that are turning to social media to get feedback on issues where they used to feel lonely. I believe that 2014 will continue on these trends, and I have a feeling that there will be a major trend change in 2014 for CFOs (Stay tuned).

2013 was a very interesting year for me. The highlight of my year was putting together my upcoming book, Guide to CFO Success. It was truly a yearlong process. I started putting the proposal together at the beginning of the year, which led to getting my book deal signed with Wiley. I then created and developed my CFO Advisory Group for my book. These 87 CFOs answered a weekly survey over 14 weeks and gave me (and you) input and anecdotes to support CFO success. I found the writing of the book one of the most challenging professional projects I have ever faced, and can say (after the fact) that it was an amazing personal growth experience. As December and 2013 wraps up, the book is in final production.

Click here to get your own holiday card from Samuel!

With Guide to CFO Success taking up a big portion of my time, I was not able to write as many new blog posts in 2013. Many of my top blogs viewed this year were written in previous years. The power of Google drives people who are interested in these topics. The topics and information in some of these popular blogs have been further developed in my upcoming book because of the interest in these CFO subjects. Stay tuned for new blog postings in 2014.

2013 was a very busy year for CFO Moves, my weekly blog covering CFO hires and unhires in the USA, Canada and the UK. I continue to be impressed by the feedback I get from the people following these blogs, and am grateful that people appreciate the work that goes in to preparing them every week.

2014 looks to be shaping up to be a wonderful year for me and my CFOs. The book will be coming out in March. I am scheduled to present at the AICPA CFO Conference in May. I had some very interesting end of year conversations relating to my upcoming book, and as these things develop, I will certainly keep you in the loop.

Wishing you and your family the very best for the holidays, and a prosperous and successful 2014!

Samuel’s Top 10 Blog of 2013

10) Podcast: Becoming a world-class CFO and Finance team: What it takes, why now, and who’s made it?

9) Why do CFOs Leave?

8) 5 Most Popular Names for CFOs (2013 Edition)

7) Road Map to Successful CFO Relationships

6) Different companies need different CFOs

5) Negotiating your CFO Employment Contract

4) CFOs: When interviewing for your next role, make sure you have one of these

3) Presentation Links: The Road to CFO

2) CFOs: Do you want to become a Controller? This CFO did just that.

1) The First 90 Days of a New CFO

If you’d like to see previous year’s top blogs, click here and here.

Do you have any topics that you would like addressed in 2014? Let me know by sending me a message on LinkedIn or commenting below!

Samuel