Thoughts About Successful CFO Hiring

I was recently interviewed by Jack Sweeney for his podcast series called CFO Thought Leader. This was the second time I was interviewed by Sweeney, and I enjoyed the conversation. I believe you may find the conversation interesting and relevant.

Here are some of the things that were discussed. (You can find the listen to, download or find the iTunes link below)

  • Helping companies hire their next CFO with the correct chemistry for the company.
  • Key reasons a company needs to work with an executive search firm to hire their next CFO.
  • The courtship process in hiring a new CFO.
  • Young CFOs who are “Jumping the curve”.

“Patience is a virtue, and CFOs need to be virtuous.”

“Today’s CFO is all encompassing. CFOs have to be involved and responsible for everything. As CFO, you need to know what you can and cannot do. The importance of the complete finance team allows you to be as successful as possible.”

  • Private Equity firms and the influence they have over the placement of CFOs in mid-size market.

“The CFO is a significant part of the valuation of a company.”

  • The CFO career path – jumping to larger ship vs. niching down.
  • CFO Hiring – from within the same industry or outside the industry?

If any of these topics are of interest to you, you will find this podcast to be worth listening to. (23 minutes)

Which comments resonate most with you? Let me know what you think below, or privately by email.

Download | Subscribe to CFO Thought Leader Podcast series on iTunes | Link to the CFO Thought Leader web page with more details about this podcast


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


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.


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
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.

What a CFO should read every day

CFOs are busy people.

Yet, to be the best CFO they can be, they need to be on top of items that matter to them and the company they work for.

Having written a book targeting the Chief Financial Officer, I am learning a lot about the reading habits of these senior finance executives. Out of all the media that is available today, email is still the most comfortable media for the CFO. So, to keep on top of the important topics in the CFO world, senior finance executives should get a daily update of relevant news and articles.Daily News

Here are my recommendations of emails that a CFO should receive daily.

FEI Daily- brought to you by Financial Executives International, this compendium started this year and points to articles on the web that are relevant to the CFO, as well as fresh content created by FEI itself. Visit their website, or sign up here.

SmartBrief for CFOs – The SmartBrief series of updates targets different readers daily, and their SmartBrief for CFOs is popular. SmartBrief is not a mainstream old school media property, but links through to articles of relevance to the Chief Financial Officer and other senior finance executives. I personally like their polls on hot topics. You can sample their report for today here, or sign up here.

CFO Daily Alert – Published by CFO Magazine, the grey lady of CFO journalism, this daily alert points to their relevant topics covered in their magazine and website. As one of the key content creators for the Chief Financial Officer, knowing what is important to CFO Magazine can allow you to further your own point of view on important CFO related topics. Join their mailing list here.

Being on top of what is happening in the world is important to the CFO and other senior finance executives.

What do you need to read every day?


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?

Presentation Links: CFO Success #MDSUMMIT

On June 16, 2014 I will be presenting at the MACPA Innovation Summit in Baltimore, MD.

In the presentation, I refer to a number of items for further reading and reference.

Whether you are in attendance at the conference or not, I believe you will find these links of interest.

If you have any questions, please let me know.




If you attended the MACPA Innovation Summit and would like to receive my new blog posts in your email, click the Sign Me Up! button in the right column.


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.