The CSO, CFO Tally: Bean Counting Is Out
Except for Troy Alstead, chief financial officer for Starbucks. But more about him later.
It is more important to see how the CFO role has evolved and how it matches and mirrors others such as security. The CFO is more visible and influential. Many are able and expected to build strong relationships, across and beyond the company to be strategic business partners.
Both the chief security officer and the chief financial officer, no matter their individual titles, come with separate specialty skills, knowledge, education and experiences. But both live in and share the business, its strategies and goals. Driving strategic vision is in.
Penney for Your Thoughts
And if you lose your vision or if the picture changes, well, take JCPenney. Former Apple executive Ron Johnson came in as CEO last November to profoundly transform the retailer. By April this year, Chief Financial Officer Michael Dastugue quit or was forced out, depending on analysts’ views. The day after the CFO announcement, Penney’s stock rose.
The rules of the game change constantly, and, as such, the average CFO's tenure is about three years.
So to be on the positive side of the CEO’s vision, CSOs and CFOs must reflect that vision and possess solid interpersonal, communication and negotiation skills. And they must have diverse tools, systems and technologies that come together to support and grow the business and not necessarily just their position or “silo.”
It also takes credentials. Since 2003, the number of CPA CFOs has risen from 29 to 45 percent. For instance, Michael Bartolotta had at least two things going for him. A CPA, he was also CFO of the major shareholder of Cushman & Wakefield, the world’s largest privately held commercial real estate services firm, before being named its CFO earlier this year. There is a similar CPA-like movement on the security side with such designations as CPP and CFE gaining favor.
The evolution shares a new-age attitude. Not long ago, security executives often came from law enforcement or military and saw their role as crime and loss prevention: “I am a security professional in a healthcare organization.”
The attitude has, in many ways, changed: “I am a healthcare professional who brings risk management, security and life safety needs to the benefit of the business.” Understanding and identifying with a particular business is a career boost. For example, at the beginning of this year, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment grabbed James Heaney, former CFO for Disney Cruise Line, to join its company as chief financial officer.
You can see that influence when back-tracking to where a CFO comes from. The national average of an external CFO hire today is only about 40 percent. Most are home-raised – men and women who know their local turf and its corporate culture. On the security side, new hires at the top come internally or often from other organizations in the same business or industry.
And both CSOs and CFOs share risk management in big, small and different ways.
More than half of the finance executives responding to a recent CFO.com survey say their responsibility for risk management has increased over the past two years, while just three percent say it has declined.
Overall, 72 percent of respondents say their companies have increased the time and resources devoted to risk management, with 23 percent calling the increase significant. "Customer demand and profitability" is the risk that CFOs deem most critical, but workforce management also ranks as a key risk area.
According to audit firm Deloitte, today’s CFOs are expected to play four diverse and challenging roles. The two traditional roles are steward, preserving the assets of the organization by minimizing risk and getting the books right; and operator, running a tight finance operation that is efficient and effective. It’s increasingly important for CFOs to be strategists, helping to shape overall strategy and direction; and catalysts, instilling a mindset throughout the organization to help other parts of the business perform better. These varied roles make a CFO’s job more complex than ever.
And Alstead? He’s been the real head bean-counter at Starbucks since 2008, understanding its culture and that vision thing, thanks in part, one would assume, to a couple of Espresso Con Pannas a day.