“I was raised by an accountant and a professional artist, so I have both a math and a creative brain,” Tania Secor, the new global CFO at R/GA, told me in a recent conversation.
Though an artist at heart—she has an undergraduate degree in art history from Columbia University—she went on to earn an M.B.A. at Columbia Business School. Secor has worked in financial leadership for more than 20 years. She will begin her role May 3 as a C-suite leader at R/GA, an international innovation consultancy, led by Global CEO Sean Lyons, which guides clients in everything from brand design to experience design to marketing communications. (R/GA is a unit of The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG), which will release its 2021 first quarter earnings in an investors call April 28.)
“The CFO role is technical, and most decisions are time-sensitive,” Secor explains. “I will need to jump in quickly and steer the tactical elements of the job, across the globe. Your accountability as CFO starts on day one, so you have to be razor-focused on the priorities and areas of risk.”
Secor comes to R/GA from IPG Mediabrand’s Reprise Digital, a digital performance media agency, where she was CFO. In her role, Secor developed and launched Reprise’s global eCommerce practice. Prior to joining IPG in 2018, Secor held financial leadership positions at software and tech-enabled services companies including SVP of finance at Medidata Solutions, CFO at Dataminr, Inc. and CFO at Gerson Lerhman Group. Secor also spent a decade at McGraw-Hill in various financial leadership positions.
A key strategic priority for Secor at R/GA will be expanding the data and technology solutions offerings, and profitable growth, she says.
“R/GA and I believe technology is complementary to building a more human future, and you can see this in their work both for clients and internally,” says Secor.
One example? “The Fortnite stadium R/GA built, sponsored by Verizon, enabled 40 million people to get together leveraging the biggest video game in the world when it was not possible for the biggest sporting event of the year [the Superbowl] to be attended in person,” she says.
And using tools like robotic process automation can be an opportunity to free up employees so they can focus their time on “doing great work for clients,” Secor says. “At IPG, we’ve been focused on this, especially given the margin pressure in our industry,” she notes.
Sector may be the first woman to become CFO at R/GA, but this isn’t the first time she’s broken this particular barrier, she says. “Looking back on my career, in every CFO role I have taken on, I have been the first female CFO,” Secor says. “So, it doesn’t feel unusual, but I have always, naturally, used my leadership role to foster the development of women and minorities, both through formal programming as well as my own informal and proactive mentorship efforts.” Most of her teams have been “at least 50% female and reflecting diversity across ethnic backgrounds,” she says.
And who does she turn to for advice? Sector has developed a personal “board of directors” as her own mentors. A recent member of her board is Ellen Johnson, executive vice president and CFO of IPG, who “brought me into the IPG family three years ago, specifically because she wanted me to bring fresh ideas from the software and data industry to her finance team,” Secor says.
“She’s been a trusted partner as I learn and navigate the advertising agency industry.”
See you tomorrow.
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