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H&R Block’s CFO: Delay in tax deadline ‘absolutely’ impacts workflow

May 17, 2021, 9:00 AM UTC

Good morning, and Happy Tax Day!

H&R Block CFO Tony Bowen filed his taxes the first week of May with H&R Block’s online software, including a video call with one of the company’s tax professionals, all while sitting at his kitchen table, he told me.

When the IRS pushed back the tax filing deadline to May 17 it “absolutely” impacted H&R Block’s workflow, he says. 

CFO Daily-H&R Block-CFO-Tony Bowen
H&R Block CFO Tony Bowen.
Courtesy of H&R Block

“Just trying to forecast the volume of clients that are going to want to come in and file their taxes, and then making sure that we staff to meet that volume is obviously a lot of effort,” says Bowen. “Most of our tax professionals work seasonally, typically December through April. When there’s an extended tax season, like we’ve seen in the last two years, we have to make sure there’s enough staff that are willing to work past their normal roll-off date at the end of April and can continue to stay on to the end of tax season.”

Last year was a dry run for the process, says Bowen.

“This year, we’ve become a little bit more of a well-oiled machine,” he says. “We’re able to be fairly agile because every tax season seems like it shifts around a little bit. Tax professionals are willing to kind of move their schedules and availability based on when clients want to come in.”

The government’s coronavirus stimulus payments also caused the need for the company to have flexibility.

“We process several of those stimulus payments onto our prepaid debit card,” says Bowen. “So, given there were three payments during the last year, it was a lot of work in trying to understand what money is coming in how to get that money loaded as quickly as possible.”

There were also “several million additional calls this year as clients were trying to understand, ‘Where is my money? How do I get my money? When will it be loaded?'” he says. 

That’s when enhanced technology came into play with a dedicated interactive voice response (IVR) system for H&R Block’s call center, says Bowen. “When clients called in for stimulus-related questions, we drove them to a specific group of agents that can best help them,” he says. 

In the year of the pandemic, under unprecedented circumstances, I asked Bowen, what metrics he focuses on the most.

“I think every CFO starts with the top of the P&L, which is revenue and earnings,” he explains. “From an operating metric perspective, what we focus on are clients coming into our offices or filing with our online tech software. Those are two key drivers. All of our earnings come in essentially one quarter, and about 75% of our revenue comes in one quarter, which is obviously our fourth quarter.”

Finance has intrigued Bowen ever since a stockbroker visited his eight-grade class and said that “you can invest $100 and years later it could be worth $200,” he says. Bowen bought his first stock when he was a freshman in high school. He then earned a degree in finance from the University of Missouri. He’ll soon celebrate his 15-year anniversary at H&R Block. “I’ve had the opportunity at H&R Block to have, I think, nine different roles since my tenure there and the CFO for over five years, and it’s just been an incredible career,” he says.


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

E-Trade, a financial services company, released its May sector rotation report, which is based on the buy/sell behavior for stocks that comprise the S&P 500 sectors. Energy, communication services, and industrial sectors showed increased activity from March to April, according to the report. 

Going deeper

A recent report in Harvard Business Review examines systemic barriers that hold women back from advancing into senior leadership roles. The authors discuss seven areas in talent management where gender discrimination can exist, such as attracting candidates, and managing compensation and promotion. "Narrowing the gender gap should be a deliberate, ongoing process," according to the authors.

Leaderboard

David Bertolino was named CFO at Aptos, a retail technology solutions provider. Before joining Aptos, Bertolino was the CFO at N3, a B2B sales firm.

Michelle Hulgrave was named EVP and CFO at Penske Automotive Group, Inc., an international transportation services company, effective June 1. Hulgrave was promoted from her role as SVP and corporate controller at the company. She will replace J.D. Carlson, EVP and CFO, who is retiring.

Frank Sodaro was named CFO at Old Republic International Corporation, a shareholder-owned insurance businesses, effective July 1. Sodaro was promoted from his role as Deputy CFO at the company. He will replace Karl Mueller who is retiring as CFO, effective June 30.

Overheard

"I tend to sign off text messages with 'love DC.' My children tell me that you don’t need to sign off text messages at all and it’s very old-fashioned and odd to do so."

— Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, questioned by the Parliament’s Treasury Committee on his efforts to win government funds for for the now bankrupted Greensill Capital, explained why he sent texts to politicians and officials with some signed “love DC," while he was a part-time adviser to the firm after leaving office, as reported by the Associated Press.

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