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Should Gen Z finance pros choose large firms or startups for CFO goals?

September 30, 2021, 10:35 AM UTC

Good morning,

As young finance professionals work towards reaching the C-suite, they want to have more of an impact on organizational strategy. But many think only large firms can provide career acceleration—and a big paycheck. 

survey released on Wednesday by Tipalti, a global payables automation company, gauged the opinions of 350 young professionals in finance roles, recent college graduates, and finance undergraduates in the U.S. ages 18-35. The data set is a component of the company’s report, The Swiss Army CFOAlmost half (46%) of respondents want to work in the finance department of a large company, and 24% seek to join a large bank, brokerage, or investment firm. In comparison, just 8% want to work at a non-tech, small or midsize company. And when it comes to working at a tech startup—just 6% of the aspiring CFOs are interested

Many young professionals who enter finance and accounting roles at companies like Tipalti, a startup, began their careers at professional services firms receiving vital training, says Sarah Dickens Spoja, CFO at Tipalti. The fintech, which earned a place on Fortune’s Best Small and Medium Workplaces in the Bay Area list, is headquartered in San Mateo. It has 650 employees globally and 300 in the U.S. The company raised $150 million in a Series E round of funding, resulting in a more than $2 billion valuation. 

In considering a path to financial leadership, a good number of respondents are motivated by the potential earnings, the survey found. About 45% said a high salary was the top inspiration for becoming a CFO. Meanwhile, 28% noted managing financial operations would spur inspiration, and 25% said working closely with a company’s CEO to influence and make key business decisions was their motivation. Treasury management, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and procurement functions were the least inspiring duties for respondents who want to become CFO.

But candidates may want to give startups another look, Spoja says. They can “enjoy a steeper learning curve while also getting to work in a vibrant, high-growth environment,” she says. In general, “startups are typically flatter so access to executives is easier and young professionals can get mentorship and even report to controllers or CFOs, in other roles they may not get that access,” Spoja explains.

Young professionals also want to inspire change, the survey found. About 39% said finding new paths for growth would be the most exciting problem to solve as a CFO. And 38% noted the prospect of modernizing finance with technology as compelling. Digital transformation is certainly appealing to many Gen Z and millennials who trust robots to manage their organization’s finances. Tipalti competes for top talent by allowing young employees to work on their desired tasks sooner rather than later, Spoja says. 

“We are a company that supports the office of the CFO,” she explains. “We are able to give our finance and accounting team members some different experiences that a typical startup wouldn’t—getting involved in new product testing, thinking through marketing messages, and being a power-user of our own product.” At high-growth startups, young professionals often get to take on assignments that would be only available to more senior team members at a larger company, she says. 

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

The Great Resignation Update, a study released on September 29 by Limeade, takes a look at what prompted "the mass exodus of employees in late 2020 and early 2021." The well-being company conducted a survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers who started a new position in 2021. Burnout was the top reason why 40% of respondents left their jobs. More than half of workers in health care and in the food service and hospitality industries cited that reason. And more than a third (37%) of respondents wanted better compensation. “Listen to employees," Dr. Laura Hamill, Ph.D., chief science advisor at Limeade, stated in the report. "Ask them what they need. The Great Resignation is a great opportunity for employers to evolve, learn and do better."

Courtesy of Limeade

Going deeper

The Resurgent Finance Leader research report for the U.S., recently released by Board International, found the office of finance is set to focus on strategy to drive value through data. The majority (91%) of U.S. financial leaders surveyed want to take on a greater role in business strategy, and 95% said finance is "the natural hub for data" that holds the potential for organizational growth in the digital age, according to the report. However, 86% of finance leaders surveyed believe their roles are being lost to automation, which may be a catalyst to taking on the role of performance driver. Although the finance leaders surveyed seek to harness data, 82% believe their office uses technology that needs a complete overhaul or vast improvement, the report found. Vanson Bourne, an independent research firm, surveyed 200 finance leaders in the U.S. on behalf of Board.


Adam Orvos was promoted to EVP and CFO at Ross Stores, Inc., effective October 1. Orvos joined Ross Stores in January 2021 as group senior vice president of supply chain administration. His more than 30 years of experience includes serving as CFO at Neiman Marcus, Belk Department Stores, and the Foley’s Division of The May Department Stores Company. Orvos has also held senior executive roles at Lowe’s and Total Wine & More.

Drew Wolff was promoted to EVP and CFO at Trupanion, Inc., a pet medical insurance company, effective October 1. Wolff began at Trupanion in May as EVP of finance. Tricia Plouf, the current CFO, will remain in the position of co-president. Wolff has more than 20 years of experience including CFO of International for Starbucks, and previously, as Starbucks’ global treasurer. He has also held senior financial roles at retail banks with operations in the U.S., Africa, and Europe.


“It’s also frustrating to see the bottlenecks and supply chain problems not getting better—in fact at the margins apparently getting a little bit worse. We see that continuing into next year probably, and holding up inflation longer than we had thought.”

—Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said at a panel discussion hosted by the European Central Bank, as reported by CNBC. 

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