CFOs are ‘way more than scorekeepers’

January 28, 2022, 11:37 AM UTC

Good morning,

“It’s actually really cool that I can kind of observe CFOs and their own transformations,” Amy Shaw Feirn, deputy CEO, partnerships and offerings at Deloitte Consulting LLP, told me. “It’s a unique vantage point.”

I had a conversation with Feirn during Fortune’s CFO Collaborative virtual event, in partnership with Workday, this week. Through working on client projects, the leader has a lot of insight into the perspective of finance chiefs. Here’s a bit of our talk where Feirn shared her thoughts on how CFOs view their responsibility in transformation, especially as costs rise (JPMorgan Chase is spending billions), and the way they steer tech and change management.

Amy Shaw Feirn, deputy CEO, partnerships and offerings at Deloitte Consulting

With the many client projects you’ve worked on—and in Deloitte’s own transformation efforts—how have different CFOs driven change or been key partners in transformations?

Feirn: I would say a distinguishing factor that I see in CFOs is that they see their role as way more than scorekeepers. I’m not discounting the scorekeeping at all. Through the scorekeeping, I think the CFO has a better sense as a leader of what makes these enterprise-wide transformations more successful. But thinking about finance as kind of an analytical capability as opposed to a function is huge. CFOs get the nitty gritty of what would need to change in areas of the organization during a transformation that are often overlooked. The ones I know that understand and partner in a way that is more than just keeping track of the transformation, but also provide insights on the operating model, are the ones that really distinguish themselves in their leadership.

You made a great point that the CFOs who do well in guiding transformations are able to see opportunities that may be overlooked. Do advanced technologies, like A.I. and machine learning, allow CFOs to look deeper into the data and be more strategic?

Feirn: I think that it’s critical for a CFO and the team surrounding the CFO in the finance function to be as tech-savvy as possible right now. And that can come in many ways. You don’t have to be a cloud-native developer or a software developer in order to understand the influence of technology on how the organization’s business model is going to change. 

Tech costs are increasing for many companies due to digital transformation. For example, JPMorgan Chase recently announced an increase in its yearly technology budget to $12 billion from $9.5 billion in 2020. In general, how would you say CFOs are preparing their companies?

Feirn: The increasing spend in digital transformation is just powerful. And it’s not going away anytime soon. The JPMorgan example is, I think, true in probably 80 plus percent of the organizations that are out there. I think the obvious role for the CFO in preparing the companies for that is [looking at] the affordability, the ROI and the impact of the bottom line and shareholder value. But equally important is the CFO articulating and influencing on the prioritization of that spend in the areas that make sense given the organization’s propensity for change. You don’t want to tackle too much that it falls under the weight of itself. And you want to prioritize it in a way that it makes sense not just from affordability lens, but also, what can our organization take on? And how disruptive is it versus accretive to customer value and their relationship with us?

How do CFOs steer change management?

Feirn: I think the CFO has got a unique lens on change management. At Deloitte, we’re kind of going through a transformation like everybody is. It’s from pure services to services plus products and the way in which we go to market. The CFO and the COO are my partners in thinking about that evolution. How do we break down the barriers of having our partners engage in the market in the right way? What I always hear from our CFO is “tell me what you want to achieve and then I’ll tell you how we’re going to do it.” As opposed to, “let me tell you all the reasons why this is not going to work.” And I think that is valuable from a strategic lens.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

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Here are notable moves:

Barry Broadus was named CFO at ICF (Nasdaq:ICFI), a global consulting and digital services provider, effective Feb. 28. Broadus will replace Bettina Garcia Welsh, who will be leaving ICF to pursue new opportunities. Welsh has agreed to stay on at ICF as an advisor through early April. Most recently, he was the CFO of Dovel Technologies. Previously, Broadus served as CFO of SRI International, Constellis, and Alion Science and Technology.

Miriam Connole was named CFO for Overseas General Insurance at Chubb, effective March 1. Connole will succeed John Jones, who is retiring from Chubb after 43 years with the company. Currently, Connole serves as CFO for Chubb’s Europe and Middle East and Africa regions. Prior to her current role, Connole was CFO of Combined Insurance, a Chubb company. She has also served as financial controller for Chubb’s operations in London.

Michael Dear was named CFO at Universal Engineering Sciences (UES), a privately-held engineering and consulting company. Dear is a finance leader with more than 30 years of global expertise in the engineering services and construction industry. Dear most recently served as CFO for PLH Group. Prior to that, he worked at John Wood Group serving as CFO for Wood Group Mustang based in Houston. He previously worked as group financial controller after initially joining as CFO of their industrial turbines division.

Wissam Jabre was named EVP and CFO at Western Digital Corp. (Nasdaq: WDC), effective the week of Feb. 7. With over 20 years of experience in semiconductors and operations, Jabre was most recently CFO at Dialog Semiconductor. He also previously served as corporate vice president of finance at Advanced Micro Devices. From 2004 to 2014, Jabre also held various finance positions during his 10-year tenure at Freescale Semiconductor.

Salman Khan was named Interim CFO at Verb Technology Company, Inc. (Nasdaq: VERB), effective immediately. Khan joined VERB in May 2021 as EVP of corporate development and strategic planning. Most recently, Khan held various leadership roles at NYSE-listed companies Occidental Petroleum Corporation and its spin-off California Resources Corporation. During his time at OXY and CRC, he served as a business division CFO.

Andre Maciel was named EVP and global CFO at The Kraft Heinz Company (Nasdaq: KHC), effective March 2. Maciel will succeed Paulo Basilio, who will step down on March 1, as part of a planned transition and will remain with the company as a strategic advisor through August 2022. Maciel has been with Kraft Heinz since 2013 and has held several leadership roles.

Yemi Okupe was named CFO at Hims & Hers Health, Inc. (NYSE: HIMS), the multi-specialty telehealth platform. Since June 2021, Okupe has served as CFO of Hipcamp. He previously served as a divisional CFO at Uber. Okupe has also served in a number of financial leadership positions at eBay and PayPal, including as Divisional CFO of Braintree, and Google, where he was the finance lead for Google Payments and Google Express.

Yemi Okupe was named CFO at Hims & Hers Health, Inc. (NYSE: HIMS), the multi-specialty telehealth platform. Since June 2021, Okupe has served as CFO of Hipcamp. He previously served as a divisional CFO at Uber, first in charge of UberEats, and later of Uber’s global mobility unit, which included ridesharing, transit, and micro mobility services across 60 countries. Okupe has also served in a number of financial leadership positions at eBay and PayPal, and at Google, where he was the finance lead for Google Payments and Google Express.

Mark Ortiz was named CFO at Global Student Accommodation (GSA), a student housing company, effective immediately. Prior to joining GSA, Ortiz spent over 28 years in financial and operational management roles at GE across the U.S., Europe, and Asia, most recently as global FP&A leader and CDO at GE Capital. He has experience in key areas including financial strategy, M&A, governance, transformation change leadership and diversity, equity, and inclusion. 


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