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4 CFOs on how their role has evolved during a time of ‘tectonic’ shifts

March 15, 2022, 10:35 AM UTC

Good morning,

It’s more than just a numbers game for CFOs.

The role of finance chief is continuing to evolve. But I think each CFO has experienced and processed the changes in their own way. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with leaders at Adobe, Hormel FoodsLevi Strauss & Co., and AT&T Inc.  I asked them each about how their role has changed over the years. From being more strategic to gaining knowledge in tech, these CFOs who have decades of experience understand that being flexible is key.

Dan Durn, Adobe CFO and EVP of finance, technology services and operations

I think historically, if we were to go back a decade, I would say a good portion of the finance organizations around the globe were focused on memorializing historical facts through structured reporting. The financial statements, like the 10-Qs, the 10-Ks. I think there’s been a tectonic shift where finance organizations are pivoting the CFO role to sort through complexity, get to core underlying root cause issues, frame the debate and dialogue inside of the company, sharpen business decision making, and then help drive execution to deliver tangible impact and tangible results.

I started out in the military, grounded in leadership and organizational buying processes, and decision making; then marrying that with a background in Wall Street, where you’re in the boardroom, and you’re shaping decision making you understand how boards and senior leaders process decisions to deliver value for shareholders. So, my time in the CFO seat has been much more defined by, I think, where the organizations are going. And it’s always been a strong focus for me. The finance organization should have a seat at the table, frame the debate and dialogue, sharpen decision making, and drive execution to deliver impact.

Jacinth Smiley, Hormel Foods EVP and CFO

Smiley first joined the company as group vice president of corporate strategy before becoming CFO and continuing that strategic focus:

One of the things I was very focused on immediately was the strategic lens. I don’t know that there are a lot of companies, especially public companies, that get it right in terms of having that right balance between the tactical—where you’re so focused on making the quarter and making the numbers—and strategy. So, my role was to just really spend time with the team to decide what are those big bold ideas that we as a company need to think about? And how do we, as Hormel Foods, bring the entire company to [up to speed] so that we can be more competitive and more successful?

Harmit Singh, Levi Strauss & Co. EVP and CFO

The role of the CFO has evolved dramatically over the years. When I started, the role of the CFO was about creating shareholder value. Today, it’s about broader stakeholder value creation. It was about control. Today, it’s about influence, and not only influence in the finance world, but influence across many areas. It was about leading transformations, largely related to cost. Today, it is about participating or leading business transformations, where things like digitizing experiences are important. I’ve been lucky to embrace technology over the past 20 years. 

Pascal Desroches, AT&T Inc. CFO and senior executive vice president

It used to be that the CFO was oftentimes part of a bigger version of a controller. You were responsible for closing the books. Many CFOs weren’t involved in operations. But I see my job as being two-fold: the financial conscience of the organization and an enabler of the priorities that the CEO and the board have set. I measure what’s working and what’s not working and ensure that resources are being applied to key strategic priorities. So, it is a constant balancing act.  I think what an effective, world-class CFO does each and every day is to really be a strategic partner to the CEO, the business, and the board to really help optimize the operations and capital allocation.


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

Lever's State of Internal Mobility and Employee Retention Report, takes a look at how companies can best attract and retain employees. The biggest motivator for employees planning to stay in their position is salary and/or potential bonuses, followed by good paid time off and flexibility, according to Lever, a talent acquisition software company. However, Lever found that Gen Zers (17%) are most likely to stay at their current job because of upskilling/reskilling opportunities compared to Millennials (9%), Gen X (7%), or Baby Boomers (4%). The findings are based on a survey of 1,200 full-time, employed adults in the U.S. across various industries.

Courtesy of Lever

Going deeper

This year, Equal Pay Day in the U.S. falls on March 15. This date symbolizes how far into 2022 women must work to be paid what men earned by the end of 2021. Payscale's updated Gender Pay Gap Report found the uncontrolled gender pay gap in 2022 is approximately $0.82 for every $1 that men make, which is the same as last year. The report does not show that the uncontrolled gender pay gap has closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Payscale. The controlled gender pay gap has "only shrunk a total of $0.02 since 2015, but the shrinkage over the last year may not be reliable in the current economy," the firm found. The uncontrolled gender pay gap indicates what types of jobs, and the associated earnings, are filled by women overall versus men overall, according to Payscale. The report also found that race and gender intersect to result in wider pay gaps for women of color.

Leaderboard

Bobby Lavan was named CFO at Bally's Corporation (NYSE: BALY), a global gaming, hospitality and entertainment company. Steve Capp, Bally's current CFO, is leaving Bally's to pursue other interests and opportunities, and will continue to support the business through the end of April. Lavan has been SVP, finance & investor relations of Bally's since May 2021. Prior to joining Bally's, Mr. Lavan was CFO ofTurning Point Brands. Prior to that poisition, he was CFO of general wireless operations and held various analyst and portfolio manager roles on Wall Street.

David Schmidt was named CFO at Red Lobster. Schmidt comes to Red Lobster from Bloomin' Brands where he has served as group VP and CFO of casual dining brands since 2019. He has over 30 years of progressive experience in finance, operations and accounting. Schmidt previously served as president of Bonefish Grill. Prior to his work at Bloomin' Brands, Schmidt was controller / VP of financial planning Reporting and analysis at Avado Brands, Inc and manager of franchise finance at Denny's. He began his career in public accounting.

Overheard

“I hereby challenge Vladimir Putin to single combat. Stakes are Ukraine.”

—Tesla CEO Elon Musk, on Twitter, challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to a fistfight for the fate of Ukraine, as reported by Fortune

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