Audible’s CFO Cynthia Chu also leads growth marketing. Here’s how she balances two jobs

January 19, 2023, 11:45 AM UTC
Cynthia Chu, CFO and growth officer at Audible
Courtesy of Audible

Good morning,

“Yesterday, I was talking to one of my senior directors, who is our FP&A finance partner for our marketing team,” Cynthia Chu, both the CFO and growth officer at Audible, tells me. “He came to me and said, ‘Am I talking to the CFO Cynthia, or am I talking to the growth officer Cynthia,'” she quipped. “And I’m like, Frank, it’s always the same. But I want you to treat me as your business partner as well.”

Traditionally, marketing has been seen by many CFOs as a cost center. But the need for enhanced synergy between finance and marketing teams is growing as metrics like customer lifetime value and customer experience rise in prominence. I had a conversation with Chu to find out her perspective in leading two teams at one company.

Chu joined Audible, the Newark, N.J.-based creator and provider of audio storytelling, and a subsidiary of Amazon, as CFO in 2015. She was previously a CFO for the USA Network division of Comcast NBC Universal, which followed her first divisional CFO appointment overseeing NBC’s Oxygen Media.

In her first few years at Audible, Chu worked on integrating disparate data and analytics functions in finance and accounting. By 2021, Audible’s CEO Bob Carrigan asked her to lead the marketing team, and she took on the role of growth officer.

Compared to other companies, she calls her role “very interesting and unusual.” But it makes sense for Audible as a digital media company, she says. “Marketing, particularly the performance marketing investment that we have, is so important for us,” she explains. “And that is highly data-driven, and it is informed by the propensity model that we have internally—to find the right customer and put the right content in front of them,” she says. The goal is to attract customers to Audible, get them engaged, and convert them into loyal customers, she says.

“The way that I view marketing is actually as a tool and investment for us to reach new customers and to grow the business,” Chu says. “I think that very much goes hand in hand with my duty as the finance person.” Data is an important factor linking both functions, she says.

Some academics are also echoing Audible’s philosophy. “Marketing and finance should collaborate at every step of the planning and measurement of campaigns because it forms a partnership where everyone shares responsibility for the outcomes,” says Pete Howard, a professor of practice in marketing at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, and executive director of the Digital Business Institute.

“And I encourage marketers to think in terms of campaign ROI and customer lifetime value and the overall impact on the P&L like a finance professional would.” Howard, a former e-commerce exec and managing director with Accenture, tells me taking this approach ensures that “marketing and finance are measuring results the same way, and it gets everyone thinking about driving profitable growth for the company.”

As a potential recession looms, I asked Chu how Audible is approaching growing the top line. As a membership-based service, a big priority is delivering value to existing customers and retaining them, she says. “I think that’s first and foremost as a recurring revenue business model,” she says. “We’re also looking at ‘How do we find that next generation of listeners?’”

Star-power might aid in attracting new listeners. Audible has a significant list of content deals with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street banner, for example.

“We’re looking to put new types of content in front of customers, and also make our product experience as frictionless as possible,” Chu says. “We have plenty of customer behavior data that points to—if I can get you to open the app, and listen to a certain length of the storytelling, you will, as a customer, discover the power of the audio storytelling, and it’s an immersive experience for you.” Audible operates in nine marketplaces outside of the U.S. and is looking to grow more in emerging markets, she says. 

I asked Chu how she’s approaching managing costs in this macroenvironment. “We’re being very intentional in the areas where we invest,” she says. “On a day to day basis, we’re looking at items that are non-employee related costs, and making sure that we’re being very judicious in every single penny, every single dollar that we spend.” A hybrid work environment has provided some cost savings, she says. “In the last three years, we grew our employee base without growing our real estate footprint,” Chu says.

When she’s not wearing both her finance and marketing hats, I asked Chu what she’s currently listening to on Audible in her spare time. One of Chelsea Handler’s memoirs, she says. “That was a fun one,” Chu says. “And next up on my list is the new book Spare, written and narrated by Prince Harry.”

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Sign up here to receive CFO Daily weekday mornings in your inbox.

Big deal

ISACA’s Privacy in Practice 2023 research report finds that when organizations consistently practice privacy by design, they reap the rewards. But many face challenges getting there because of privacy budgets, staffing, and skills gaps. ISACA, a professional association focused on IT governance, surveyed more than 1,800 data privacy professionals and experts. Fifty-three percent said technical privacy roles are understaffed at their organizations, and 44% said the same for legal/compliance privacy roles. Meanwhile, 69% said there will be an increased demand for technical privacy roles in the next year, and 62% believe that also applies to legal/compliance roles. Organizations consistently practicing privacy by design are more likely to be confident in the privacy of their sensitive data (65% vs. 40% of total respondents), the research found.

Courtesy of ISACA
Courtesy of ISACA.

Going deeper

 "Audit Committee Practices: Priorities and Committee Composition," a report by Deloitte's Center for Board Effectiveness and the Center for Audit Quality, finds corporate boards are taking a fresh look at their audit committee structures and practices. A survey of 164 audit committee members of primarily large-cap, public companies in the U.S., indicates changes may take place over the next 12 months. One-quarter of respondents expect to make changes to the composition of their audit committee, with 25% anticipating increasing the size of their audit committee, 28% planning on replacing their audit committee chair, and 42% expecting to replace one or more committee members.


Joe Furnari was named CFO at Employ Inc., a provider of recruiting and talent acquisition solutions and parent company of JazzHR, Lever, Jobvite, and NXTThing RPO, effective Jan. 10. Furnari oversees Employ’s global finance operations. He brings more than 25 years of strategic and financial experience to the company. Most recently Furnari served as the VP of finance at global technology company Dynatrace. Previously, Furnari held financial leadership positions at high-growth companies including Nuance Communications, Wyless, Inc., and Mimecast.

Scott Allen was named the first CFO at Everlaw, a cloud-native investigation and litigation platform. Allen will be responsible for leading the financial and business operations functions. He brings more than 30 years of financial experience supporting high-growth companies. Most recently, Allen served as CFO of Airship. He also served as CFO at Intermedia and CFO of Citrix Online. Allen spent 18 years at ADP in senior finance and product roles


"I think we've dodged a bullet because this thing blew up very quickly, but it will come back in one form or another."

—UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the world's largest banks have come out largely unscathed from the turmoil in the cryptocurrency industry, Reuters reported.

This is the web version of CFO Daily, a newsletter on the trends and individuals shaping corporate finance. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet