Jason Phillips, Senior Finance Officer, Equifax, sat down with Judy Romano, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Equifax International, to discuss her career and the importance of soft skills in developing the next generation of finance leadership.
In a fireside chat at the 2016 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum held in Atlanta on April 21, Phillips began by asking Romano, “What departments do you, as CFO, want to build a strong relationship with?”
Romano responded, “I see myself as co-pilot with the president. It’s important that I’m not boxed into a corner, so I work a lot with IT, since we’re a tech company, but also HR and Marketing. Collaboration is key. We’re a matrix organization.”
Phillips followed up with, “What’s it like to work in a matrix organization that’s also a global matrix organization?”
“Knowing other cultures and languages and having lived in other countries has helped,” said Romano. “In my first year as CFO, I spent two weeks on the road each month visiting our operations in 18 countries. Building up those relationships was crucial, so now I can call up someone and rely on that relationship for the information I need. I don’t manage people—I manage through people.”
“Building up those relationships was crucial, so now I can call up someone and rely on that relationship for the information I need. I don’t manage people—I manage through people.”
“What’s your biggest challenge on a daily basis?”
“There are high expectations and constant pressure to balance priorities—short, medium, and long-term—with investing in new initiatives,” replied Romano. “It all comes down to investing in people—they get the work done. Attracting, training, promoting, and rotating people is the focus.”
“What’s your philosophy of rotation?”
“When we invest in people, they’ll have the toolbox for the next job that they or we might not even see right now,” Romano pointed out. “I like it when people speak up and tell me they’re ready for a new challenge: ‘Hey Judy, do you have any new global projects coming up?’ Movement creates excitement, and it also creates more choices for other people. It’s good to have competition for promotions; otherwise, people might leave.”
Turning to the topic of bringing new people into the company, Phillips asked, “How do you assess incoming talent?”
“For junior positions, I only meet with the two top candidates to make sure they’ll blend in with our culture,” explained Romano. “For senior positions, I look for soft skills: Can they lead, collaborate, resolve conflicts, and present—not at but above expected levels? After all, they’re representing me and the company. No amount of talent can overcome the wrong fit or someone who doesn’t have our culture. It would just be a waste of recruiting resources to hire someone who won’t stay around for lack of fit.”
“For senior positions, I look for soft skills: Can they lead, collaborate, resolve conflicts, and present—not at but above expected levels? After all, they’re representing me and the company.”
“How do you see the CFO role evolving?”
“If you want value, the finance department must be involved with the operations side. Finance leadership must be inquisitive. The days of simply reporting on past growth are over,” stated Romano. “We must help leadership make good decisions. We must take off our finance hat and work on problems as a good team member would, without jargon and specialized skills. The finance hat only goes back on when we implement leadership’s decision.”
“How should folks manage their finance career if they want to make CFO?”
Romano responded, “Be honest with yourself. Study the requirements of jobs you aspire to have. What got you here might not get you there. Soft skills develop slowly, like wine. Patience, collaboration, and humility are not numerical. Lateral moves can help your overall upward ascent.”
“Be honest with yourself. Study the requirements of jobs you aspire to have. What got you here might not get you there.”
To wrap up, Phillips asked, “How does one develop soft skills?”
“Matrix organizations and collaboration are everywhere, so leadership now involves getting things done through people who don’t report to you. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Sign up for speaking engagements or anything that gets you out of your comfort zone.”
ABOUT JUDY ROMANO:
Judy joined Equifax Corporation in March 2015 as the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Equifax International, and she’s based in the company’s Atlanta headquarters. Her responsibilities span Latin America, Canada, Europe, and Asia, leading a team of senior Finance Executives. She’s accountable for all aspects of Financial Management, Reporting, and Leadership supporting International Operations. Her role is essential in supporting the development of strategy and innovation to consistently meet or exceed growth plans for the business.
Judy has also been a mentor and coach to finance professionals across many geographies. Her commitment to help develop leaders at all levels has helped the mentees become better-prepared leaders.
Judy has more than twenty years of international and multi-sector experience, with a focus on finance and operations. She started her career in apparel and progressed to property and casualty insurance, information technology, and healthcare, with assignments in the US and Europe as she assumed roles with global responsibility. More recently, she spent eight and a half years with as the CFO and COO of McKesson International Operations Group, based in Warwick, England. Prior to this role, Judy spent four years in McKesson Technology Group’s headquarters in Alpharetta, GA.
Judy has a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina, with a focus on Finance, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Carolina, with a double major in Finance and Marketing.
Judy is originally from Hungary; speaks fluently in English, Spanish, German, and Hungarian; and is married with four children. Judy and her family are passionate tennis players and love watching tennis and rugby whenever possible–live or on television. She also enjoys traveling and learning new about cultures.
ABOUT JASON PHILLIPS:
Jason Phillips is the Senior Financial Officer for Global Consumer Solutions (GCS), a $400M division of Equifax that is focused on providing credit and identity monitoring services sold through direct and indirect channels that protect and monitor consumers’ ID and enable and empower consumers to gain better access to credit. Jason leads a team of finance professionals engaged in providing monthly forecasts, annual budgets, long-term strategic plans, and key marketing and operational analyses. Prior to becoming SFO, Jason led the Strategic Pricing team supporting USIS and GCS, which was focused on driving revenue-generating initiatives, negotiating terms for key clients, providing price-elasticity testing, and creating new product pricing.
Prior to Equifax, Jason spent five years with American Express working in M&A, pricing, and financial roles as well as three years with Earthlink in its FP&A division. Jason holds an Economics degree from Colorado College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.