A panel of chief financial officers explored how CFOs can optimize their day-to-day performance during the 2017 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in Toronto on November 2. The panel discussion, "How CFOs Extend Their Influence Beyond Finance," featured insights from the following participants:
National CFO Leader
Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President
First Capital Realty
Chief Financial Officer
Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President
The panel discussion focused on the following topics:
1. The Business-Partnering Culture in Finance
CFOs are responsible for building and maintaining relationships with C-suite leaders, as well as executives within other departments. He or she must drive collaboration to ensure an organization can achieve its immediate and long-term goals.
"You've got to be armed with data, because it's hard to be objective without data."
At the same time, CFOs must maintain open communication within their own departments. If silos form within a finance department, problems will likely arise that prevent an organization from succeeding. Fortunately, CFOs who foster collaboration and open communication may be better equipped to help finance departments become vital contributors to an organization's success.
"It's all about adding value in ways outside of a traditional finance box," Tofflemire said. "It's important to understand where the company should play and how it's going to win. … Adding value to those discussions can go a long way [for CFOs]."
2. Building Leadership Within an Organization
In addition to serving as business leaders, CFOs frequently are responsible for developing leaders within finance departments. How CFOs approach this responsibility may have far-flung effects on an organization.
If CFOs search for finance professionals who are willing to learn and are open to new ideas, they may discover talented individuals who can help an organization innovate and expand.
"[People who] listen to lots of different perspectives and have the humility to say, 'I don't know everything' … are the types of people that I want to have on my team," Sharma stated. "Those are the people that like to learn and are open to new ideas."
Furthermore, CFOs should search for finance professionals who understand their strengths and weaknesses. Finance professionals should also be ready to help an organization in any way possible, as well as collaborate with professionals in other departments to drive long-lasting business growth.
"You don't want to go into any situation with biases," Sharma noted. "You need to be open … and be able to step back to understand what you bring to the table."
3. Driving Influence Among C-Suite Leaders
CFOs must be able to provide other C-suite leaders with financial data. That way, CFOs can help CEOs and other C-suite leaders make the best possible decisions.
"You need to be able to equip the CEO with information," Brekken indicated. "You need to be able to give the CEO answers and ensure there are never any surprises."
In addition, CFOs should consider the perspectives of leaders within multiple departments. This approach empowers CFOs to collect timely, relevant financial data that can help C-suite leaders achieve meaningful results.
"You want to understand the business from the perspective of your leaders," Brekken stated. "If you've got the information that helps your company's leaders … then you can build great relationships with them."
4. Bridging the Gap Between the CFO and Various Business Departments
CFOs and IT departments often work closely with one another. The relationships between CFOs and IT departments may prove to be mutually beneficial, as CFOs can provide IT departments with the insights they need to help an organization become more productive and efficient.
"The CFO often has a great view into the organization … and who could be better than the CFO in weighing the costs and benefits associated with IT," Sharma pointed out. "There are some synergies in having those groups together and reporting as one."
Comparatively, CFOs must allocate the necessary time and resources to collaborate with a wide range of departments. This will enable CFOs to develop a broad business perspective, leading to more informed business decisions.
5. Maintaining a Positive Outlook
Although CFOs help organizations develop budgets, they are also required to reject financial proposals at times. Doing so may prove to be difficult, but CFOs who maintain a data-driven approach to their everyday operations can maintain support from departments across an organization.
"If you've got the information that helps your company's leaders … then you can build great relationships with them."
A data-driven approach enables CFOs to explain the why behind assorted financial decisions. Thus, CFOs who collect data and perform deep data analysis can remain objective as they review an organization's finances.
"You've got to be armed with data, because it's hard to be objective without data," Sharma said. "If you can come back to somebody with an objective stance, and that stance happens to be, 'No,' then I think you'll be able to get people on board."
Ross Woledge is a Partner and CFO Practice leader for Odgers Berndtson Canada and is a member of the Financial Services Practice. He leads CFO and senior financial officer searches for clients across all private and public industries in addition to senior roles within banking, insurance and asset management. Prior to joining Odgers Berndtson in 2007, Ross worked for the Association for Executive Search Consultants (AESC) in New York.
Ross has worked closely with the University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management, to develop the school's Business Leadership for Finance Executives Program. Rotman and Odgers have partnered on research which includes Developing the CFO of the Future, a study of the evolution of the CFO role in Canada over the past decade, which received national coverage in the National Post, The Globe & Mail and on the Business News Network.
Ross holds a Bachelor’s Degree from The College of St Mark and St John (UK) and is active with the charity Autism Ontario.
Kay is the Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer of First Capital Realty Inc. As CFO, Kay has overall responsibility for financial reporting, treasury, risk management, investor relations, strategic planning and information technology.
Previously Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Indigo Books, Kay has over 20 years of North American financial leadership experience including public company reporting, strategic and operational planning, and debt and equity financing. Kay holds a BBA from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from the University of Washington and is a Certified Public Accountant.
Manjit is CFO for GE Canada, where she works with the Canadian businesses to profitably grow their commercial footprint in country. In addition, she leads the finance organization and is a member of the Senior Executive Leadership Team.
Manjit joined GE in 1999 when she assumed the role of Assistant Controller at GE Canada where she managed both the controllership and financial planning & analysis functions. Since then, Manjit has had numerous roles of increasing responsibility with GE Canada, including leading Shared Global Business Services, Commercial Finance Leader for Distributed Power, Vice President Commercial Development, Chairwoman of the GE Canada Pension Trust, National Diversity and Inclusion Leader and National Ombudsman.
Manjit holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto and is a Chartered Accountant, a designation she earned while working at KPMG. In addition to KPMG, Manjit worked as a Finance Leader at Inco Limited.
Manjit is also active in the community and serves as a Board member and Audit Committee Chair of the YMCA of the Greater Toronto Area. Manjit is based in Toronto, Canada where she resides with her husband and their two children.
GE (NYSE:GE) is the World’s Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. GE is organized around a global exchange of knowledge, the “GE Store,” through which each business shares and access the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry.
Bill Tofflemire is the Chief Financial Officer of Mattamy Homes, with responsibility for the company’s overall finance and accounting function, including Treasury, Tax, Reporting, Risk Management and Financial Planning and Analysis. Before joining Mattamy in 2015, Bill was EVP and Chief Financial Officer of Walmart Canada, where he led the finance function for Canada’s fastest-growing retail operation, overseeing a team of 230 associates and with ownership of strategy, real estate, construction and strategic sourcing. He was previously Walmart’s VP of Commercial Finance, where he led financial planning and analysis for the company’s merchandising, operations and real estate areas. Prior to joining Walmart, Bill was with PepsiCo, where he served as Senior Director of Sales Finance for Pepsi Cola’s North American operations, based in New York. He also held senior finance and strategy roles for Pepsi Cola’s Canadian operation. Bill started his career with Procter & Gamble, where he had senior positions within financial analysis, corporate finance and line-finance management.
Bill holds Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Business Administration degrees from Queen’s University and has obtained the CPA, CMA designation.