How Can Corporate Financial Professionals Drive Their Career Growth Successfully?

October 5, 2022 Lydia Adams

CFO Helping accountant with finance career growth

The world constantly transforms. That's a fact that applies to businesses and organizations. These changes impact individuals and their careers, including CFOs and all financial pros. To manage change, finance professionals need to adapt. But how can they do that successfully and drive their finance career growth and development? Bryan Lapidus has the right formula, which he willingly shares with us today.

Bryan has more than 20 years of experience in the corporate FP&A and treasury space working at organizations like American Express, Fannie Mae, and private equity-owned companies. At AFP, he is the staff subject matter expert on FP&A, which includes creating and curating content to meet the needs of the profession and membership. Bryan also manages FP&A Advisory Councils in North America and Asia/Pacific that act as a voice to align AFP with the professional needs.

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Welcome back to CFO Weekly, where we're talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy, and ultimately, get results, with your host, Megan Weis. Let's jump right in.

Megan Weis: Today my guest is Bryan Lapidus, Certified Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis Professional. Bryan is the Director, FP&A Practice, for the Association for Financial Professionals, or AFP. Bryan has more than 20 years of experience in the corporate FP&A and treasury space, working at organizations like American Express, Fannie Mae, and private equity-owned companies.

At the Association for Financial Professionals, he is the staff subject matter expert on FP&A, which includes creating and curating content to meet the needs of the profession and membership. Bryan also manages FP&A advisory councils in North America and Asia Pacific that act as a voice to align AFP with the needs of the profession. Bryan, thank you so much for joining me on today's episode.

Bryan Lapidus: Megan, it was great to hear from you. Great to connect and happy to be here with you today.

Megan: Yes, today we're going to be discussing your career as well as the Association for Finance Professionals, or AFP, and its importance as a resource for finance professionals, and I'm really looking forward to learning from you so let's get started. First, tell us about your career journey and how it is that you've got to where you are today.

Bryan: That would be a zig-zagging line for sure.

Megan: [laughs] Me too, but it's always interesting to hear how people get to where they are, so.

Bryan: Right. I never would have planned it or seen this from the beginning and you can draw an arc, or you could draw a storyline only looking backwards. I feel like it would be- if there's a movie on this, the title might be something like the liberal arts guy finds a home in finance.

[laughter]

Bryan: I was an undergraduate History major, I was a Spanish language minor, and my first job out of undergrad was working at the Smithsonian doing historical research.

Megan: Wow. That is a journey. [laughs]

Bryan: I think I spent my 20s in a series of short-lived or short-tenured jobs finding out things that I didn't like. I did some traveling and I guess at some point, I had this job, I was working for a mutual fund tracking service writing their newsletter about mutual fund performance, and that got me into finance and got me into the markets, and then I just had this great opportunity at Booz Allen Hamilton, which really opened my eyes as to what you could do. It was this sense that a business can solve really hard problems.

It was a consulting company and we were doing really interesting work for the DC government, for regulatory environmental agencies, and at the core of it, it always came back to the sense of how do you quantify that? Is this worth doing? What is the right outcome, both strategically and financially, and that was the position that really redirected my career. From there I went to business school, I got my MBA. I was at American Express in a rotational program for almost five years. After that, I ran FP&A for about five years. That was really that inflection point that said that finance can do interesting things and brings a certain point of view to the table. Good analytical work to solve hard problems.

Megan: That's very interesting, and Smithsonian to Booz Allen, that's quite a jump. How did you do that?

[laughter]

Bryan: How did I do that? Well, there were a couple of years in between. After the Smithsonian, that's when I traveled and I came back and I wanted to work. I thought I wanted to work in the kind of company that helps to improve the quality of life in developing nations, and the only job I could get at that point was in the finance office of one of these companies that backstops, it's an NGO, a non-government organization that supports these kinds of programs, and the finance office was my entree into there.

I discovered I like the work, maybe not the company, but the work itself. Then honestly, it just became a couple of different positions, meeting somebody at a networking event who worked at Booz Allen and struck up an interesting conversation with, and I was young enough in my career that they needed worker bees and I was willing to do almost anything, so that was the match.

Megan: Yes, the importance of networking highlighted right there.

Bryan: It is, and it's not where you think it's going to come from. Sometimes it is these classic networking sessions. Sometimes they call it the strength of weak ties. I remember the guy, he was a friend of a friend who I met over I think a brunch, and that was the start of the step.

Megan: You never know where a conversation is going to lead you.

Bryan: Yes.

Megan: As you look back on your career, and you may have already answered this, but can you point to stories or turning points that really made a difference for you?

Bryan: I was asked this one question twice in my career, it was really abstract, but both times I got really excited about it. The first was at Booz Allen, and as I was interviewing for different jobs and different projects. The question was, have you ever tried to value something that clearly cannot be valued? At that point, it was about trying to give guidance to the government on spill prevention. Basically, what is the benefit of avoiding a spill on the Mississippi River by either having the ships have two holes so that if the outer hole is punctured, there's an inner retaining wall, or some chemical retardant or chemical cleanup onboard?

The question was, well, there's going to be a cost to the industry of this, what is the benefit? It was just such an interesting question. What is the benefit of this? In FP&A, we do this all the time. What is the cost-benefit analysis? The CFO is the steward of company capital and has to help decide, do you put your money in choice A or choice B? Which is the right opportunity for strategic reasons, for financial reasons, for stakeholder reasons?

The second time that I was asked that question was that American Express, and I was in my rotational program and I was interviewing for a different rotation, and I remember that boss asked me the same question. Have you ever valued something that clearly cannot be valued? Oddly enough, he was totally shocked when I said, "Well, yes."

[laughter]

Bryan: I have great experience doing that. That was actually in a risk position, and the question was how much money, how much capital do you keep on the balance sheet as a reserve against operational risks knowing that you never know the likelihood or the impact or the effectiveness of your controls against those risk events? That was a great experience. It was part of the audit organization but it was borderline audit and risk, and we went through this process of trying to value how much money AMEX would have to keep.

We went through this pilot project, we chose the smallest division of the company and we put our methodology in place and we did a Monte Carlo simulation, and it was all very technical and all very impressive, and we failed so profoundly, it was so wonderful. [chuckles] The outcome of this said that in the smallest division of AMEX we'd have to hold more capital than the entire market value debt plus equity of the whole company.

[laughter]

Clearly, that was not what we were hoping for, but I just remember the process of doing it, the thought process, the people that I got to meet around the company, and just the raw mental firepower of the people I was working with. It was a great project with a huge failure ending, but on the other hand, it's only a failure if you don't learn anything from it, and while we didn't get the outcome we wanted, the process, the diligence, and what everybody took away from that really was wonderful.

Megan: Yes, those failures can be, well, they often are the best learning experiences there are.

Bryan: Yes, no doubt. I actually took that and my next rotation was in treasury, but that risk capital, that sense of, can you forecast the downside as well as the upside, has always stayed with me. Actually, when I joined AFP, one of the first guides that I wrote was trying to align the forecasting methodology. The FP&A view of really, how do you think about the forecast and what are the skills that you need in order to mitigate risk in your forecasting and trying to put that in place of a larger ERM and enterprise risk management capability.

We actually had lined up our certification knowledge, skills, and abilities alongside the COSO ERM framework. We looked at the two side by side and says, there's a lot more these two can do together. If you're the CFO and you're responsible to the audit committee and you're trying to reduce risk and you're also trying to see around corners, the two of these groups really have an opportunity to work together.

Megan: Let's talk about your current organization, AFP, and what it is that they do.

Bryan: Sure, sure. AFP is the voice of the corporate finance professional. We are not for profit, but we help treasury and FP&A practitioners, honestly, just be better at their job. We do that by helping them advance their careers. We deliver the best conference in the business. This year it'll be the third week in October in Philadelphia. We have certifications for both treasury and FP&A, we have training for corporations and educational content research guides. That's really my area, is trying to help with that educational content, and honestly, just helping people be better at their jobs.

Megan: Let's take a look at those certifications for just a second. What is the process, first of all, for getting them, and what does it mean to a finance professional's career?

Bryan: The process for getting certification, there is an application and it's a combination of experience, time in the role, as well as passing a test. The test is fairly rigorous. It's a two-part exam, although if you have your CPA, you can waive out of the first and just go right to the second test. It covers six different areas, all that are core to what it takes to be good in this job, right?

For the people who pass the test and earn their certification, what it says, what it signals to the marketplace is that they as individuals have met these foundational elements of what it takes to be good in the job. It signals commitment to being an FP&A professional, and it's also just a sense of belonging to the community and tapping into the overall finance FP&A and a community to continue their education and continue, honestly, that sense of excellence in finance.

Megan: You've been with AFP for how many years now?

Bryan: I've been here, I'm coming up on my four-year anniversary.

Megan: Okay, and what are your proudest achievements since joining the organization?

Bryan: Since joining. Every year we put on this conference, and I mentioned it earlier, and we're going to be, actually, this past October, we were in person for the first time since the pandemic started. It's hard to really explain to somebody who hasn't been to the conference just how amazing it is. Pre-COVID, we were 7,000 people strong in Boston. We had 120 educational sessions, keynotes, nearly 300 vendors on the floor. Putting on an event like that is a combination of just comradery among the AFP team who's doing it, who's executing it, but really walking along and hearing people say, "I learned this, I never thought it about this way. There are things I'm going to take back to my office."

People say they bring their whole team to conference, and being able to deliver that kind of excellence to the community is really just inspiring every year. Every year I get to have that experience and that really is pretty wonderful.

Megan: Yes, that's awesome. So many events out there, but some of them just aren't very impactful or meaningful, so it's always special when you can find one that is.

Bryan: [chuckles] Yes. I think we as an organization do a really great job of pulling together the serious, the really heady stuff, but also of the lighthearted stuff. This year we have Adam Grant and Leila Ali as our keynotes. Entrepreneurs and also people who are really thinking about what it takes to have psychological safety and build great teams, and we'll have artificial intelligence, machine learning, and we'll have storytelling.

We're also going to have a puppy park, right? We have yoga events, we have coffees, we have music and live entertainment. It is everything from the inspirational to the deep dive, heady stuff, to the pure networking and just talking to your peers and the learning from your peers. It's big enough that you could find whatever it is you're looking for.

Megan: Yes, sounds amazing. You yourself have over 20 years of experience in corporate FP&A and treasury. How have you seen finance evolve? How has it changed as far as how it's practiced?

Bryan: Probably about 20 years ago, I asked that same question to my boss who then was the treasurer of American Express and it's so it's funny. Now I'm at the point of my career where I'm doing the look back and it's funny when I asked him, I still remember he was talking about getting ready for these presentations and board presentations.

Back then he said, you'd print something out. We didn't even, he says, we didn't even have Excel and we didn't even have PowerPoint. You'd print out something in whatever tool they were using pre-spreadsheet, and then you'd paste it down on the board. Then somebody would make a change and they would glue it on, they'd paste it down on top of the board.

Eventually, you'd have so many changes that the pasted-down items would become three-dimensional, and when you'd go to Xerox it, you'd have a shadow on it. Then you'd have to take the Wite-Out and you'd white-out the shadow and you'd rerecord. I think about that because I think that, at some point, the tools that we're using in finance keep changing.

My early career was all about the build-out of Excel and PowerPoint, and those were the new tools that we were using to do finance. Here we are today and we're talking about AI and ML and AutoML and low-code/no-code solutions, right, and all these things. What occurs to me is that the change is that there's always new tools that are coming out. New tools are leading to new capabilities, new things that we can do in finance. That's leading to new business models and that's the change, the tools, to new capabilities, to new business models.

Then you have to ask, what does it mean to be in finance? I think that as those details change, the constant in all this is that finance and the CFO is the steward of company capital. What that means is that we have the role of reporting where your capital was, so that you can report on it, have compliance and control, and report out to investors, and we have the role of, where is your capital today? That's the circulation of capital around the company so that you can deploy it efficiently, effectively, you can receive it from your customers and all of those basic functions.

Now the new business model is helping to place that next dollar of capital to wherever it can be most effectively deployed. Whether you call that finance the business partnership, or whether you call it more of the A, the analysis of FP&A, the tools are leading to the capabilities and the new business model. The CFO is a partner in the business creating a forward-looking allocation and optimization of where that next dollar goes and I see that as the big change.

Megan: Yes. Accounting finance has definitely become more exciting over the years. It's no longer about just looking backwards, but these days, it's more about looking forward.

Bryan: Looking forward, what are you going to do? I'll tell you, there's a whole line of people who are moving from accounting and audit into FP&A and we talk to them all the time when we talk to our community and to our membership, and what is it that's different, and really, what are those great accounting and audit skills that can make you be better in FP&A?

It's a little bit of a mind shift change, right? It's not the reporting of capital and saying, where was it? It's that forward-looking view. With that, a little bit of comfort and ambiguity and probability and optionality, right? Because it's not about being precise or precisely recording or coming up with the book of record of what happened. It's recognizing that there are multiple potential outcomes out there and you have to help figure out which one you want, guide the company there, and be prepared to pivot if suddenly you have to change your mind, if you have to reallocate capital. I see this mistake that some people make, which is, especially if they're too heavily influenced on the accounting view of the world, and that is they think of the budget or the forecast as a historical record projected forward, and it can't be that. You can't lock in your future view to a once-a-year budget or a once-a-year limit. You can make a budget, you can make a forecast, you're going to reforecast all the time but the challenge is to have that mental agility and flexibility to know that your budget is not going to be where you end up and to do what's best for the company is going to require changing your original plan.

Megan: I would think that a lot of organizations out there start with last year's budget and use that to forecast probably more than not.

Bryan: I might quibble with wording a little bit. There's the budget and there's the forecast. The budget is what you want to happen and it's the alignment of resources and plans around the organization, and the forecast is where you think you're going to end up. I think that people will often choose a budget and say, well, we'll start with last year and our plans and see how we did, and we definitely see some of that.

Then for the forecast, I think people might-- Maybe their first forecast is heavily influenced by the budget because oftentimes, a budget is both a point in time forecast as well as that strategic alignment, but it's really important that the forecast be independent from the budget because the budget is often tied with goals and incentives and what you want to happen. If you put all those wants onto the forecast, you're going to bias the forecast, and that's the worst thing that could happen.

Your forecast has to be independent and an honest view of where you think you're going to end up because you might have to make a change. You might have to take money out from one place to another, and if you're locked into all of the compensation discussions and the fiefdoms and whose money is whose, if you layer all those expectations on a forecast, you won't have an honest forecast and you won't make good decisions.

Megan: Just looking back at the last two years, do you think the last two years have changed financial planning forever or in any way or-- With all of the unexpected things that have happened, how are people looking at planning for the future these days?

Bryan: Wow, that's a really hard question.

Megan: I threw that at you out of left field.

[laughter]

Bryan: I'll tell you why it's a hard question. Had you asked me a year or 18 months ago, I would say yes, it has changed finance, full stop. The reason is we saw that we did a lot of polling during the early 12 months of the recession, maybe not the recession but the pandemic, to see how people were reacting, what they were doing and what processes were changing. We saw that the demand for FP&A services was increasing. So the CFO is being asked, what do we do? How do we manage this? They'll turn around saying I need a new projection every day, every week, every month.

Our survey data indicates that the level of demand for forecasting and those kinds of services jumped in 2020 and 2021. I think that it has come down a little bit as we've moved into a newish-- I can't call it new normal but whatever this reality is now, I certainly don't think it's normal. I think that that level of demand and hyperventilation around I need to have this, I need to have it now, has decreased.

Without a doubt, the investment in forecasting technology and systems has increased. Where I'm not seeing the change is what percentage of companies can kind of spin up a new forecast with minimal effort. 50% according to our surveys are saying we can't do that. To me, it's really awful that at this point-- I was trying not to say it but if you really want me to say what I think, it's a little irresponsible at this point not to have quick, on-demand forecasting available to you. You've got to get the alignment right and your processes right to get your forecasting in place. You've got to be able to come up with a forecast quickly to respond.

I think what you need to have is rapid reaction to changes in the marketplace, as well as the ability to hold multiple scenarios in your head and in your planning at the same time. I think that we have this initial burst of activity in this part of the CFO function, followed by a little bit of, okay, you know what, maybe we can make do. Maybe we can get by with what we have.

I really see the split between those companies that are investing in technology, in their forecasting tools, and in that capability to do more, and those that are really shrinking back to finance as a compliance function, and we're happy in the small space. The difference between those two is the difference of an exciting career with a CFO that is creating new opportunities for themselves and their finance organization, versus a CFO whose business is going to be a shrinking percentage of thought of end of impact.

Megan: Yes, and I'm sure a bit of like a company that utilizes finance and accounting has a competitive advantage versus a corporation that doesn't.

Bryan: We had we had a webinar last month. It was a kickoff to an event that we're having in June. The event is called Get Your Data Right. This one woman from our company was talking about how they've invested in their finance lab. I asked the question, "Well, have you been able to reduce your cost, your size footprint, your scope?" She said just the opposite, that the more they have pushed the envelope on what they can do, the more they can deliver, the more demand there is for their services. They're actually increasing their staff because they are so much more useful to the business. Because they are so much more in demand.

Some companies, and especially large companies, there's these transfer pricing mechanisms where certain parts of finance are allocated to each P&L as a tax. Maybe it's accounting and maybe it's treasury and the service providers. Then people argue, how do I reduce the cost of finance that's taxed on my business? Then the analysis side, the FP&A side, the side that's sitting with the business, those costs are often picked up by the business and they say, oh, no, we want to reduce the parts, we want to reduce some parts but we want to increase the amount of analysis that we're getting because that's helping us grow.

I drew the dichotomy a few minutes ago between the expansive view, the value-adding CFO, and the compliance CFO. The compliance CFO will limit what they see as how do I reduce my costs as a percentage of revenue, right? That's a terrible metric for success. The value CFO is going to say, how much are people asking for what I can do? How much do they want my people? Am I being part of this key discussion? Do I have that proverbial seat at the table? That's the place where the CFO can create interesting jobs, have impact, and really bring that thing that we do in finance better than anybody else. Bring that to the table.

What is it that we do? We bring a quantitative point of view and understanding of the business. We bring models and methodology to the table to help make decisions. Let's get to that point that we can do that. You got to invest in your people, you got to build out those tools, got to develop the capabilities, that is the new business model. With FP&A as the tip of the spear but that's the same ideas, right? Accounting needs to have those same tools so that they're not just working offline and spreadsheets and then loading it into the ERM.

The audit teams, they need to be not just doing samples of transactions but you can actually test the entire population. The treasury teams can do more with their treasury management systems in order to bring that along. With these new tools you've got to bring along the training, the skilling. Our membership spends a lot of time talking about how do you upskill people? How do you train and retrain and move these different frontiers of technology adopters throughout finance?

Megan: That's really interesting because I'm sure as more becomes automated, as AI plays more of a role, the transactional stuff is no longer necessary. Being able to upskill your people is key, I'm sure. Especially these days when they're so hard to find, to begin with.

[laughter]

Bryan: How do you find them, how do you [unintelligible 00:30:01] on to them, right?

Megan: Yes, it's all great questions.

Bryan: Actually, I have two advisory councils, just to make sure that we here at AFP are really keeping our ear to the ground and understanding what's happening. One is in Asia and one is, I used to say North America, but we also have members of that council from Europe. When I look at the council, honestly, half of them are sitting around saying, how do I get people? How do I keep them? The other half all have new positions or are looking for new positions within a 12-month window. Either they're looking for something, or in the last four to eight months, they've all gotten something new, so I hear it on both sides and so because of that, I play both sides.

I think that if you're an employer, you have to demonstrate that you care about your people, and that means you care about not only the quality of work they're doing, so don't have high IQ people doing low IQ work by just punching and matching spreadsheets, but you have to invest in your people. I know that I work for an association that is all about investing and upskilling people, but there's a reason why I'm here. There's a reason why I'm doing this work and it doesn't have to be the conference, but we think conference is great, right? We've got training, we've certification, there are guides.

You have to create a path for your people to find their next role, which means you have to hold onto them, but not too tightly. You have to help them find their next role, help them upskill. You have to help them keep their antenna up of what is new, right? I didn't know what AutoML was until I started looking at all the conference sessions coming in. There's just so much to learn and if you're not growing and you're not learning, you're not developing yourself and your team, right, you're going to fall behind.

So often, I think that people in finance feel this need to demonstrate fiscal restraint so that they could go and impose that on the rest of the company, right? How many times does the CFO say, I can't spend this money because I have to be the model so that when I go to XYZ department, they understand why I'm asking for money back, right?

Megan: So true.

Bryan: We have to stop thinking in that way. If we want to be the value-added finance organization, we have to add value. The only way to do that is the right skills, the right tools, the right combination of processes, and that growth mindset.

Megan: Yes, and as we look at it, it's hard to retain people, but people want to feel like they're being invested in anywhere they work, so it's a great point.

Bryan: Yes, okay. You have to give people a reason to stay. You have to believe in them as individuals, upskill them, and give them opportunities within the job to grow. We had a speaker at conference last year who said that we have to stop thinking of career ladders, where you move up one rung and you wait for your boss to get promoted so you can promoted, right? It's not about career ladders, it's about career latescence. You don't have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to think broadly and be in multiple places, and I'll give you the tip that came out of one of our round tables at conference. Somebody said, it's all about the projects.

If you want to develop somebody in your organization, give them a project that pulls them out of your team, have them work with somebody else, have them work cross-functionally to meet other people. If you don't have a naturally occurring project, invent one that maybe it's a data project so they could pick up data skills. Maybe it's a new product development so you get them in with marketing, get them in with the supply chain team, but you have your due job and you have your improved job. The project view is such a great way to expand people's contacts, network, and give them other opportunities which comes back to retaining talent.

Megan: Yes, another great point. I think it's so important that finance and accounting professionals get to see other parts of the business throughout their career, especially these days. To partner with the CEO and provide a strategic vision, you have to know about the business that you are in.

Bryan: Yes. There's so much talent in the finance organization and sometimes I fear it gets lost in the basement. We'd interviewed somebody, she was a tax professional who actually had a new role to become the head of global FP&A, and you say, well, how does somebody from tax, which is such a detailed focused area, come out to such a forward-looking partnership view?

She had the personality, but she also had the desire to say, this is all related. This is not tax for the sake of tax. This is finance as a competitive weapon that we can use to help in the marketplace, so let me sit with the business and say, well, if we do this and this differently, we can apply our taxes differently or we could pay in a different jurisdiction and so we can maximize our own returns, right? Finance has the skillset, but you don't know how to apply until you meet with the business, until you learn what the business does.

Sometimes I think that we in finance get fall a little bit too in love with our models and our spreadsheets and we see what's in front of us, and the work that we do, actually, in one of our webinars, we took a poll and we said, how much of your work for the FP&A people who are supposed to be closest to the business, we said, how much of your work is actually for other finance people? Well, two-thirds of the people said that almost all of their work had other finance people as the main users, and these are supposed to be the business partners.

Megan: Wow.

Bryan: Look at what you're doing, look at who is the main beneficiary and how you spend your time and make sure that you're adding value to the business, not just numbers for the sake of numbers.

Megan: That's great advice. As you look at treasury and FP&A, they have complementary strengths. How can they work together to strengthen an organization's strategic forecasting process?

Bryan: We think about this all the time because for AFP, really, the two business lines are the corporate treasury side and then the corporate finance FP&A side. I have a colleague, Tom Hunt, who really is a leading thinker on the treasury side. He and I talk about this and sometimes we speak about it together. The opportunities are there and I think that treasury and FP&A are opposite sides of the coin, and putting them together really presents the whole picture. What I mean by that is, I guess let's pull it apart this way.

When you think about forecasting in the financial statements, right, treasury thinks in terms of cash in and cash out. They think cash flow statement and balance sheet, and then they think direct methodology of accounting and direct methodology of forecasting cash flow. FP&A is thinking about earnings. They're a little closer to the accounting side and the GAAP accrual and trying to navigate between valuations done on a cash flow basis and what that looks like on the earnings and the income statement side. FP&A thinks about P&Ls at multiple levels and indirect methodology for cash flow. If you put the two of them together, you've got all three financial statements all working together, and that's incredibly helpful.

For treasury they're thinking in terms of legal entity needs, they're thinking in terms of corporate cash needs, and they tend to have a shorter timeframe because they want to move the capital out to meet the bills and the forecasts within short to midterm. For FP&A, FP&A doesn't have a lot of ability to influence the short term because the product is on the truck.

The account executive is working with the customer, right? The short term, those decisions are already made and you're just waiting to see what happens, but the medium term and the long term is where they have a lot of influence.

What is the investment we're going to do? Is it time to reallocate capital? Are we going to build a 50-year oil well and when is that going to happen? Because of that, FP&A can work with treasury to bring to bear what those medium and longer-term elements are, and treasury needs that so that they could adjust the capital stack. What is the kind of capital structure we should have? Are we issuing bonds? Should we rely on our line of credit for that? Right, and so the two together, because the strength is that they operate in different worlds, but if you put the two together, you've got the whole financial picture and that's really why they should be talking to each other regularly.

Megan: Yes, definitely. It sounds like it. I'm always talking about how you need to breakdowns silos across the organization, but I never really stopped to think that there's silos just within finance that need to be broken down as well.

Bryan: Yes, there really are. We talked about projects and lattice careers, right? Just spend a week or a month with somebody on the treasury side or in the FP&A side and see what the questions are that they're working with and see where their gaps, their knowledge and information gaps are.

Megan: As you look inward, what is one of the biggest challenges that you and your team are facing this quarter?

Bryan: For us, it always comes back to what is it we're delivering and how do we deliver to the membership? We're trying something different this quarter which is, June 9th, we have a half-day virtual workshop and it really is tightly focused around a single scene. It's the first time we've done this so that's the challenge. Can we do it? Can we get everybody who needs to be there and can we deliver on this?

The topic is get your data all right, and it comes out of our resource that says, this is the fundamental piece that is the launching point for everything else. What we've brought together for this event are four different case studies from recognizable companies and talking about how do you build a data-driven company and how do you build that into your data layer. Literally, it's how do you get your data right so that you can do all these other things that you're doing. All the things that the consulting companies are telling you is out there, and all the things that the vendors want you to have and say that they've got built into their software, well, it all comes down to that data layer and so this is a real focused event to deliver that to the community.

Megan: Yes. I guess the data's not right and nothing else is worthwhile.

Bryan: My neighbor, he's a quintessential data geek and he says, I'm trying to remember to get his line. He says a chef wouldn't make soup with dirty water, right? Why would you make decisions based on dirty data?

Megan: Yes, love that analogy. [chuckles] So, lastly, as a finance risk and operations professional, what is keeping you up at night? What worries as you look out into the future?

Bryan: I talked about the two views of the two kinds of CFOs, right? The value CFO who's expanding and expanding opportunities, and the compliance-based CFO who just says, how do I reduce my cost? Actually, maybe it's the cost-based CFO who says how do I do my job at the lowest possible cost and what's the least amount of disruption?

What keeps me up at night is the companies that don't get that right, that are really going to turn finance or for their people are going to become compliance departments that are handling reporting, that are handling government affairs and filing taxes, and the people who are working in those jobs who don't get a chance to really expand. That's really what keeps me up at night. How do we get those people to move forward? To move past mediocrity into what really can be an exciting intellectually challenging growth career for themselves?

Megan: Yes, absolutely. Finance is-- it can be such an exciting career. It's terrible to think that some people are stuck in that kind of environment.

Bryan: I've had the jobs where you send out Excel template to 20 or 30 different people and it comes back and you add it all up and you hope that your formulas don't break, right. I've had spreadsheets with 135 different tabs trying to forecast every marketing campaign, right. There's 135 tabs for every market for every year, so I had four markets and I would do a three-year rolling forecast weekly, and it's just-- it's high IQ people doing low IQ work. There's a better way you could do it better. You could have a better and more rewarding career. That's really what keeps me up at night.

Megan: Absolutely. Bryan, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Bryan: Oh, Megan, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.

Megan: Yes. I've enjoyed speaking with you and I wish you and AFP all the best. To all of our listeners, if you'd like to learn more about AFP, you can visit AFPonline.org. That's AFPonline.org. Please tune in next week, and until then, take care.

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You've been listening to CFO Weekly, presented by Personiv. Please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to hear all of our episodes. Want to learn more? Check out Personiv.com. Thanks for listening.


In this episode, we discuss advancing financial and professional success, the changing role of a CFO, upskilling financial professionals, and strengthening an organization's strategic forecasting process amongst other interesting topics.

Advancing Financial and Professional Success - Finance Career Growth

financial career success and growth quote

The Association for Financial Professionals is a non-profit organization that helps corporate financial professionals achieve their career potential. AFP established the Certified Treasury Professional and Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credentials, setting the standard of excellence in finance and treasury.

“My area is trying to help with educational content and, honestly, helping people be better at their jobs.”

The Changing Role of a CFO

The changing role of a CFO steward quote

The CFO role constantly evolves — new tools appear, which lead to new capabilities and business models. And those new business models can help place that next dollar of capital wherever it can be most effectively deployed. The CFO is a partner in the business, creating a forward-looking allocation and optimization of where that next dollar goes.

“The CFO is the steward of company capital.”

Upskilling Financial Teams and Individuals to Promote Finance Career Growth

upskilling financial teams quote

If you want to attract and retain top financial talent, invest in your people. You have to believe in them as individuals, upskill them, and give them opportunities within the job to grow. Focus on training people, helping them find their next role, and keeping their antenna attuned to what is new. Give your team new projects and opportunities to learn, grow, and interact with other business members.

“If we want to be a value-added finance organization, we have to add value.”

Strengthening an Organization's Strategic Forecasting Process

strengthening your finance career growth quote by Brian Lapidus

Treasury and FP&A have complementary strengths. By putting them to work together effectively, CFOs can better understand and control the process of making successful investments and allocating budgets.

“Treasury and FP&A are opposite sides of the coin, and putting them together presents the whole picture.”

For more interviews from the CFO Weekly podcast, check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and our RSS or your favorite podcast player!

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