UPS CFO Kurt Kuehn: "It's been almost too easy these past two years. CFOs and finance managers took a lead during the financial chaos because they had to help their companies navigate. There are some people who think that this is the new normal and that finance is now enshrined as a critical strategic function, but I think that this can be lost as easily as it was gained if functions don't continue to stay attuned with the business, when growth maybe becomes a higher focus as opposed to cost management. I think that this is the challenge facing finance over the next year. It's remaining relevant.
You want to grow smartly, and finance needs to be deeply involved in the business strategy. This may mean working more closely with marketing on understanding product and understanding what brings the most value. Finance must help management to understand customer profitability, revenue management, reverse reviews of new product strategies, and M&A. There are a lot of areas that are not just about cost reduction -- it's about understanding where profits lie."
Department of Energy CFO Steve Isakowitz: "A modern CFO needs to be more than a CPA. He or she needs to really understand the business so that you're at the table and a member of the decision support team. I mentioned before that we have shareholders similar to those in the private sector, but the fact is that ours are much more diverse. We've got essentially 535 people up on Capitol Hill and the President and all his minions. All need to be addressed. So, it's much more diverse, and it's challenging in that way because you're trying to please all of those people as well those in the department itself. And the budgeting process is highly unique to the federal government in terms of working with the White House, and in terms of getting the dollars you need to get the job done. One big challenge is that every year you are reviewing it, and it's hard to get the long-term commitments you need, particularly for projects like we have, which include projects where we're building major scientific facilities. It's a challenge to get that stability when there are changes in parties. It's a very dynamic environment and one where you have to learn to work through the bureaucracy. And it's one that I personally find very rewarding because of the mission itself. There are things that you are trying to accomplish -- whether it's helping to create jobs, to win wars at the Pentagon, or to visit planets, such as when I was working at NASA -- and I don't think that you find this in the private sector.
Jeffrey C. Thomson is president and CEO of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA): "For most, financial leadership may sound desirable, but what does this mean? Depending on the current stage of your career, it can mean many different things -- all of which represent the essential ingredients of a proven financial leader....
Time is a precious commodity, and most people feel that they don't have enough of it. In terms of time management, can you juggle a number of different projects at once and wisely prioritize tasks? Are you respectful of other people's time as well? Proper time management skills will help you to make better choices and enable you to use your time in more valuable ways.
While these skills may appear basic, they're often difficult to maintain day-in and day-out. People at this level need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed, for example. With enough practice, these soft skills will become a daily habit and serve as a springboard to more technical skills that they'll learn down the road."