In this CFO to CFO episode of the podcast, host David Axson sat down with Bill Teuber, Senior Principal of Bridge Growth Partners, to explore the evolving role of the CFO and how today’s CFOs use data to drive decision-making.
Bill Teuber is currently a senior principal of Bridge Growth Partners (BGP), and a director of both Accedian and Syniti. Prior to joining BGP, Bill held numerous senior leadership positions at EMC, including Vice Chairman, Global Head of Sales, Chief Financial Officer, among others. Bill Teuber has worked in finance for 45 years. During that time, he has seen a lot of changes in the CFO role. One of the most significant evolutions in recent years is how essential data and technology have become to the financial side of the enterprise.
According to Bill, data has always been at the foundation of finance, but data-informed decisions now drive every aspect of the business.
“When I think about the 14 column spreadsheets and the exquisite calculations you had to go through to do a formula back in the old days …” Bill shared in his CFO to CFO interview.
“Today, you’ve got artificial intelligence and so much computing power behind you. You have the ability to source so many more factors to understand what your KPIs are and make decisions.”
How Today's CFOs Use Data to Drive Financial Growth
Data lets you forecast what comes next and stay one step ahead, which is especially important in a market that is characterized by unprecedented levels of unpredictability and volatility.
“Now, we have the ability to understand in real-time what’s happening with the business,” Bill said.
“You have real-time data to inform you what happened today, not just 30 days ago. Having a tighter steering wheel really allows you to know what to do next.”
This real-time data helps CFOs answer two fundamental questions: One, how do I use data to enable growth? And two, how do I make sure the business has cash? These two objectives are frequently at odds with each other.
This is where the CFO’s management skills and ability to make data-informed decisions come in. Bill firmly believes that, as CFO, when people come to you with ideas for growing the business or building cash reserves, you don’t say no—you say how? Then, you can use the data to figure out if it makes sense.
The Future of the CFO Role and the Value of Talent
The role of CFO has changed drastically in the past decade. In today’s businesses, you see fewer CFOs with traditional accounting backgrounds and more that came to the position from investment banking or a similar role.
These CFOs don’t necessarily have the tried-and-true experience you earn coming up through the ranks of the finance department, but that’s OK so long as there is strong support in place to provide backup.
In other words, the CFO doesn’t have to know all the nuts and bolts, but they have to have trust in the people who do know the nuts and bolts.
One of the greatest attributes of a CFO is their ability to build a team that can handle all the financial reporting, financial planning and analysis (FP&A), treasury, and so on. Without that strong support, CFOs can’t do the things they need—and want—to do, such as be an advisor to the CEO.
Every CFO wants to be in the room when important things are being discussed—to give alternatives and be a voice that’s listened to. Rich finance talent that can translate data into performance improvements and actionable strategies for business leaders is the future of the CFO role.
As Bill noted, the data and technology explosion has elevated talent above specific college degrees or paths to the C-suite. What matters most today is a CFO’s ability to use the wealth of available data to make smart, data-informed decisions.
“At the end of the day, as a CFO or a business manager, you have to make decisions. But today, you have way more data behind you to help you make those decisions and make the business run more smoothly and more efficiently.”
Listen to David Axson’s full interview with Bill Teuber on the CFO to CFO podcast. Or subscribe to the Syniti Podcast Series so you don’t miss any insights from the world’s most influential finance leaders and innovators.