545 episodes

CFO THOUGHT LEADER is a podcast featuring firsthand accounts of finance leaders who are driving change within their organizations.
We share the career journey of our spotlighted CFO guest: What do they struggle with? How do they persevere? What makes them successful CFOs? CFO THOUGHT LEADER is all about inspiring finance professionals to take a leadership leap. We know that by hearing about the successes — (and yes, also the failures) — of others, today’s CFOs can more confidently chart their own leadership paths across the enterprise and take inspired action.

CFO THOUGHT LEADER Middle Market Executive

    • Careers
    • 4.6 • 94 Ratings

CFO THOUGHT LEADER is a podcast featuring firsthand accounts of finance leaders who are driving change within their organizations.
We share the career journey of our spotlighted CFO guest: What do they struggle with? How do they persevere? What makes them successful CFOs? CFO THOUGHT LEADER is all about inspiring finance professionals to take a leadership leap. We know that by hearing about the successes — (and yes, also the failures) — of others, today’s CFOs can more confidently chart their own leadership paths across the enterprise and take inspired action.

    691: Get Out of the Weeds | Rob Krolik, Partner, Burst Capital (CFO emeritus)

    691: Get Out of the Weeds | Rob Krolik, Partner, Burst Capital (CFO emeritus)

    When Rob Krolik agreed to join us for a CFO (emeritus) episode, we expected to hear about the successful business turnaround chapter that he added to his finance resume while CFO at Move.com. We also anticipated learning about his years at Yelp, where—back in 2011, as the firm’s new CFO—he was credited with helping to lead one of the year’s most successful IPOs.
    While Krolik was only too happy to share a few thoughts regarding both of these chapters, he also reflected on a place in time about which we never expected to hear—namely, when a speech delivered by the outgoing president of his international youth group turned out to be plagiarized and in fact a word-for-word copy of an address given by another retiring president a number of years earlier.
    “It was a very moving speech and I had put the guy up on a pedestal, so it taught me not to put anyone up there again,” explains Krolik, who notes that this experience from his teen years led him to enter the professional world with a self-mandate to treat people as individuals.
    “It actually allowed me to treat people equally at the different jobs I’ve had. Whether it was a CEO or COO or the lowest-level accountant, they were going to be treated all the same,” he continues.
    Still, Krolik’s egalitarian aspirations have not stifled his willingness to offer generous praise to past mentors and bosses alike, among whom is counted finance executive Robert Swan, the former CFO of eBay (and more recently Intel CEO), who is allotted perhaps the lion’s share of Krolik’s kudos.
    “He was able to explain things in a way that made sense to everyone in the room and not just the tech people and not just the finance and accounting people,” recalls Krolik, who joined eBay after the firm acquired Shopping.com, where Krolik had served in his first CFO role.
    Krolik would stay on at eBay as a vice president of finance for another 3 years before entering the CFO office at Move.com. –Jack Sweeney
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    • 42 min
    690: The Next 100 Years | Arleen Paladino, CFO, Crum & Forster

    690: The Next 100 Years | Arleen Paladino, CFO, Crum & Forster

    In the early 1980s, when Arleen Paladino joined Crum & Forster as a 21-year-old internal audit trainee, she was frequently sent to remote office locations to complete audits of financial statements the data from which were then transferred to keypunch cards and fed into a giant mainframe at the insurance company’s Morristown, New Jersey, headquarters
    “While this might seem like a long time ago, we just decommissioned the mainframe last year,” says Paladino, who entered Crum & Forster’s CFO office in 2017 after serving as a senior vice president of the company’s internal audit function.
    Having only recently bid farewell to mainframe technology, Crum & Forster is not likely counted among the industry’s tech savvy innovators. Still, evolution is arguably what Crum & Forster does best. The insurance company will celebrate its bicentennial next year.
    “Understanding the systems and how the processes worked together really helped me to understand the business model,” continues Paladino, who would advance upward as she took on more management responsibilities, including helping to spearhead compliance initiatives such as SOX, which garnered the attention of company board members.
    Meanwhile, as evident as Paladino’s maturing leadership qualities may have been, her focus on systems and processes at times arguably may have obscured what might be her 40-plus-year career’s greatest contribution to the company.
    “When I started, I was the only female auditor in the department,” explains Paladino, who recalls engaging with very few woman executives during these early visits. Much later, at about midstream in her eventual career of more than four decades, Paladino found herself married, a mother of two under the age of 6—and struggling to achieve work/life balance.
    “I had a CFO at the time who I did not think would want me to reduce my hours, so we had a very candid conversation and I explained my situation,” remembers Paladino, who ended up securing an hours reduction in her workweek and thus illuminated a path for others to follow.
    Says Paladino: “Part of the draw for me has been to achieve this work/life balance and have a culture that supports it.” –Jack Sweeney
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    • 59 min
    689: Be the Bridge | Terry Coelho, CFO, BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI)

    689: Be the Bridge | Terry Coelho, CFO, BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI)

    Within 4 months of her 2019 arrival inside BDSI’s CFO office, Terry Coelho had spearheaded a product acquisition and managed a successful equity raise—two finance milestones that would produce generous sales tailwinds for the specialty pharmaceutical firm.  
    BDSI would experience 100% net sales growth in 2019, followed by 40% net sales growth in 2020.  Such sales momentum recently led BDSI to issue a press release praising its “new commercial team” and at the same time announcing that Coelho’s CFO title would now include the designation “executive vice president.”
    For Coelho, a seasoned finance executive who spent more than a decade serving in a variety of senior positions inside Novartis and Sealed Air Corp., the call to leadership at BDSI afforded her a wide berth from which deliver results that are now arguably visible to all.
    Still, even this success chapter must compete for our attention when we hear about a promotion that she received from candy and pet food giant Mars Incorporated early in her career. At the time, when Coelho was in her early 30s she was asked by John Mars (currently chairman) to relocate to South America and build a plant to start up Mars’s confectionery business in Brazil.
    “When the plant concept was coming about, John Mars said to me, ‘You can do this job,’ and I kind of looked at him and thought to myself, ‘Why not?,’” says Coelho, who had first gotten her FP&A acumen noticed inside the corporate planning function of  Mars’s McLean, Virginia, headquarters.
    Years later, as she prepared to return to the U.S., the Brazilian team presented her with a photo of the former cow pasture that the Mars plant was then occupying. After a number of expansions, the factory and Brazilian business operations under Coelho’s leadership had grown to provide jobs to 200 people.    
    “I don’t think that most companies would have given someone with my experience—at that point in my career—that kind of an opportunity. It has really shaped whom I’ve become. I have a breadth of experience from having run an entire business, and when you build it, you know it even better,” explains Coelho, who, after returning to the U.S., would hold a number of strategic finance positions, including CFO of Mars Direct, a newly formed direct-to-consumer business unit that would establish itself as one of the company’s future growth engines.  –Jack Sweeney
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    • 49 min
    688: Ready for Takeoff | Kevin Ingram, CFO, FM Global

    688: Ready for Takeoff | Kevin Ingram, CFO, FM Global

    Back in 2014, when FM Global wanted to entice finance executive Kevin Ingram to move back to the US from England, the UK finance director was offered a position no one at the company had ever heard of before.   
       “My CEO came to me and said, ‘It’s called sr. vice president of corporate services and that means nothing to anybody, but I love that because that means I can put anything I want there and no one can tell me it doesn’t belong.’" explains Ingram, who says the newly created role would grow to include business analytics, business risk consulting, capital management , risk management as well as other areas.
    Still, the corporate services title to the outside world was arguably somewhat vague and perhaps not what a top executive may have in mind after 25 years with the same company.
    Says Ingram: “I was never looking to leave. It was really just a question of when the opportunity was going to present itself and if it didn’t present itself what else would I do instead.”
    Two years later when Ingram stepped into FM Global’s CFO office his promotion no doubt further validated the corporate services position as well as his willingness to add an extra rung to his career climb.
    In the corporate scheme of things, the management of org charts sometimes requires CEOs to summon the instincts of air traffic controllers—who’ll never hesitate to institute a holding pattern in order to make certain that everyone is ready for takeoff. –Jack Sweeney
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    • 44 min
    687: The Room Where It Happened | Ken Kaufman, CFO, Community Dental Partners

    687: The Room Where It Happened | Ken Kaufman, CFO, Community Dental Partners

    Each Wednesday morning, as the CEO prodded his team for business projections and troubleshooting ideas, the midsize company’s top managers would huddle around a white board inside a glass-enclosed office.
    For 20-something Ken Kaufman, the management huddle was a silent spectacle—except for the occasional bouts of laughter that burst out from behind the glass.
    “The managers would always leave with this positive energy and always have new guidance for how the business could move forward,” explains Kaufman, who says that for him, over time the meeting became not just a source of weekly intrigue but also a career destination.  
    Years later, Kaufman recalls, when he was invited to join the huddle at another middle market company, the gathering generated little energy and was far less productive than what he had expected.
    “I finally made it into the room, and then we spent the entire time arguing over why certain numbers were wrong,” remembers Kaufman, who—now with a business degree in hand—then began to dig into the company’s financial statements. Subsequently, he was able to introduce some business modeling approaches that allowed managers to better understand the company’s pain points when it came to growth.  
    “I ended up sliding into the CFO role and ultimately brought the company into job costing and creating visibility that allowed managers to make decisions to build the business,” reports Kaufman, who adds that within only a few months the finance leader proceeded to ask him to take over the CFO role. –Jack Sweeney

    • 43 min
    686: Making “Why Not?” Your Career Door Opener | Hamza Benamar, CFO, Kyriba

    686: Making “Why Not?” Your Career Door Opener | Hamza Benamar, CFO, Kyriba

    Long before growing numbers of digital nomads freely roamed the planet, Hamza Benamar had achieved a borderless professional life inside the world of internal audit.  
    “I went through a phase in my career when I was not even planning the next year—I was too busy getting my work noticed and getting proposals to go somewhere else,” explains Benamar, who recalls that the question “Why not?” became the familiar response with which he greeted each new opportunity.
    Having grown up in multilingual Morocco, Benamar found that crossing international borders came naturally to him, which gave him an edge when SAP came looking for young professionals to serve a growing roster of clients interested in scaling their processes globally.
    “I knew that I was actually going to be able to learn from these marquee companies and discover how to design, implement, and run the processes of A/R, A/P, and general ledger,” remembers Benamar, who joined SAP’s Houston operation in 1999 before in short order garnering Platinum frequent flyer status with Continental Airlines.   
    Next, he joined biotechnology rising star Amgen, which was seeking to quickly expand its internal audit function around the world as the company opened a new chapter of global growth.
    “I went overseas, built up the audit team, got noticed by the CFO, and moved to Switzerland to be his right-hand controller, and things just continued to evolve from there,” comments  Benamar, who remain with Amgen for 5 years before joining  the Geneva office of SunGard.
    At SunGard, Benamar continued to greet new opportunities with his familiar “Why not?” attitude and soon found himself relocating first to Paris, where he would oversee the integration of a recent acquisition, and then to Hong Kong, where he was tasked with reengineering the finance function to align better with its greater Asia-Pacific operations.   
    After 12 years in Europe and Asia, Benamar felt another “Why not?” pulling him to return to the U.S., where last year—after stint in healthcare finance consulting—he entered the CFO office of treasury software and solutions provider Kyriba. –Jack Sweeney 
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    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
94 Ratings

94 Ratings

Santos-L-Halper ,

Relatable and applicable

This podcast truly marries useful finance tips and insights with human stories about finance professionals. It’s such a great mix of information any company can apply today and the characters and personal stories behind that info. The combination makes each episode memorable and valuable.

321 Capt ,

Super informative and thought provoking

I have an MBA and I really enjoy this show. Jack asks probing questions that get into the mind of his guest. I feel like I’m a fly on the wall listening to a couple of intelligent movers and shakers sharing their most important business secrets. This show is a must-listen for anyone who aspires to be a leader in the business world.

Powerful Eric ,

Impressive Professional Wow!

Impressive unique show that gives the serious professional the tool they need to evolve in the business world. Nice work. Great podcast. Highly recommend!

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