Chief financial officers (CFOs) can’t merely be number-crunchers, they must be problem-solvers.
That’s the challenge Sally Myers, CEO/principal at c. myers, offered Monday to CUNA CFO Council Conference attendees.
“You're in a perfect position to detect and distill statistical irregularities and make observations and decisions that increase efficiency and revenue,” Myers says. “You've got to be curious. Ask 'why' to the power of five. Find the real problem at the heart of the issue.”
Becoming a more strategic CFO takes a change in mindset, but can’t happen overnight, Myers cautions. “It takes practice, diligence, focus, making mistakes, and figuring out how to bring the rest of your team along,” she says.
Myers and Rob Johnson, executive vice president and principal at c.myers, shared seven competencies of a strategic CFO:
1. Master both the numbers and the data
Use information to drive the credit union forward, so much so that departments want to be cohesively linked versus siloed.
Use your analytical skills to break down nonfinancial numbers, such as Net Promoter Score and your demographic spread to determine why and where you're falling short.
2. Align the business model with measures of success
Align the credit union's desired business model with short- and long-term qualitative and quantitative measures of success.
For example, if while assessing interchange income sources you discover that Amazon falls 13th at just 3% of share, that’s a clear indication members are registering other institutions’ cards with the online retailing giant. “That should make you say, ‘We need to change that,’” Myers says.
3. Become a multidimensional thinker
Move fluidly between creative problem solving and strategic thinking. Connect dots that might not be initially apparent, such as drilling into nonfunded approved loans to discover prime lending opportunities that go uncapitalized.
4. Navigate in the gray
Regularly demonstrate sound decision making in the face of ambiguity.
Adopt what Myers describes as the 180-second exercise, choosing a particular area of interest for discussion in that span—for example, noting 20 reasons why driverless cars will be great for credit unions.
“This helps the creative process,” she says. “Sometimes, analyzing stifles the creative process.”
5. Get the right things done right
Achieve consistent execution of a plan. Connect portfolio management with strategic execution.
“Using ‘no’ correctly can be powerful,” Johnson says. “Keep your focus on the changes that really matter. It’s not about working harder, but rather coordinating on the right things.”
6. Choose and develop the right talent on your team
These people can execute and allow you appropriate time to think and plan. “Do you have the right bench strength?” Myers asks. “If you do, are you focused on getting the right things done?”
7. Communicate skillfully
Deliver reliable and relevant communication at various levels, ensuring that stakeholders with diverse backgrounds want to listen with an open mind to the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Empower other staff members to become part of the solution by fostering an atmosphere of productive conflict, where people feel comfortable giving and accepting push-back with a positive purpose.
“Too often, organizations don't nurture contradictory views,” Myers says. “You need people to think differently than you. You need to think differently than other people to move the organization forward.”
►Click here for more conference coverage from CUNA News, and get live updates on Twitter via @AdamMertzCUNA, @cumagazine, and @CUNACouncils, and by using the #CFOCouncil hashtag. Learn more about the CUNA CFO Council, a member-led professional society for credit union executives, at cunacouncils.org.