Costa Mesa, CA – The Orange County CFO Forum convened a panel of CFO’s from leading Orange County companies at its mid-year forum meeting on Tuesday, June 20 at the Water Grill. The Forum was co-hosted by Century Group, Workday and Mercer to explore and learn how the role of the modern CFO has evolved over the years into a multi-faceted role involving many different focuses.The forum attracted nearly 50 CFO’s from a cross section of Orange County organizations to participate in a conversation about the role of the modern CFO and how it is changing and how it is likely to continue evolving in the coming years.
The panel was moderated by Orange County native Steve Beuerlein, Vice President of Marsh and McLennan Companies, current NFL analyst and former NFL quarterback. The CFO panelists included:
- Kurt Binder, CFO – Vizio
- Colin Severn, CFO – William Lyon Homes
- Bob Vreeland, CFO – Clean Energy Fuels
Tim Calley, Managing Director of Century Group’s Orange County practice offices commented on the unique energy and experience that occurs when you bring together great leaders: “There’s a real interest and thirst for this type of peer-to-peer leadership development and networking for CFOs in Orange County. Once again we had an overflow crowd of finance executives from many of the premier Orange County based companies. The panel did a fantastic job “Profiling the Modern CFO” and our moderator Steve Beuerlein made sure there were no lulls in the action. As we normally do – we wrapped up the night with a gourmet dinner and lively conversation about the evening’s panel and topic for the night. We’re all looking forward to the next meeting.”
Profiling the Modern CFOThe moderator, CFO panelists and CFO guests’ discussion focused on four key themes:
Key Relationships at all Levels – The Board, The CEO, Peers & Colleagues, Your Team
Kurt Binder, CFO of Vizio focused on the importance of key relationships in your CFO career noting that “relationships get built over time and they’re cultivated through continuous interaction, says Kurt Binder, “and when you do that in a healthy way, that over time will pay dividends, so when you’re in those difficult situations, you get that lifeline.” He continued – “My perspective has always been that if you’re not out and about meeting and cultivating relationships, gaining information and insight into what’s going on in the industry, in accounting or in a business group, you can’t be an effective leader. It all comes through your availability to develop those relationships and to be able to communicate it effectively with that particular individual or that particular group – you need that information to make good decisions.”
Key Challenges – Cost Discipline and Hiring Great People
Colin Severn of William Lyon Homes shared some of his foundational challenges around cost – labor restraints and having predictable costs, “We invest a lot of resources into predictability and making sure we’re being disciplined.” Bob Vreeland of Clean Energy Fuels articulated the “priority of hiring good people, and wanting to have an environment that people love to work in and part of that becomes the tools they’re using.”
All three panelists emphasized how data analytics has become a large part of what they do as a CFO, and that wasn’t the case 10 years ago. They highlighted that hiring highly analytical people and purchasing the best tools possible is critical to making financial decisions today and will only become more important as time goes on.
The final section of the evening’s conversation centered on professional development for CFO’s which Tim Calley pointed out is the primary reason for the existence of the Orange County CFO Forum. Colin Severn agreed and lamented the fact that “We’re in a time where there isn’t a true place or training to learn how to be a CFO.” He continued, “Local networking events like this are important, industry breakfast and lunch meetings, and serving on boards.”