- CFOs' priorities in managing their finance team should be diversification of skills, Amazon Web Services CFO Sean Boyle suggested.
- Boyle shared five objectives that work toward innovation in finance and business in a conversation with Dow Jones CFO Christina Van Tassell at the Wall Street CFO Network annual meeting. His suggestions: start small, mirror the business, trust your team, look beyond accounting skills and articulate ideas early.
- Boyle's company has been an incubator of top CFOs over the years. Former finance executives at the company include Nitin Agrawal, who recently joined open-source mapping company Mapbox as its new CFO, and Tim Stone, who took over as Ford CFO earlier this year.
The panel encouraged CFOs, regardless of their industry, to look inward — work with their teams and come to creative solutions together. Boyle recommended small teams for best results, telling the audience, “What [small teams do] is help us see investments in a relatively low-cost way, iterate very quickly, and have a concept of ‘failing fast.'" Should something go awry in the process, a smaller and more focused team can "switch gears until they find a model that works and delivers the results we want."
Boyle also shared that at AWS, all employees "operate informally as a COO of their areas" to ensure group success. "They're virtually indistinguishable in a business meeting from their partners, [save for] their pronounced skills in their area of expertise," he said.
CFOs should build a finance team with diverse skills and interests, Boyle said. "[AWS] has grown tremendously and so has the skill set of the team," he said, sharing that beyond just accounting and finance experts, he employs MBAs whose undergraduate degrees are in engineering, data science, software development and business intelligence engineering.
"Having a rich composition of skill sets has been absolutely necessary to our business [...] and to maintaining our ability to scale," he said.
In addition, CFOs must articulate their ideas early and in the form of a story that people can understand. "By articulating ideas in a narrative form, teams can better envision what they ultimately plan to deliver," he said.