Although interest rates and market volatility are making the already challenging job of the CFO all the more difficult, such an uncertain environment does come with certain opportunities finance chiefs can jump on, according to Frank D’Amelio.
“When the pandemic first started, if you said to me, we can do all the things we are doing now, virtually, I would have said no way,” said D’Amelio in an interview. “Now, looking back from a financial perspective, we’re able to do pretty much anything: earnings calls, investor meetings, audit committee meetings, board meetings, rating agency meetings, attend conferences,” he said.
D’Amelio — the current CFO in residence at Deloitte’s US CFO Program — was the CFO of Pfizer from 2007 to 2022. He also was at the financial helm at Lucent Technologies for 11 years before that and has held various financial executive leadership positions with AT&T, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“I remember the first time I stepped into a CFO role, and it’s pretty daunting,” said D’Amelio as he recounted his career.
Albeit challenging, the beginning of the pandemic paved the way for opportunities as a CFO. Now, D’Amelio himself is much more advanced technologically speaking, which benefited his career.
The veteran finance chief believes that newly minted CFOs can benefit from today’s challenging and unpredictable environment. In order to do so, D’Amelio advises finance leaders to focus on a few core goals.
“There's so many constituents that you need to effectively work with, or build relationships with,” said D’Amelio.
There is a laundry list of individuals that make the finance chief’s job possible, and whose day-to-day responsibilities all impact how the finance chief does their job.
From the finance leadership team, the C-suite, the board of directors, the audit committee, the FP&A team, the controller and treasurer, succeeding in a CFO role, especially during heightened uncertainty, requires a lot of moving parts.
For D’Amelio, setting expectations means envisioning what it was he wanted the finance team to look like.
“At Pfizer, I wanted the finance team to be front and center. And the visual I would use is when we're at the game, we're playing the game,” he said, the game being the overall current state of the business.
Instead of thinking of the finance team as on the subway on the way to the game, or in the bleachers watching the game, D’Amelio said that they always saw themselves as the players of the game. “We are on the field playing with the team helping to execute the plays,” he said.
Once this vision came to life, it was easy to see how different factors at the business really changed the final score, or outcome of so-called, game. “There is nothing going on at the company, that’s material, that finance isn’t smack in the middle of,” said D’Amelio.
Once you have certain expectations of how everyone in the finance function should operate, it becomes easier to control what you can and focus on an outcome altogether. That outcome being setting goals within an organization, and ensuring everyone — especially the finance function — is on the same page.