Coming from a background in investment banking at Goldman Sachs and investment management — as a U.S. portfolio manager at Citadel and the European portfolio manager at D.E. Shaw — Jeremy Klaperman has had the chance to see a wide range of companies across a wide range of market cycles and industries.
“From the original tech bubble burst in 2001, to the financial crisis in ‘09, to COVID, etc., I have a great playbook and I understand what makes a great company, great strategy, great management, and what it takes to be a great CFO,” he said in an interview.
As to why Klaperman decided to pivot his career and take on his first ever CFO seat at automated finance platform Rho, he said he wanted to take that playbook and bring it to bear as part of the internal team that is actually driving value growth in a company, as opposed to being an outside investor or advisor to a portfolio of companies.
As he enters the home stretch of his first year at the financial helm of Rho, Klaperman shares some strategies that he has used to tackle his new role:
Establish a network
Throughout his career, Klaperman saw first-hand various CFOs’ and CEOs’ successes and failures, but he still met with a wide range of companies to learn more about the ins and outs of the CFO role before taking his current seat at Rho.
“I literally had hundreds of conversations,” he recounted. “And in the conversations I had, I had some personal connections which is important too, because I wanted to work with a company that was both building a great product, but that also had a great culture.”
Rho — which Klaperman describes as a one-stop shop for all financial services — has a full C-suite for a company of their size (about 200 employees). He describes everyone’s approach as collaborative, which is key to succeed in any role, but especially for the CFO, he said.
“I don’t only oversee the finance team, I also oversee the data analytics team,” he said. “The good thing about the CFO role is that it’s very multidisciplinary. You see successful CFOs coming from all different backgrounds — that could be FP&A, investment banking, etc., but the key to making a splash in the industry is to have an exhaustive approach and to have as many conversations as possible.”
Delving into the relationships you have with your fellow C-suite members is also essential when creating a wide network to fall back on, according to Klaperman. Experts agree that understanding your existing team’s strengths and weaknesses, while also getting to know them on a more personal level is key both to bringing success to your business, but also to gaining respect as a leader.
“Through conversations, and expanding your network, you need to get as much knowledge in the funnel as possible, and then just go through with it,” said Klaperman.
Klaperman also stressed, however, the importance of staying disciplined when it comes to growth and specifically, hiring as you take on a new role as CFO.
“In order to handle different market cycles well, you need to have an even-keeled, steady approach. When things are going great, don’t go and hire hundreds of people, because then, when things get bad, you won’t have to go through layoffs,” said Klaperman. “Coming from my background as an investor and advisor, where I’ve been through all these boom bust cycles, as well as great bankruptcies and failures, I know that the companies who do well throughout don’t over extrapolate the current environment.”
When it does come to hiring new talent, Klaperman advises new CFOs to look for potential, and intrinsic abilities over knowledge.
“You could hire a brilliant lawyer, doctor, plumber, whoever, and with their intelligence they could be an amazing person to have on an FP&A team, for example,” he said. “If you apply that philosophy to your organization, everyone should be able to do a little bit of everything. Not that you want everyone to do everything, but everyone should certainly have the potential to do everything.”