ServiceNow CFO: Looking beyond the numbers
Companies today are looking to ford a delicate course between innovation and stability in the face of persistent economic headwinds.
For CFOs, that means embracing the way that the role has begun to shift: finance chiefs are no longer “bean counters and the numbers only people looking backwards,” said Gina Mastantuono, CFO of software-as-a-service company ServiceNow. “More and more often, we are absolutely tapped to take on more responsibility.”
Moving beyond the numbers
CFOs have a unique, enterprise-wise vantage point into their organizations that very few members of the executive team share, which “gives us a unique ability to be strategists and not just numbers specialists,” Mastantuono said in an interview.
Taking advantage of that viewpoint as a CFO played a key role in ensuring the Santa Clara, California-based SaaS company “didn’t get out in front of our skis too fast” in the face of recent economic turmoil, she said. Being able to “quickly read the tea leaves” helped the finance chief to slow down hiring while avoiding the layoffs that many other large-scale technology companies conducted.
“We didn't lay off and we didn't shut down hiring, we're still hiring,” she said. “We're just being really focused, really smart and really mindful and thoughtful about the roles.”
However, doing so required poking her head into areas that some may consider outside of the traditional CFO’s purview.
“I was never that CFO that was only about numbers,” Mastantuono said. “I was always that CFO that sometimes got her hand slapped, because she was butting into other areas because I feel so passionate that those [are] areas I need to be involved in when you're thinking about the long-term trends of the business.”
What that means for areas like human resources or hiring is that Mastantuono spends at least as much time talking to ServiceNow’s chief people officer as she does its chief revenue officer because “talent strategy is part and parcel for the overall strategy” of the business, she said.
“If I'm not understanding, if I'm not helping to articulate what the growth levers of the future are going to be, how is she going to be able to hire the right people and hire the right skills?” she said of her relationship with the CPO.
Getting ahead of the innovation curve
Mastantuono credits the innate curiosity she’s always had as a key factor in her ability to fulfill the CFO’s changing role as a strategic partner, which has been a hallmark of her career.
Mastantuono has talked frequently about the learning opportunities her unconventional career path has provided her — following a six-year stint at EY, she hopped to a director of accounting role at Triarc Companies, then took assistant controller roles at InterActive Corp and Revlon, looking to try something different , she said in a February webinar.
“Each kind of big job that I left, I usually went into a different industry, because finance skills are so transferable for the most part,” she said. “But the ability to continue to learn by switching industries was super fascinating to me.”
That fascination eventually led her to ServiceNow, where “being a female CFO in a big cap tech company, it was too big of an opportunity,” she said.
Taking on more strategic responsibility outside of the CFO’s traditional remit is especially critical in today’s post-COVID-19 environment, when finance leaders are being tapped as key players in the digital transformation initiatives at their organizations.
As ServiceNow’s finance leader, Mastantuono is honing in on driving new innovations as the company looks to build on promising financial results. For its most recent quarter, ServiceNow reported $2.075 billion in Q2 2023 subscription revenue, a 25% jump year-over-year, and a 23% boost to total revenue of $2.15 billion.
It’s important for CFOs to “take advantage of the rapid disruption that’s taking place,” she said. “And if we don't take smart risks that drive net new innovation, we risk being left behind.”
The company is one among several that has taken steps to bring emerging technologies into its software. It has integrated generative artificial intelligence technology into several offerings on its Now platform, partnered with fellow software firm Cognizant and expanded its partnership with KPMG to accelerate AI automation in its products.
“I think CFOs have got to get more comfortable investing ahead of the curve,” Mastantuono said. “And possibly sometimes ahead of demand … and that's not always an easy conversation to have. But I think it's really important.”