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Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024

A Knack for Numbers? That Is Only the Start

FINANCE: CFO of the Year Honorees Look Back, Look Ahead

The CEO has the bully pulpit; the chief financial officer has the ledger.

The CEO is the voice of the company; the CFO takes up the financials during the investor conference call.

In reality, it’s not that simple.

If anything, the San Diego Business Journal’s CFO of the Year Awards for 2023 showed just how varied the nature of a CFO’s job is.

Awards were presented to 10 outstanding CFOs in ceremonies March 9 at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine on La Jolla Village Drive.

The CFO’s job doesn’t stop at accounting and finance. Many CFOs wear multiple hats, overseeing functions such as human resources, information technology, investor relations, legal, M&A, divestitures, sales training and strategy.

Several of the CFOs who spoke at the event said they are not content to stay within their assigned lanes.

“We are agents of change,” honoree Shaun Edelstein said in the pitch competition portion of the competition, held Feb. 8.

Those who participated in the awards program also dismissed the notion that such executives belong at the back of their organizations.

10 Honorees

Selected by a panel of judges, CFO of the Year honorees for 2023 were Scott Arnold of Certis Oncology Solutions, Scott Brickner of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, Joan Edelman of Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation, Shaun Edelstein of Balboa United, John Fitzgerald of Chatmeter, Bernadette Griggs of Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Javier Islas of Accessity, Nicole LaBrosse of Halozyme Therapeutics, Mardeen Mattix of the San Diego Convention Center and Bryan Pruden of Redhorse Corporation.

Presenting sponsors for the CFO of the Year 2023 Awards were Boutique Recruiting, Marsh McLennan Agency and PNC Bank. Platinum sponsor was City National Bank. Diamond sponsor was Umpqua Bank. Gold sponsor was FEI, Financial Executives International. Bronze sponsor was EisnerAmper.

Marsh McLennan hosted a reception and pitch competition for finalists on Feb. 8 at its office on Towne Center Drive. Fifteen finalists made three-minute pitches before CFO of the Year judges in the manner of “Shark Tank.” The moderator for the evening was Hugh Leslie, principal, life science practice leader at Marsh McLennan Agency’s Employee Health and Benefits Division.

Rounding out the panel of judges were Innessa Burrola, president and CEO of Boutique Recruiting; Karen Jordan, past president and current vice president of strategic partnerships with the San Diego chapter of FEI, Financial Executives International; Lois Kohut, vice president and branch manager at City National Bank; and Alan Prohaska, regional president and head of corporate banking at PNC Bank.

The Roaring 2020s

Finalists and honorees shared how they navigated the wild financial swings caused by the novel coronavirus, and how they planned to negotiate new challenges ahead. They traced their career paths, which included public accounting, local government and family business.

Edelstein characterized the CFO as having the finger on the pulse of a business.

To hear John Fitzgerald of SaaS provider Chatmeter tell it, CFOs can and should have an appetite for all sorts of information, not just the financial.

If anything, the CFOs who signed up for the 2023 awards refused to be categorized.

“I am a Swiss army knife,” said finalist Danielle Carpenter, COO and CFO of Xceptional, an IT services and consulting firm, speaking of the adaptability and resourcefulness she brings to her job. Carpenter spoke of switching back and forth between operations and strategy. She enumerating her varied roles in HR, product development, financial planning and sales pipeline review. One of her jobs is formalizing the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion policies.

Another finalist, Jessica Groat-Howe of the Bill Howe Family of Companies, spoke of how she grew into her job, familiarizing herself with topics such as M&A and commercial lending. Her example, she said, is an excellent lesson for her young daughter.

Click Links To View Individual Profiles Of Winners

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