5 new responsibilities for the beyond-finance CFO

https://www.cfodive.com/spons/5-new-responsibilities-for-the-beyond-finance-cfo/607630/

The Urgent Need to Redefine the Office of the CFO

For years, pioneering CFOs steadily extended their duties beyond the boundaries of the traditional finance and accounting function. Over the past year, an expanding set of beyond-finance activities – including those related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters; human capital reporting; cybersecurity; and supply chain management – have grown in importance for most finance groups. Traditional finance and accounting responsibilities remain core requirements for CFOs, even as they augment planning, analysis, forecasting and reporting processes to thrive in the cloud-based digital era. Protiviti’s latest global survey of CFOs and finance leaders shows that CFOs are refining their new and growing roles by addressing five key areas:

Accessing new data to drive success ­– The ability of CFOs and finance groups to address their expanding priorities depends on the quality and completeness of the data they access, secure, govern and use. Even the most powerful, cutting-edge tools will deliver subpar insights without optimal data inputs. In addition, more of the data finance uses to generate forward-looking business insights is sourced from producers outside of finance group and the organization. Many of these data producers lack expertise in disclosure controls and therefore need guidance from the finance organization.

Developing long-term strategies for protecting and leveraging data – From a data-protection perspective, CFOs are refining their calculations of cyber risk while benchmarking their organization’s data security and privacy spending and allocations. From a data-leveraging perspective, finance chiefs are creating and updating roadmaps for investments in robotic process automation, business intelligence tools, AI applications, other types of advanced automation, and the cloud technology that serves as a foundational enabler for these advanced finance tools. These investments are designed to satisfy the need for real-time finance insights and analysis among a mushrooming set of internal customers.

Applying financial expertise to ESG reporting – CFOs are mobilizing their team’s financial reporting expertise to address unfolding Human Capital and ESG reporting and disclosure requirements. Leading CFOs are consummating their role in this next-generation data collection activity while ensuring that the organization lays the groundwork to maximize the business value it derives from monitoring, managing and reporting all forms of ESG-related performance metrics.

Elevating and expanding forecasting – Finance groups are overhauling forecasting and planning processes to integrate new data inputs, from new sources, so that the insights the finance organization produces are more real-time in nature and relevant to more finance customers inside and outside the organization. Traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) are being supplemented by key business indicators (KBIs) to provide sharper forecasts and viewpoints. As major new sources of political, social, technological and business volatility arise in an unsteady post-COVID era, forecasting’s value to the organization continues to soar.

Investing in long-term talent strategies – Finance groups are refining their labor model to become more flexible and gain long-term access to cutting-edge skills and innovative thinking in the face of an ongoing and persistent finance and accounting talent crunch. CFOs also are recalibrating their flexible labor models and helping other parts of the organization develop a similar approach to ensure the entire future organization can skill and scale to operate at the right size and in the right manner.

CFOs might find PCAOB evidence-quality guide a useful auditor check

An opinion that’s supported by irrelevant or unreliable data might not be accurately capturing company performance.

How well is the opinion of your company’s performance supported by the evidence the auditor’s using?

Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) staff have released guidance on what constitutes relevant and reliable evidence for supporting audit opinions.

If evidence auditors are using isn’t relevant or from a reliable source, or if the reliability of the evidence itself is questionable, that can call into question the soundness of the opinion.

“In some cases, information that was determined by the auditor to be more relevant may not be the most reliable, and vice versa,” the guidance, released October 7, says.

Data availability

PCAOB was created in 2002 as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to help ensure auditors don’t allow accounting problems in public companies to get past them and put investors at risk. 

The new guidance tries to put guardrails around auditors’ growing use of external evidence to support their opinions. 

The use of external evidence, like so many things today, is fueled by the widespread availability of data that companies, regulators and other entities collect and release. The question the guidance tries to answer is which data is relevant and reliable and which isn’t.

“Advancements in technology in recent years have improved accessibility and expanded the volume of information available to companies and their auditors from traditional and newer external sources,” the document says. 

Reliability

In general, data generated by regulators or entities that are themselves regulated — stock exchanges are mentioned — can be counted on to be more reliable than data generated by other types of organizations. 

Similarly for data that’s generated by organizations vs. data that is derived through analyses of other organizations’ data. The more raw the data is, in other words, the better chance it’s reliable.

Relevance

Relevance is the other big issue, and the guidance provides several use cases for thinking about that. For example, weather data can be relevant evidence for assessing the accuracy of a company’s sales data, presumably because bad weather can reduce brick-and-mortar sales, but only if the data is used correctly. 

“Before using the weather data in developing certain expectations – e.g., for substantive analytical procedures related to product revenue – the auditor would need to understand the relationship between weather data and company activities,” the guidance says.

A company’s year-end stock price, obtained from an exchange, is another example. That data can be used to compare against the price the company is using to support its valuation of an instrument.

“The exchange price would represent the fair value of the instrument,” the document says. 

The guidance is directed at auditors, but it’s relevant to CFOs for checking whether their auditor is using external evidence appropriately in its assessment of company performance.

CFOs working around cost pressures, labor availability

Labor Shortage, Rising Costs, Supply-Chain Hiccups Hit Manufacturers -  Bloomberg

Dive Brief:

  • While CFOs, on the whole, remain optimistic about an economic rebound this year, they’re concerned about labor availability and accompanying cost pressures, according to a quarterly survey by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and Atlanta.
  • Over 75% of CFOs included in the survey said their companies faced challenges in finding workers. More than half of that group also said worker shortage reduced their revenue—especially for small businesses. The survey panel includes 969 CFOs across the U.S.
  • CFOs expect revenue and employment to rise notably through the rest of 2021,” Sonya Ravindranath Waddell, VP and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond said. “[But] over a third of firms anticipated worker shortages to reduce revenue potential in the year.”

Dive Insight:

As many companies struggle to find employees and meet renewed product demand, it’s unsurprising CFOs anticipate both cost and price increases, Waddell said.

About four out of five CFO respondents reported larger-than-normal cost increases at their firms, which they expect will last for several more months. They anticipate the bulk of these cost increases will be passed along to the consumer, translating into higher-priced services.

Despite labor concerns, CFOs are reporting higher optimism than last quarter, ranking their optimism at 74.9 on a scale of zero to 100, a 1.7 jump. They rated their optimism towards the overall U.S. economy at an average of 69 out of 100, a 1.3 increase over last quarter. 

For many CFOs, revenue has dipped below 2019 levels due to worker shortage, and in some cases, material shortages, Waddell told Fortune last week. Even so, spending is on the rise, which respondents chalked up to a reopening economy.

“Our calculations indicate that, if we extrapolate from the CFO survey results, the labor shortage has reduced revenues across the country by 2.1%,” Waddell added. “In 2019, we didn’t face [the] conundrum of nine million vacancies combined with nine million unemployed workers.”

Consumer prices have jumped 5.4% over the past year, a U.S. Department of Labor report from last week found; a Fortune report found that to be the largest 12-month inflation spike since the Great Recession in 2008. 

To reduce the need for labor amid the shortage, many companies will be “surviving with just some compressed margins for a while, or turning to automation,” Waddell said.

Colonial hack a wake-up call to CFOs with legacy systems

What is a cyber attack? Recent examples show disturbing trends | CSO Online

CFOs whose finance and accounting functions are built on legacy computer systems got a stark reminder last week from the Colonial pipeline hacking of what’s at stake if their system is breached.

The hack to Colonial’s system led to widespread gas shortages throughout the East and reportedly forced the company to pay $5 million in ransomware to get the instructions for reclaiming its data. 

“For finance departments, the cybersecurity risk is huge,” Samir Jaipati, a finance solutions leader with EY Americas, told CFO Dive in an email. “Something built on outdated technology won’t be able to keep hackers out.” 

Security specialists generally agree legacy, on-premises systems starting from about 10 years ago typically have solid cybersecurity features built in, but those that are older might require significant upgrades if they’re going to stand a chance against today’s sophisticated hackers.

The risk for CFOs who must manage their processes on an outdated system is they’ll try to get by with short-term fixes that won’t solve the systemic problems they face. 

“These temporary fixes aren’t as dependable and in the long-term may cost more,” said Kaipati.

Best effort

For CFOs who don’t have the time or budget to implement the system overhaul they need or to transfer their processes to a more secure on-premises system or to a cloud-based system, the best step is to do a comprehensive review of their end-to-end finance processes to audit for consistency and reliability, said Steve Adams, Gartner finance director. 

He suggested reviewing the organization’s record-to-report process from start to finish to understand where non-secure platforms are used, whether there are audit trails that don’t exist, and if exogenous data is incorporated. By eliminating these and other red flags, CFOs can go a significant way to clean up their processes and reduce risk without making system changes, Adams said. 

CFOs taking this approach should first engage their IT business partner and ask for a full audit of the cybersecurity capabilities of the suite of financial applications and to use that review as a starting point to making improvements, he said. 

Wider integration

Legacy systems pose a broader problem than just security risk; they can impede company growth because CFOs aren’t generating the data or producing the analytics that can help them identify ways to make more money or reduce costs in the same way they can get from sophisticated cloud-based solutions. 

Nor can legacy systems be expected to be as good at integrating data throughout the organization in the same way as cloud systems.

For CFOs who can do it, switching from an old on-premises system to the cloud can be a game-changer, said Manish Sharma, an Accenture operations group executive.

“CFOs that are agile and able to overcome these restrictions by scaling digital and cloud-powered technologies have been able to break down data silos and siloed ways of working to support the ever-evolving business strategy with speed and flexibility,” he said. 

The importance of using up-to-date IT was emphasized in a recent Accenture report that found “future-ready” leaders are emerging ahead of the pack with higher efficiency and profitability by scaling digital capabilities in ways to improve operational maturity.

“These leaders use better, more diverse data to inform decision-making as part of a cloud-powered continuous feedback loop,” said Sharma.

Flexible categorization

Another benefit of moving to the cloud or a hybrid cloud-on-premises arrangement is cost flexibility. 

On average, the cost of managing an outdated IT system can cost a business around $3.61 per line of code or over $1 million for an application with 300,000 lines of code, said Kevin Shuler, owner and CEO of the Quandary Consulting Group, a Denver-based IT firm. 

“It accounts for customizations, maintenance, reporting, server and hardware, etc.,” he said. 

While replacing the old with the new might appear to be prohibitively expensive at first glance, Shuler noted what can put a CFO more at ease is the costs are more transparent than maintaining a legacy system.

“Better, they can be categorized as either an operating expense or a capital expense since a lot of software is classified as a service rather than software,” he said. 

This gives flexibility to the CFO’s finances and forecasting. It also means more resources can be available for modernized systems. 

“That means you can get superior resources at a lower cost than trying to pull from a pool of highly specialized and competitive contractors who work mainly with legacy systems,” he said.

Kansas Heart Hospital accuses former CFO, COO of stealing funds

Binghamton Embezzlement Lawyer | Embezzlement Charges in NY

The Kansas Heart Hospital in Wichita filed a lawsuit against two former executives, claiming they stole money from the facility and improperly used CARES Act funds, according to ABC affiliate KAKE and court documents.  

The lawsuit, filed April 29 in the U.S. District Court in Kansas, accuses the hospital’s former COO Joyce Heismeyer and former CFO Steve Smith of stealing funds between 2015 and 2020. During that time, Kansas Heart Hospital lost more than $31 million, according to the lawsuit.

Ms. Heismeyer and Mr. Smith abruptly stepped down from their roles in fall 2020. The hospital claims the former executives set up large severance payments for themselves before their departures, which prompted an internal investigation.

In its complaint, Kansas Heart Hospital alleges that Ms. Heismeyer and Mr. Smith conspired with the hospital’s former president, Gregory Duick, MD, to divert more than $6 million in hospital funds for undisclosed bonuses and benefits during the five-year period. Additionally, the hospital claims all three sent millions in hospital dollars to an investment account that Dr. Duick owned. 

Kansas Heart Hospital also claims the three caused it to lose out on $4.4 million in CARES Act payments. The funds were returned to avoid a federal audit, the lawsuit alleges, but the former executives said the funds were returned because the hospital hadn’t treated any COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Duick also retired from his role in fall 2020. He is named in the lawsuit but is not a defendant, and did not immediately return KAKE‘s request for comment.

In a statement to KAKE, an attorney for Ms. Heismeyer and Mr. Smith said, “Joyce and Steve vehemently deny the allegations and will aggressively defend themselves and expect to clear their names in court.” Additionally, the statement said, “We are disappointed by the Kansas Heart Hospital’s plan to sue and tarnish the reputations of two long time employees.”

I just got Fired – 2.0

https://interimcfo.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/i-just-got-fired-2-0/

I Just Got Fired

Abstract:  This article is the second in the series that addresses the initial stages of going through a career transition. Career management articles in the blog have been popular. A transition is a traumatic event, to say the least, especially the first time. These articles address what you should be doing BEFORE your transition occurs.

In the last piece that is the first in this series, I addressed the fact that there is little relationship between how good you are at what you do and the probability that you will end up in a transition.

This article addresses what you should be doing to prepare for an unplanned transition.

The ACHE tracks hospital CEO turnover. The average annual rate is around 18%. According to Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, hospital CEO is one of America’s most dangerous occupations measured by potential longevity or lack thereof in a position. One of my most popular articles discusses some of the many reasons for executive turnover that have little to do with performance. A lot of people are very interested in the topic.

HFMA does not track CFO turnover, but it is probably equally rampant as CFOs too often get credit for substandard organizational performance despite having little control or influence over the incurrence of operating cost or results. CFOs and other C-Suite inhabitants bear a disproportionate risk of having their career disrupted by CEO turnover.

If you start asking around, you might be surprised to learn how many healthcare executives were involuntarily ‘freed up to seek other opportunities’ at least once in their career. When I told my friend John at a reunion that I had decided to go into the consulting business, he immediately accused me (correctly) of having been fired. John went on to tell me how lucky I was because few executives that are disruptive innovators have not been fired at least once. To my friend, having been fired is a rite of passage.

John’s career goal at the time was to become the CEO of a large hospital, and he believed that a transition would strengthen his CV. As fate would have it, not too long after the reunion, I got the call from John and, you know, the rest of the story. John went on from this setback to become the long-running CEO of one of the largest Baptist hospitals in the southeast.

For those who push hard in organizations to get them to change their culture for the better and get on a better track, the risk of being let go is much higher. With one exception, every person that I have ever worked with through a transition has emerged a wiser, stronger person in a position much better suited for their skills and talents. While I would never encourage anyone to go through a transition, the process’s outcome has been both cathartic and career-enhancing.

So, given this risk, what should you be doing? Your preparation for a turnover event should start IMMEDIATELY!! If you wait until you are out, you have waited WAY TOO LONG!! If you do not have a networking database, you need to start immediately to develop this asset. My networking database commenced during my first transition. It now has over 3,000 companies and over 4,100 contacts. Most of my contacts are business-related, and most of them will respond to an email or return a call. Contrast this with the call I get too often from a newly terminated executive asking for connection assistance, that never bothered to record phone numbers or email addresses of people that may be in a position to be of help. Too many friends had contact files stored on a corporate phone or a corporate database and lost them when they turned over a phone or access to corporate systems was terminated. Frequently, access is restricted right before the victim learns of their fate as a security measure of the organization. Getting your data back if this happens is not going to be easy or fun.

For this reason, I have successfully refused to use a company-owned phone or put my networking database developed over twenty years on a computer system I do not control. The problem with having business and personal data on the same device is if you give the organization access to ‘their data, they cannot lock it selectively. When they lock or wipe the device, they are going to destroy everything on the device. My networking database is my most valuable personal asset. There is an article in my blog dedicated to networking. The time to start building your networking database and skill is before you need it.

You should start the process of thinking through the next step in your career. Get out a piece of paper. What do you like about your current situation and wish to preserve? What do you want to change? Where are you willing to relocate? What is your idea of the perfect relationship with a superior? What will the effect of a termination/relocation be on your family, and how will you manage that? In other words, what are you going to be when you grow up? A turnover event is sometimes the catalyst that causes someone to decide to start their own business. Is there a path forward in your current situation, or should you be thinking about proactively inducing your turnover event or at least beginning preparations? People that have been through transitions will tell you from experience that it is a lot easier to get a job while employed than when you are not employed.

A turnover event is a huge psychological and physical burden. Everyone around you is going to be affected. Do not delude yourself into thinking you can manage a transition without help, especially the first one. My dad had a sign in his shop,

Shop Rates

Labor – $20

If you watch – $40

If you help – $80

If you already worked on it yourself, $200

My most significant learning from consulting experience is recognizing when an expert is needed and understanding the necessity of getting my ego out of the way in the process of seeking and availing myself or my client of expert assistance. Clients and consultants do more harm than good by trying to do something they have no business doing in a frequently futile effort to save money. Sometimes, the results are disastrous. We have all heard the adages that a doctor treating himself has an idiot patient or a lawyer who represents himself has a moron for a client.

Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions, or interim services. I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you. An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations. Some of my feedback comes from people who are demonstrating an interest in advancing their careers, and I am writing content to address those inquiries.

The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower. I will notify you of updates as they occur. To become a follower, click the “Following” bubble that usually appears near each web page’s bottom.

I encourage you to use the comment section at the bottom of each article to provide feedback and stimulate discussion. I welcome input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality and relevance of this work.

This blog is original work. I claim copyright of this material with reproduction prohibited without attribution. I note and provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material. If you choose to link any of my articles, I’d appreciate a notification.

If you would like to discuss any of this content, provide private feedback or ask questions, you can reach me at ras2@me.com.

As fraud rises, CFOs must approach numbers skeptically, report finds

https://www.cfodive.com/news/Center-Audit-Quality-financial-reporting-fraud/593123/

Executives might be committed to accuracy, but middle managers and others throughout the organization must be on board, too.

The pandemic is increasing financial reporting fraud, putting the onus on CFOs to create an organization-wide system that prevents wrongdoing, a coalition of auditing and other oversight groups said in a report released today.

Financial statement fraud in public companies is real and that risk has only increased during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Julie Bell Lindsay, executive director of the Center for Audit Quality, one of four groups to release the report.

To help ensure the integrity of their company’s financial reporting, CFOs can’t rely on external auditors as their bulwark against fraud; they must weave protection into the fabric of the organization and exercise the same skepticism toward numbers auditors are trained to do.

“The strongest fraud deterrent and detection program requires extreme diligence from all participants in the financial reporting system,” Lindsay said. “Certainly, you have internal and external auditors, but you also have regulators, audit committees and, especially, public company management.”

Heightened stress

The report looks at SEC enforcement data from 2014 to 2019, a period of relative calm Linsday said can help set a baseline for assessing how much in pandemic-caused fraud regulators will find when they do their post-crisis analysis.

“The timing of this report is really a great way to … remind all the folks in the financial reporting ecosystem that … the pressures for fraud to happen are strong right now,” she said. 

Improper revenue recognition comprises about 40% of wrongdoing in financial reporting, more than any other type, a finding that tracks an SEC analysis released last August. 

Companies tend to manipulate revenue in four ways:

  1. The timing of recognition
  2. The value applied
  3. The source
  4. The percentage of contract completion claimed

The report singles out revenue-recognition manipulation by OCZ Technology Group, a solid-state drive manufacturer that went bankrupt in 2013, as a typical case.

The company had to restate its revenues by more than $100 million after it was caught mis-characterizing sales discounts as marketing expenses, shipping more goods to a large customer than it could be expected to sell, and withholding information on product returns.

The CEO was charged with fraud and the CFO with accounting, disclosure, and internal accounting controls failures.

The report lists three other common types of fraudmanipulation of financial reserves, manipulation of inventories, and improper calculation of impairment.

Reserve issues involve how, and when, balances are changed, and how expenses are classified; inventory issues involve the amounts that are listed and how much sales cost; and impairment issues involve the timing and accuracy of the calculation. 

Increase expected

More of these kinds of problems will likely be found to be happening because of the pandemic, the report said. 

“This is where all of this comes to a head,” Lindsay said. “You certainly can see pressure, because some companies are struggling right now and there can be pressure to meet numbers, analysts expectations.”

The pressure finance professionals face is part of what the report calls a “fraud triangle,” a convergence of three factors that can lead to fraud: pressure, opportunity and rationalization.

In the context of the pandemic, pressure comes as companies struggle with big drops in revenue; opportunity arises as employees work remotely; and the rationalization for fraud is reinforced by the unprecedented challenges people are facing. 

“It could be anything,” said Lindsay. “‘My wife just lost her job, so I need to make up for it.'”

The report lists fraud types that analysts expect are rising because of the pandemic:

  • Fabrication of revenue to offset losses.
  • Understatement of accounts receivable reserves as customers delay payments. 
  • Manipulation of compliance with debt covenants. 
  • Unrecognized inventory impairments.
  • Over- or understated accounting estimates to meet projection.

About a dozen types in all are listed. 

“Past crises have proven that at any time of large-scale disruption or stress on an economy or industry, companies should be prepared for the possibility of increased fraud.” the report said. 

Lindsay stressed three lessons she’d like to see CFOs take away from the report.

First, the potential for fraud in their companies shouldn’t be an afterthought. Second, protection against it is management’s responsibility but there’s also a role for company’s audit committee, its internal auditors and it’s external auditors. Third, CFOs and the finance executives they work with, including at the middle management level, must bring that same skepticism toward the numbers that auditors are trained to bring.

“Professional skepticism is a core competency of the external auditor and, quite frankly, the internal auditor,” she said. “Management and committee members are not necessarily trained on what it is, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be exercising skepticism, [which is] asking questions about the numbers that are being reported. Is this exactly what happened? Do we have weaknesses? Do we have areas of positivity? It’s really about drilling down and having a dialogue and not just taking the numbers at face value.”

In addition to the Center for Audit Quality, Mitigating the Risks of Common Fraud Schemes: Insights From SEC Enforcement Actions was prepared by Financial Executives International, The Institute of Internal Auditors and the National Association of Corporate Directors.

Outsourcing A Hospital Turnaround And The Team Involved

Outsourcing A Hospital Turnaround and The Team Involved

Outsourcing A Hospital Turnaround and The Team Involved - HealthTechS3

Hospitals are constantly faced with challenges that require them to reassess how they deliver care to their communities.  Continuous improvement is necessary as expense inflation consistently outpaces reimbursement gains.  However, more fundamental issues threaten hospital fiscal viability such as payor mix deterioration, population or market share declines, and utilization changes. Amplify this environment with a difficult EMR installation and a “perfect storm” creates a fiscal crisis that necessitates a turnaround.

If covenants are breached, bond agreements often require an external and independent consulting firm that is engaged to help create and oversee the implementation of a turnaround plan.  Otherwise, a CEO must make a value judgment on whether to outsource the turnaround balancing cost considerations with an honest assessment of (1) their management team’s bandwidth, and (2) ability to prepare and execute a turnaround.

There are multiple models for outsourcing a turnaround.  In a complete outsourcing, an engagement letter with the “performance improvement” consulting firm would include an assessment phase and the preparation of a comprehensive plan that covers all areas of operations followed by implementation support services.  The firm may require an on-site presence of one year or more to assess, validate, and assist in the implementation of recommended interventions.  This can be effective, but the fees can easily reach seven figures even for modest community hospitals.  In addition, even in a complete outsourcing there is still a major demand on the time of senior leadership.  As a result, management sometimes chooses to limit the scope of a performance improvement engagement, which results in a partial outsource.  The limitation may be to only outsource the plan development in the form of a report.  This would detail the operational interventions and the implementation steps, but it would leave the heavy lifting of implementation to existing leadership.   Alternatively, the scope may be limited by excluding certain areas of review.  While there may be valid reasons for the latter approach, limiting the areas of review can be counterproductive to a turnaround plan because many issues are systemic such as patient throughput or revenue cycle.  Further, restricting certain areas for review may create the appearance of “untouchables” or “sacred cows,” which should be avoided in a turnaround.

While the CEO should always be the ultimate leader of the turnaround, the CFO is indispensable in the process whether it is fully or partially outsourced or done completely in-house.  These abilities are not always in the CFO’s skill set; some executives are most effective in a steady-state as opposed to a turnaround environment. The CEO will be relying on the CFO to demonstrate the following traits, which require a large degree of emotional intelligence:

  • Delegate some responsibility to their lieutenants but communicate the financial imperative and manage overall execution of the turnaround
  • Appropriately raise the alarm when progress is not being made. Too much alarm can be seen as crying wolf and too little can add to complacency.
  • Do not be averse to confrontation but do not create it where it is not necessary. Only use the CEO for those most difficult situations where it cannot be avoided to ensure execution remains on point.

Human nature dictates that self-interest may compromise the CFO’s objectivity.  There will be times when the best interest of the organization and the individual are in conflict.  If the incumbent CFO is not up to the task, replacing them with an interim CFO with turnaround experience is a better option.

An experienced interim CFO in a turnaround situation has several advantages.   First, it can afford the CEO the opportunity to underscore the urgency of the situation by making an example. The experienced interim CFO understands their primary role is to be a key asset in the execution of the turnaround.   They are not there to make friends but to influence people (although the best ones do both).  Because they are not angling for promotions or favor for future consideration from the board, they are apolitical, and their intentions are more transparent.  Having been through turnarounds before, they possess the tools to assist the CEO and the board navigates the ups and downs.  Perhaps most importantly, the interim CFO is in the best position to tell the CEO and the board things they may not want to hear such as the need to give up independence or consult bankruptcy counsel if the situation warrants.

Obviously, it is necessary that the hospital must continue to operate safely, securely, and legally during a turnaround.  This can be a difficult balancing act, not just for the CFO but for all senior management.  The CFO must continue to safeguard the assets of the organization.  Likewise, other members of senior management must push back if a turnaround plan may imperil patients, visitors or staff, or violate the law.  Consequently, it may be beneficial to bring in other interim C-Suite leaders who are able to effectively manage the multiple critical priorities during a turnaround in addition to, or instead of, an interim CFO.  However, this must be carefully weighed against continuity of management and the organization’s ability to attract and retain talent.  Senior management turnover creates stress on the organization and is ultimately a reflection on the CEO.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to creating and executing a turnaround plan.  Outsourcing to consulting firms can infuse new ideas and analytical talent, but it is expensive and still often leaves management with the bulk of the responsibilities.  Experienced interim management can add independence and objectivity to create a glidepath for execution.