Decision-making amid COVID-19: 6 takeaways from health system CEOs and CFOs

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/decision-making-amid-covid-19-6-takeaways-from-health-system-ceos-and-cfos.html?utm_medium=email

Alignment between CEOs and CFOs has become even more essential during the pandemic.

Many health systems halted elective surgeries earlier this year at the height of the pandemic to conserve resources while caring for COVID-19 patients. Now, in many areas, those procedures are returning and hospitals are slowly resuming more normal operations. But damage has been done to the hospital’s bottom line. Moving forward, the relationship between top executives will be crucial to make the right decisions for patients and the overall health of their organizations.

During the Becker’s Healthcare CEO+CFO Virtual Forum on Aug. 11, CEOs and CFOs for top hospitals and health systems gathered virtually to share insights and strategies as well as discuss the biggest challenges ahead for their institutions. Click here to view the panels on-demand.

Here are six takeaways from the event:

1. The three keys to a strong CEO and CFO partnership are trust, transparency and communication.

2. It’s common for a health system CEO and CFO to have different priorities and different opinions about where investments should be made. To help come to an agreement, they should look at every decision as if it’s a decision being made by the organization as a whole and not an individual executive. For example, there are no decisions by the CFO. There are only decisions by the health system. The CFOs said it’s important to remember that the patient comes first and that health systems don’t exist to make money.

3. Technology has of course been paramount during the pandemic in terms of telehealth. But so are nontraditional partnerships with other health systems that have allowed providers to share research and education.

4. When it comes to evaluating technology, there’s a difference between being on the cutting edge versus the bleeding edge. Investing in new technology requires firm exit strategies. If warning signs show an investment is not going to give the return a health system hoped for, they need to let go of ideals and stick to the exit strategy.

5. Communication and transparency with staff and the public is key while making challenging decisions. Many hard decisions, including furloughs or personnel reductions, were made this spring to protect the financial viability of healthcare organizations. These decisions, which were not made lightly, were critiqued highly by the public. One of the best ways to ensure the message was not getting lost in translation and to help navigate the criticism included creating a communication plan and sharing that with employees, physicians and the public.

6. The pandemic required hospitals to think on their feet and innovate quickly. Many of the usual ways to solve a problem could not be used during that time. For example, large systems had to rethink how to acquire personal protective gear. Typically, in a large health system amid a disaster, when a supply item is running low, organizations can call up another hospital in the network and ask them to send some supplies. However, everyone in the pandemic was running low on the same items, which required innovation and problem-solving that is outside of the norm.

 

 

 

Ex-California hospital CFO pleads not guilty to felony charges

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/ex-california-hospital-cfo-pleads-not-guilty-to-felony-charges.html?utm_medium=email

Binghamton Embezzlement Lawyer | Embezzlement Charges in NY

The former CFO of Health Care Conglomerate Associates pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement, conflict of interest and using his official position for personal gain, according to The Sun-Gazette

Alan Germany formerly served as CFO of HCCA, which previously managed Tulare (Calif.) Regional Medical Center. He also served as the acting CFO of Tulare Regional and Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine, Calif. Mr. Germany was one of three HCCA executives indicted Aug. 11. 

Mr. Germany was charged with 11 counts of embezzlement, four counts of conflict of interest, and one count each of using his official position for personal gain and failing to file a statement of economic interest. On Aug. 19, he pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to the report. 

The charges against Mr. Germany include accusations of having hospital staff generate false billing invoices and working with HCCA’s former CEO Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi, MD, to embezzle U.S. Treasury funds meant for hospital districts, according to the report.

If convicted on all charges, Mr. Germany could face more than 10 years in prison, according to the Visalia Times Delta. His next hearing is set for Sept. 30. 

 

 

 

 

Recovery Through Resilience: Considerations of Top CFOs

Recovery Through Resilience: Considerations of Top CFOs

Recovery Through Resilience: Considerations of Top CFOs - CFO

As the pandemic continues to cause global economic disparity, experts scramble to forecast economic recovery. While no one can predict with precision what lies ahead for the economy, CFOs’ expectations and actions can be a helpful barometer. On a recent Resilient Podcast episode, Mike Kearney, Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory CMO, and I discussed CFOs’ expectations for the economy, how they are handling hiring and retention, and how they can position their companies for growth. Here are the top takeaways.

1. CFOs Remain on the Defensive

CFOs’ economic expectations have plummeted. Our Q2 CFO Signals Survey marked the lowest readings on business expectation metrics since the first survey 41 quarters ago. Just 1% of CFOs rated conditions in North America as good, compared with 80% in the first quarter. A separate poll of 118 Fortune 500 CFOs conducted at the end of June echoed the sentiments of our Q2 Signals Survey and found that most respondents expect slow to moderate recovery. Over half expect they will not reach pre-crisis operating levels until 2021 and with 17% expecting 2022 or later.

Right now, a foremost priority for resilient CFOs is to ensure enough cash and liquidity for their company to operate. The focus on cost reduction outweighed revenue growth for the first time in the history of the Signals survey. As such, CFOs are doubling down on investing cash rather than returning it to shareholders, staying in existing geographies rather than moving to new ones, and focusing on organic growth as opposed to inorganic growth like mergers and acquisitions.

 2. Navigating New Frontiers

Rest assured that the news isn’t all bad. The Q2 Signals Survey did find that 585 of CFOs see the North American economy rebounding a year from now. Notably, when asked whether they felt their company was in response or recovery mode, or already in a position to thrive, only about a quarter of CFOs said they were still responding to the pandemic. In fact, 37% of CFOs believe their companies are already in “thrive” mode. In the meantime, CFOs are reimagining company configurations, diversifying supply chains, and accelerating automation.

One obvious example of how CFOs are taking a resilient approach to navigate uncertainties is the widespread adoption of virtual work.

According to the Q2 Signals Survey, while just under half say they will resume on-site work as soon as governments allow it, about 70% of CFOs say those who can continue to work remotely will have the option of doing so. This will likely become a critical component to retaining top talent—a longtime concern for CFOs—particularly in a challenging economy. Resilient CFOs will continue to shift underlying business processes to accommodate routine remote work, including investing in new technologies for an efficient and effective virtual workforce, moving platforms to the cloud, and even adjusting internal control mechanisms to allow for off-site collaboration, budgeting, and financial planning.

3. The Role the CFO Can Play

Over the past decade or so, CFOs have evolved to become business strategists, but never has their role as stewards been more important as they grapple with how to navigate a business landscape that changes by the hour. In the coming months, CFOs should consider focusing on:

  • Revisiting their financing and liquidity strategies, centralizing cash release decisions with the treasurer, and leveraging tax planning to reduce cash outlays and preserve budget. Deliver a balance sheet with headroom, flexibility, and liquidity to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime market opportunities that could present themselves.
  • Exploring different recovery scenarios, keeping an eye on important risk metrics that may signal a time to innovate. Evolve business models, processes, and technologies to maximize current performance and position companies to be able to seize new opportunities.
  • Keeping top talent by embracing a company’s best people, whether it is offering work-from-home capabilities, or nurturing followership through trust. Organizations that can retain their top people may be best positioned in recovery.

During recovery, a critical benchmark to track will be CFOs’ risk appetite. In the Q2 Signals Survey, the proportion of CFOs saying it is a good time to be taking greater risk plummeted to 27%. An upward tick of this finding may signal a greater focus on revenue growth, a willingness to expand into new markets, and an appetite for deal-making. Until then, by taking a resilient approach in the coming months, CFOs can position their companies for strong performance, future growth, and market-moving success as the economy starts to recover.

 

 

 

The Sudden Departures of CFOs

https://www.kornferry.com/insights/articles/the-sudden-departures-of-cfos?utm_source=marketo&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2020-08-twil&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWlRFMk16bG1OamczTVRrdyIsInQiOiI5aitPUVlWMjlGbDlWTDhneWpcL0VCeEMyNzAzMjErNVd4SUtSNkRFaktCTkg0SEs3RHg5M0RteVhkd2FyZVAxWUpXZGhBNERwNldZRUd4Y2R3XC9tekcrOG1pRjBXWTcrbkZkMEg3SVN2Y0htV3dSY1A4NGhBWEM4T1wvanp0WWJ4aSJ9

The Sudden Departures of CFOs

Though critical to operations, chief financial officers are finding new roles or retiring at a blistering pace. What that means to firms.

Rewriting corporate budgets seemingly daily. Bargaining with banks over broken loan covenants. Answering constant calls from investors and board directors. And, in extreme cases, figuring out how to make payroll. All while working with no colleagues around. Is it any wonder now that so many chief financial officers have recently said, “It’s time to do something else”?

The number of CFOs—usually the second in command at a corporation—who are leaving their current job or looking for something new has surged over the summer. In just one week in early August, the high-profile CFOs at General Motors, Cisco Systems, and Avis Budget Group announced they were departing. According to one survey, 80 finance chiefs of S&P 500- or Fortune 500-listed firms left their positions through the start of August, compared with 84 at this point last year–a remarkable figure, experts say, because there was a period of about six weeks during the spring when there were almost no CFO changes.

It’s a trend that experts believe will likely continue as the pandemic continues to disrupt the finances of organizations in every industry everywhere. “This crisis will create a demand for radical, creative thinking that has often been lacking from finance leaders,” says Beau Lambert, a Korn Ferry senior client partner in the firm’s Financial Officers practice.

Experts attribute the surge in movement to a variety of reasons. Some CFOs, after helping their companies get through the period where lockdowns crippled revenues, have decided they’ve had enough. “They’re saying, ‘I have an amazing career—I’m taking the chips off the table and going home,’” Lambert says.

The lockdown period was a time when CFOs were working nonstop just to keep their organizations afloat, or if that was impossible, guide them into bankruptcy. Now these top finance leaders have had a chance to self-reflect, something they may have never done before because they’ve always been “knee-deep in the mess,” says Barry Toren, leader of Korn Ferry’s Financial Officers practice. The process has left some energized and looking for a new challenge at a different organization.

That recent career decision hasn’t always been in the CFO’s hands, however. Some company CEOs, recognizing that the financial road ahead is not going to look like it did before the pandemic, are looking for new financial talent they think is better suited to the task. “We see seasoned CFOs stepping down—of their own volition or otherwise—in order to allow a new, perhaps better-equipped, generation of finance leaders to navigate through the uncertain present and future,” says Katie Gleber, an associate in Korn Ferry’s Financial Officers practice.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated some trends impacting CFOs that were already in place. Organizations were already looking for CFOs who could do more than just sit in the back office and handle the money. Modern-day CFOs need to be as well or more skilled in business partnering as they are in financial engineering, Lambert says. Today’s CFOs also need to have a much higher tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to inspire others.

One of the offshoots of the pandemic pushing millions to work remotely is that it has made it easier for CFOs to explore the job market. In the past, CFOs usually had to travel for a couple of days to their prospective employer to meet the senior leaders of the organization. Now, Toren says, those job-hunting CFOs can talk to CEOs and directors at two organizations in one day without leaving their house. 

 

 

 

 

The role of the modern Hospital & Health System CFO: 3 things to know

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/the-role-of-the-modern-cfo-3-things-to-know.html?utm_medium=email

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The role of hospital and health system CFO has changed in recent years. CFOs are now change agents within their organizations and are deeply embedded in the day-to-day operations of the business.

Speaking on a panel called “The Evolving Role of the CFO” at the Becker’s Hospital Review 8th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable in November, a panel of health system CFOs and finance leaders from across the country discussed how the finance chief role has changed and expanded.

The five panelists were:

  • Jeanette Wojtalewicz, senior vice president of Omaha, Neb.-based CHI Health
  • Nicholas Mendyka, vice president of system finance operations at Minneapolis-based Allina Health
  • Doug Welday, CFO of Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University HealthSystem
  • Kris Zimmer, CFO of St. Louis-based SSM Health
  • Mike Browning, CFO of Columbus-based OhioHealth

Here are three takeaways from the discussion:

1. CFOs are strategic leaders. The panelists noted that younger CFOs — those in their early 30s — come to the role with a fresh viewpoint. They are strategic and drive performance across the organization. Though CFOs who have been in the role for a decade or two may have a more traditional viewpoint, they’re adapting to the role of the modern CFO and embracing their more strategic position.

2. CFOs need different skills than in the past. The CFO role has expanded beyond traditional finance and accounting, and the skills CFOs need have changed too. When recruiting new members to their teams, the CFOs on the panel said they look for candidates with natural curiosity, data visualization skills and natural leadership abilities.

3. Clinician-finance partnerships are important. New payment models link quality of care to reimbursement, making it vital for CFOs and their teams to develop an understanding of the clinical side of the business. This has caused some health system CFOs to change their approach to training. The panelists said they try to help their teams develop an understanding of each department and learn how clinical and finance are connected.

 

NEW COVENANT HEALTH CFO AIMS TO LEAD ORGANIZATION’S FINANCIAL TURNAROUND

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/finance/new-covenant-health-cfo-aims-lead-organizations-financial-turnaround

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The Tewksbury, Massachusetts–based health system strives to post its first positive balance sheet in more than five years.

Stephen Forney, MBA, CPA, FACHE, excels in fixing “broken” organizations and he has built a track record of achieving financial turnarounds at seven healthcare facilities, he tells HealthLeaders in a recent interview.

Forney has over three decades of experience as a healthcare executive, with a primary focus on problem-solving. He began his career fixing problems in areas such as information technology and supply chain, an approach and skill he has carried over into financial operations in the C-suite.

“In finance, it wound up being the same thing. Pretty much every organization I’ve gone to has been broken in some way, shape, or form,” Forney says. “I’ve developed a specialty doing turnarounds and this will be my eighth.”

Forney speaks about his new CFO role at the Tewksbury, Massachusetts–based Catholic nonprofit health system Covenant Health, which he joined in mid-September, and how driving revenue and reducing expenses must go hand-in-hand to achieve financial balance.

This transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

HealthLeaders: Covenant is coming off its fifth straight year of operating losses. What is contributing to those losses and how do you plan to address those financial challenges?

Forney: The thing is, most turnarounds—to a greater or lesser extent—look a lot alike. With organizations that have [financial] issues, there are obviously always unique aspects to every situation, but virtually every healthcare organization that’s not doing well is because of the same relatively small handful of issues.

[For example,] revenue cycle is probably No. 1. Productivity has not been well attended to; expenses haven’t had a lot of discipline around them in a broad sense. That’s not to say that all decisions are bad, but in a systematic fashion, things haven’t been looked at. Frequently, driving volume and growing the business needs a better focus. 

In the case of Covenant … there has been a plan developed to address all those areas and we are addressing them already, even though we will be posting another operating loss in fiscal [year] 2019. But the trajectory is good and some of the things that we’re now looking at are what I would consider to be phase two–type initiatives. How do we accelerate and move them to the next level?

On October 1, we outsourced our revenue cycle. I’m pleased that we were able to get that accomplished. Obviously, it’s early but, at least anecdotally, initial trends look good.

HL: Where do you fall on the dynamic between focusing on expense control measures or revenue generation?

Forney: I always feel like you need to do both. Expense management and working towards expense strategies is easier, quicker, and more straightforward.

[Revenue growth strategies] take time, take effort, and tend to [have] a much higher degree of uncertainty around the volume projection. Those are necessary and they’re things that we need to invest in because, at some point, you can’t cut any more from your organization, you’ve got to grow the top line. To me, it’s sort of like step one is stabilize your revenue cycle and stabilize your expenses. Then while you’re doing that, work on growth that’s going to take place 12 to 18 months down the road.

HL: Are you optimistic about the federal government’s efforts to move the industry toward value-based care?

Forney: Going back about a decade, I thought the ACE program, which was [the federal government’s] bundled payment program, was a solid step in the right direction. It gave organizations a chance to collaborate in compliant fashion with physicians to bend the cost curve and have beneficiaries participate in the bending of the cost curve as well. I was with one of the pilot health systems that [participated], and it was a remarkable success.

Everybody got to win; CMS, patients, physicians, and systems won by creating value. Yes, I think that the government has a good role to play in [value-based care] because they have such a large group of patients that they’re willing to experiment like that. [The federal government] can come up with potentially novel ways to get people to buy into this.

HL: What is it like to be at the helm of a Catholic nonprofit system and how does it affect your leadership style?

Forney: From a philosophical standpoint, the principle of creating shareholder wealth and good stewardship are not significantly different. You’ve got an end goal in mind, which is, you’re taking care of the patients and a community. In one case, whatever excess is left goes to a private equity fund or shareholders. In the other case, [the excess] stays in your balance sheet and gets reinvested in the community.

HL: Given your three decades of healthcare experience, do you have advice for your fellow provider CFOs, especially some of the younger ones?

Forney: Focus on being that strategic right-hand person to the CEO. In my experience, that has been one of the things that marks a successful CFO from one that isn’t as successful.

CEOs are going to get ideas from everywhere. They’re outward and inward facing. They deal with the doctors and the community, and they’re going to get all sorts of great ideas.

The CFO needs to be that person [who is] grounded and says, ‘Well, what about this?’ That doesn’t mean saying no. The whole idea is how do you make it [sound] like a yes. To me, the CFO role just grounds all the discussions, from working with physicians to working with the community. 

CFOs over the last couple of decades have been operationally oriented. Now they need to start becoming clinically oriented.

There’s a real benefit in being able to sit down and talk with a physician and understand [what] they’re doing. … It winds up becoming a way to help ground the clinicians in the hospital operations because now you’re having a dialogue with them instead of them just saying, ‘You don’t understand. You’re not a clinician.’ That would be something that I would have a young CFO try to stay focused on, even though it’s dramatically outside the comfort zone for people that typically go into accounting.

 

Former CFO sues Texas hospital for defamation

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/legal-regulatory-issues/former-cfo-sues-texas-hospital-for-defamation.html

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The former CFO of Huntsville (Texas) Memorial Hospital is suing the hospital for breach of contract and defamation, according to the SE Texas Record.

In his complaint, filed Aug. 28, Guy Gros claims he was hired as Huntsville Memorial’s CFO in February 2013. He was initially given a two-year contract and then a three-year contract with automatic renewals, according to the lawsuit.

Under the contract, the hospital could terminate Mr. Gros’s employment for cause. On Dec. 2, 2016 he was terminated for alleged cause. However, Mr. Gros asserts that he was fired for raising concerns about the hospital’s finances.  

Mr. Gros further alleges his reputation was damaged by false statements made by the hospital’s then CEO, who allegedly told a board member that Mr. Gros “did something illegal, something he should not have.”

Mr. Gros is seeking past and future wages, lost employment benefits and compensatory damages.

 

CFO of Children’s Health in Dallas steps down; 2nd finance leader to leave in a month

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-executive-moves/cfo-of-children-s-health-in-dallas-steps-down-2nd-finance-leader-to-leave-in-a-month.html?origin=cfoe&utm_source=cfoe

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Rich Goode, vice president and CFO of Dallas-based Children’s Health, resigned Sept. 24, about a month after another finance leader left the organization, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Hospital officials did not give a reason for his departure. The organization has not responded to Becker’s request for comment.

Mr. Goode’s resignation comes after the August departure of Ryan Bailey, head of investments at Children’s Health, who left to form an investment firm.

Mr. Goode served as CFO for three years, joining Children’s Health in 2016. He was previously vice president of finance and CFO at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mr. Goode is credited with doubling the system’s net operating income and implementing analysis tools to offer better insights into its financial health during his tenure.