"I believe my job as CFO, at its core, is to take data and create usable information out of it – to provide transparency and analysis to enact change."
In this inspirational CFO story, you'll hear how Mike Kovar, CFO of Acra Lending, has gotten to where he is today.
As a driven and tech-savvy finance leader, Mike's story is packed with tips and insights to help you on your journey to becoming a successful CFO.
Keep reading as we unravel Mike's CFO story - a tale of transformation, mentorship, and leveling up in the world of finance.
I have a mathematics and business undergraduate degree, an MBA in Finance and Accounting, and am a CPA and CFA.
My education has dramatically impacted my ability to address technical and managerial issues. As a bit of a “Quant”, I can talk prepayment speeds and valuation for our servicing portfolio and understand management and tax issues.
Continued education and modern CFOs
If the business didn’t change, I believe you could make an argument that you shouldn’t either. But markets, industries, and businesses do change, and we need to change as well.
This is not just for continued education, but constantly revisiting what we do and why we do it – in the never-ending search for greater efficiency.
As both a CPA and CFA, I was instrumental at public financial services firms in implementing FAS 133 Derivatives and Hedging. Technical accounting was a springboard for me, and I never looked back.
I moved into FIN 46 and Goodwill impairment analysis and have always needed my technical accounting skills. The FASB works hard to keep CPAs on their toes.
Many times, I did not have resources to assist and, at times, was
a “one-man show”. While I always had credibility because of my high-profile duties, not everybody always shared my priorities.
These challenges tested my resolve to complete my duties. I was either able to go around, under, over, and, at times, right through obstacles to stay results-oriented.
Networking and mentorship
Networking has been very important to my success, and I would recommend everybody work hard to maintain an active network and invest in it.
One flaw in my background is the lack of a mentor. This resulted in a lot of extra work and mistakes that otherwise may not have occurred with a mentor.
Skills and qualities
Communication is key as is a drive for results. I have always had the ability to work tirelessly and stay focused on a goal – and it has paid off.
My attempts to re-engineer my duties, team, or myself have resulted in the ability to either adapt or be proactive in responses to changes.
The changing role of a CFO
The CFO role has dramatically changed over the past 25 years – I believe because of Sarbanes-Oxley. This propelled the CFO to be responsible for documentation and internal controls related to operations, finance, and IT.
The CFO now tests controls that can also impact a CEO – and that has had a big impact on the CFO’s duties. Also, the world is more technical and things seem to move faster than ever.
Keeping up with industry trends
I attend conferences, review trade publications, and have daily information from the LA Times and other online sites. We do have a subscription to Gartner from our IT group, and this provides great information on trends and industry updates. Properly implemented, this minimizes surprises.
Advice for aspiring CFOs
"Work hard, invest in yourself, and leap when you get an opportunity."
Accountants are generally risk-averse and an aggressive mindset for your projects and career will separate you from the rest. If you are asking the question whether you have the skills to sit in the seat then you probably don’t.
Key characteristics of a successful CFO
The CFO of today needs to have a diverse background of experiences – they need tax experience, treasury, internal controls, and technical accounting skills. The staffing shortages require changes in staff management to retain employees.
Talent is so hard to come by that most teams are operating shorthanded – creating the need to be more efficient. Prioritization seems to be important as the workload and areas of responsibility have increased tremendously.
Collaborating with key stakeholders
My company is PE-owned and this can create challenges at times. My focus with all stakeholders is our common interest – everybody is focused on creating a profitable and growing company.
We may go about this interest in different ways, but this allows for common ground to initiate conversations and think collaboratively. CEOs have a certain skill set and it is typically not the skillset a CFO has – a smart CEO will partner with his CFO to form a formidable 1-2 punch.
Leveraging digital transformation
We are very focused on system implementation and data. I have been fortunate to have worked with some excellent CTOs and their vision and impact have been tremendous on my teams.
The companies with less depth and vision in IT had a harder time providing recommendations and solutions to make the teams more efficient.
I am a driven and tech-savvy finance leader transforming operations to drive shareholder value. My focus is on middle-market, private, and private equity-backed companies.
I use metrics, results, and analysis to drive strategic decisions to impact operations. I partner with operations and executives to drive efficiency and ensure focus is on strategic initiatives to obtain results as set by BOD and Management.
I believe my job as CFO, at its core, is to take data and create usable information out of it – to provide transparency and analysis to enact change. The CFO is in a unique position to see all the costs associated with business decisions and the benefits derived from them.
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What’s in this eBook?
- The secrets of the CFO role: Get the inside scoop on the essential traits and skills needed to lead at the highest level.
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