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BONUS | Doreen Remmen - Today's CFO
November 21, 2019 | 12 Minutes
Doreen Remmen, CMA, CSCA, CAE, IMA's CFO and Senior Vice President of Operations, is our featured expert guest who speaks on behalf of IMA as she explains the role of today's CFO. In this episode, Doreen highlights and emphasizes how CFOs roles and responsibilities must go beyond the finance function and are truly business partners as they need to be an integral part in all aspects of the business. While this episode is another bonus release as part of our IMA-focused mini-series and Doreen shares her perspectives as IMA's CFO, much of her insight is applicable to all organizations because of how the industry and the role has evolved. Adam Larson joined Doreen here in Montvale, NJ for a great in-person conversation about her traditional financial responsibilities and also engaged her on the non-financial aspects of her job. Doreen has been a member of IMA and now, as CFO, has a great perspective on what our members and the accounting profession need to know. Listen now for more information!
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Hey everybody. Welcome back to Count Me In, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. This is your host Mitch Roshong. Thank you for joining us again today. You're about to hear the third bonus episode of our IMA focused mini series within Count Me In. We're going to listen to Adam speak with IMA CFO and senior vice president of operations, Doreen Remmen. This episode will be especially relevant as you'll hear Doreen talk about her various responsibilities which really highlight the changing role of the CFO in today's industry. I'll let Doreen and Adam fill you in on the rest. So let's head over to the conversation now.
So Adam, it's really nice to have you visit me here in my office today.
Glad to be here Doreen. Could you tell us a little bit about your roles and responsibilities here at IMA?
Sure. Well, as you know, I'm the chief financial officer and I have the traditional role of leading the finance organization. I ensure that our financial reporting and regulatory reporting are timely and accurate. I lead the budgeting process and I work with the external advisors, the accountants and attorneys, who keep us moving in the right direction. And thankfully I have a very professional finance team in place that's led by a highly skilled controller. So I have other responsibilities as well. My title is senior vice president of operations and my role goes beyond finance to include information technology, human resources, customer service and facilities. And here again, luckily I have wonderful teams in place and talented leaders.
So during, I also know you work with the board of directors. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Okay. Well, my favorite part of my job is being the staff liaison to the strategic planning committee of the board of directors. And in this role I ensure that we have a continuous systematic process for refining our strategic plan every year. And that includes collecting input from our stakeholders who could be our members, our staff, our board, our vendors, performing an environmental scan and risk assessment and communicating the strategic priorities.
So we know that there's many changes happening in the accounting industry. So how do your various responsibilities reflect those changes?
Well, Adam, there's been a lot written about the changing role of the CFO and I think more and more finance leaders are broadening their scope and becoming involved in strategy. And I think this is very true in large companies, where the CFO may have been seen as a functional trusted advisor in the past. That CFO is now being called upon to be a true business partner in strategic decisions. And this requires that we expand beyond a financial reporting and develop those analytical skills that help us predict an influence the future. But I'm asked this question quite often, Adam. And what I've said before is nobody told me at the beginning of my career that I was supposed to just stay in the finance function and I had the opportunity to work as the finance leader in mid size companies typically, but not always privately held. And as the CFO I was always the next person to the CEO in every business decision. So people relied on me to bring my analytical skills to different roles. Uh, in the company that I worked at before IMA I was able to move into a vice president of supply chain role. I also worked as the vice president of sales and marketing for a period of time. Having competent leaders on the teams that reported to me was really important. Having a highly competent controller in place enabled me to trust that she had everything under control. And I could step away from finance when necessary, go on a sales call, close a deal, or visit a supplier's factory and try to understand if they had the quality systems in place that would make them a reliable partner in a supplier managed inventory program. So nobody ever told me I was supposed to stick to finance. If I'd gotten that lesson early in my career, I think my life would have been a lot simpler. But I've enjoyed my career and I've enjoyed being in a lot of different roles and I have a lot of different roles here at IMA as well.
So as you've already mentioned, how your different roles here at IMA kind of spread that and you've become that business partner with, you know, whether it's with the board or helping out with operations and in the finance function as well.
I'm just naturally curious person. I'm nosy. I like to get involved in different things. And uh, here at IMA I'm passionate about what is going on because I'm an IMA member and I am a, was always a really important, support system in my career. So I'm passionate about making sure that we're doing the strategic things that will serve the profession in the future.
So on that same note, measurements and metrics are obviously very important for the CFO to monitor, as you've already mentioned. So what are a few keys of your key performance indicators or goals as a CFO at IMA? And how or why might they be different from those at a CFO to public organization?
Okay. So many of our financial metrics are very, very similar. Even though we're not for profit, we operate like a for profit business, in a very disciplined manner. We look at all the traditional indicators of financial that include profitability, cashflow and balance sheet ratios that measure liquidity and stability. Of course we do all of those things, but as a mission based, not for profit organization, not everything we do has dollars attached to it. So we look deeply at measures of member engagement to understand whether we're delivering the value that we should be.
So one of the biggest areas of emphasis in finance and accounting competencies is data analytics. And we had, I may know that a very important and so how heavily, how heavily do you use or rely on data analytics for financial decisions and recommendations?
Well, we rely very heavily on data to support our decisions. We try to walk the walk here at IMA and we know that data analytics are very important to all of our members. We look at leading indicators in our data such as the number of new candidates for the CMA program. We also look at things like pass rates on the exam by region and it's very important for us to understand the trends as they're developing. My staff has been exploring new technology products such as Tableau and the advanced features in Excel to unlock the secrets and the trends that are showing up in our database. We also look at external data such as the GDP in our target markets and the numbers of students that are graduating from accounting and finance programs at universities.
So how do you think the use of those new tools that they're looking at will help IMA]?
Well, one example is using Tableau, we were able to look historically at how likely a candidate is to purchase a subsequent exam after they have either passed or failed on their first attempt. And we found that that's very different by region. So in the United States, people get discouraged quite easily and aren't as likely to, to sign up for that next exam as they are in some of the other parts of the world. So we know that we need to work on communication and support of our candidates to make sure that they actually take those steps and get through the program.
So shifting gears a little bit, how do you keep up with industry news and other changes to the accounting profession?
Well, I read a lot. I spend about an hour every morning sitting with my coffee at home, reading various things and I've always been a very heavy consumer of IMA materials, including strategic finance magazine and our CPE products. Adam as you know, I've been a member of IMA for a really long time, over 25 years, much longer than I've been the CFO here. And I've always turned to IMA to keep me informed about my profession.
I mean, that's great. All the things you're reading Doreen and keeping up with the industry news. Are there any examples of something you've been reading or something you came across that you've been able to apply, to your job?
Okay. Well, recently I've been reading a lot about business in various geographic regions where IMA, is rapidly expanding. So, you know, I'm reading about doing business in China, doing business in India. I'm planning a trip to India in the next week and I've been reading articles in the economist and, and other sources in preparation for that trip. So I've always found that there's synergy between what you're reading and what you're doing at work and that's a concept of flow happens when something that you just read can be immediately applied. And that's happened to me several times.
That's great. Which part of the finance function has changed the most in your time as CFO and what do you envision changing even more with the finance function in the future?
Well, undoubtedly it's the speed and ease of doing the analysis that support, you know, both the monthly close and decision making. Great companies have always done these analyses. They've always known their customers and stayed on top of the trends that drive success. But now we have technology tools at our fingertips to produce graphs and reports instantly that would have taken days to do in the past. I remember doing graphs with colored pencils on graph paper when I first started out. The change has been gradual and incremental. Every year as we found ways to be more efficient and effective. I think that's really the biggest change in the 25 years that I've been operating in this.
So what advice can you give to somebody who is a CFO or is just starting out as a CFO so they can stay up to date with everything that's changing within the finance function so that they can serve their company the best?
Well, stay on top of what's happening in your company's industry. Stay connected with the leaders in all of the various functions, operations, business development, research and development. Everything that's important to your company you should be on top of, but you also need to be the one that keeps on top of technical skills. Make sure that you're up to date on changes in gap and also the changes in technology that are really revolutionizing our workspace.
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.