Why CFO.University

The language of accounting and finance is the native language of business. In many ways our language is also the language for all economies, including; nations, states, corporations and households. It is the recognition of how critical our profession is to all our economies that inspired the Why behind CFO.University.

The senior financial role is defined differently at each individual company. Some include oversight of the human resource department, some the information technology team, others are in charge of legal, some responsible for all administrative functions.

However, all senior financial roles consistently include these four areas of responsibility:

Accounting, Finance, Treasury and Leadership

I call them the Four Pillars of CFO Success. This is the foundation for the learning model we use at CFO.University.

The highly technical parts of the CFO role are learned in school or at specific seminars along the way. The practical parts are learned informally from family, mentors, other senior financial officers, co-workers, other colleagues and friends. At CFO.University we pass on the practical aspects of being a great CFO. We commit to providing you with many great learning opportunities.

The objective of CFO.University is to help learning-hungry financial professionals grow the skills, technology and leadership qualities needed to accelerate their careers. CFO.University is about you - but there is more to it than that. By helping our Member-Scholars grow we are increasing the capabilities of our global financial community. In today’s world, the future success of our economies is dependent upon sound financial principles. The same principles the foundation of CFO.University education is built on.

I am passionate about financial professionals engaging in our communities because we are in the best position to improve them. Many of our economies - nations, states, cities, companies and households - are facing fiscal crisis (learn more here). There is no better trained group of professionals to add logic, facts and tools to help our economies face these predicaments. In addition to improving yourself through some resource like CFO.University, I am asking you, as a professional in our financial community, to accept the responsibility of teaching the citizens of our economies the sound financial principles you have learned over the years.

That is Why I built CFO.University.

If you have an opinion on the model or our place in the economies of the world, please share it.

About me:

I was no different than many of the freshmen at Augsburg College (now Augsburg University) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I wandered into orientation on the first day of school without a clue for a career path. I enjoyed learning about History, so I signed up to major in studying the past. But a wise counselor suggested I also take some “more practical” classes in Business Administration. I did earn my History degree, but thank goodness I also took my counselor’s advice.

Although it seems like yesterday, unbelievably, I made that decision 40 years ago.

If your experience has any similarities to mine you will grasp the value our skills, technology, experience and leadership bring to the business community and to our different economies.

I started my finance career with Cargill, Inc. in 1981. Since then the discipline has grown its capabilities and the stereotype of a “bean-counter” has been transformed into “strategic leader”. I learned the nuts and bolts of accounting and finance in the “P&L department” at Cargill’s grain division; took on my first accounting manager’s role in Chicago in 1983; learned risk management in Cargill’s Financial Market’s Division as an Administrative Manager.

My first senior financial officer role was running the accounting, finance and logistics team for Cargill’s global energy operations. In 1999 I became CFO at ConAgra Malt, a joint venture between two multi-national companies. At Cargill, the treasury function was run centrally – I never had to raise a dime. At ConAgra Malt, our owners weren’t interested in using their credit capacity to fund our business. I had to learn how to raise funds.

In 2004 I ventured out on my own, providing CFO advisory services to middle market companies. During that time my role has evolved from being an active CFO at a number of companies to mentoring CEOs and Senior Financial Officers. My exposure to many different senior finance roles provided the framework for the model described above. It seems so obvious to me now - I sometimes wonder why it took almost 40 years for the lightbulb to turn on.


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