Leadership's role in shaping and sustaining FEI: the commitment, countless hours and unique qualities of FEI's volunteer leadership have largely contributed to making the organization what it is today. A snapshot of the leadership challenges through the decades--both inside and outside of the Controllers Institute of America (now FEI).
Just think. If Carr were here today, he'd be bursting with pride at what he'd helped to create. Today's Financial Executives International (FEI)--renamed Financial Executives Institute in 1962 and then "International" in 2000--has done the work and earned the reputation that Carr describes; it has become both "powerful and important." Fast forward to the 1980s, when it was written: "The Institute is an effective voice for the private financial sector of the business community to governmental, professional and academic communities. Its most important strength lies in its members and their participation in FEI activities, for without this participation FEI would not progress."
Then, fast-forward again, to the 21st century, when the 2005-06 Chairman, Robert Walker, wrote in his letter to the membership: "this is perhaps the most important time for an organization like FEI to be around for our members," due to the unprecedented complexity and demands of modern finance and the harsher regulatory environment.
The organization that has evolved is largely the product of the volunteer members and especially the leaders, who devote countless hours of their time, energy and unique skills and resources. FEI could not have sustained itself, nor accomplished all that it has for the profession, without the determination and commitment of its volunteer leadership.
In speaking about individual leaders in his landmark book Good to Great, Jim Collins says that besides doing a great job while you're in the top spot, it's about what happens after you're gone. "The real litmus test is your legacy." The fact that FEI is celebrating 75 years speaks volumes about the quality of its volunteer leadership!
So, what follows is a snapshot of some of the organization's challenges and its volunteer leaders--the presidents and chairmen (and much later, women). FEI's top leadership has been busy these past seven-plus decades--internally and externally. Among the top concerns are membership (recruiting, serving and retaining), and professional and advocacy issues. Along its path, the organization has changed its membership requirements and its structure, as it's deemed necessary in response to the environment at a given time. Launched for controllers, the Institute broadened its membership, and even changed its name, to denote the expanding finance executive's role.
Of changes implemented during his year as chair (1997-98), William Parfet says: "Chances are if we put all this in play again today, it wouldn't work. The world has moved to another place!" Indeed, like the business world it serves, FEI is continually evolving. What follows are select bits and pieces of the leaders' challenges to simultaneously keep up and move forward. Segments are from FEI historical documents, Leader Tributes and in their own words.
* THE STRUCTURE
Throughout FEI are various opportunities for leadership--from local committee chairs to those who gain national committee and then office of the chair positions. In the early years, the organization's highest volunteer position, president, worked along with a board of directors. Arthur R. Tucker, the Institute's founder, selected 13 men to serve on the first board; they then voted for officers. The first president, F.J. Carr, served two terms.
On the Institute's five-year anniversary, a tribute to founder Arthur R. Tucker, written by Alan G. Benson (then chairman of the committee on publication of The Controller), reads: "During the worst depression the Western World has ever experienced, he began to organize the controllers of American business concerns. The measure of success that has attended his work is evidenced by the strength and standing which The Institute enjoys today."
The writer continued: "We now come to the Fifth Annual Convention with a feeling of optimism, which springs from the satisfaction of having seen the small acorn grown to a sturdy oak, and hopeful of rendering to business concerns in America, and to its members, a service which will more than justify its existence. All this has been accomplished in five short years, marked in the industrial world by vicissitudes and economic upheavals."
Later, from A Brief History, published in 1971 on the occasion of FEI's 40th year (edited here): "The challenge of the 1970s loomed formidable for finance executives as the Institute entered its fifth decade amid the most complex of times and a level of technology so awesome that it would have staggered the imagination of most people during the early thirties. FEI was on the threshold of a new and demanding era that promised to tax the efforts of financial executives to the limits of their energies. This increased level of activity within the Institute concerned the leaders, and a strategy for the future was developed.
"In May of 1971 the board of directors elected FEI's first full-time president and CEO (Charles C. Hornbostel). His challenge was to strengthen FEI as the objective and effective voice of the business community; establish sound relations with both government regulatory agencies and the private-sector standard-setting bodies; increase the involvement of members in the activities of the Institute; and reorganize the Institute internally in order to effectively meet these challenges."
By 2006, five individuals had served in the top administrative staff position. Charles Hornbostel (1971-78) was succeeded by Robert W. Moore (1978-89); followed by P. Norman Roy (1989-99); then Philip P. Livingston served from 1999-2003; and the current President and CEO, the first woman to hold the top spot, Colleen (Sayther) Cunningham, who has served since April 2003. As the years have progressed, the role of the volunteer chair, Office of the Chair (OOC) and executive board have become more involved in the operations of the organization, while the staff President and CEO has become the external face of FEI, representing the organization before regulators, members, chapters, other outside organizations and constituencies and the press.
* EARLY NOTABLE COMMENTS ON THE INSTITUTE AND THE PROFESSION BY ITS CHAIRS
1935-36: Rodney S. Durkee "No man invited to the presidency of the Controllers Institute of America should enter office without a full sense of his responsibility to its principles and its membership," he said in President H.C. Perry Analyzes Job of Controller, Future of Institute, published in the 1936, Fifth Anniversary edition of The Controller. He went on to say "Those responsibilities, however, should not be assumed in the spirit of self-sacrifice or weigh heavily upon anyone whom you choose as your president. They may be accepted with a light heart when he is surrounded by a group of men having the background, the vision, the loyalty and the understanding which mark you for membership in this organization."
1941-42: John A. Donaldson, known as the "First War President." "Controllership found itself in a front-line position in the battle of production; it found itself confronted by new responsibilities imposed both by individual companies and by Government. Controllers were discovered to be indispensable to the Government in its direction of economic moves, in controlling the production program."
1948-49: K. Y. Siddall. "This may be the machine age from the standpoint of labor, but certainly from the standpoint of the selection, training and development of material for management, we know that it is not. The individual who shows the foresight and makes the decisions is still the controlling factor in the success of any business ... It is up to us to continue the development of that man and to make the most of him for his own sake and ours. We cannot ever afford to get so involved in the technical side of our work that we pass over the growing, changing human side."
1949-50: William Herbert Carr, known as "Bert," the Institute's youngest president, said in speaking at the 12th Annual Institute of Accounting: "American management, which understands the economic facts, has an opportunity to bring about greater economic understanding, through its reports, not only to stockholders, but to employees and to the public."
1958-59: J. McCail Hughes was celebrated following his year as president: "To the office of president, Mack has added a new dimension--enjoyment. Without subtracting from the dignity or responsibility of our chief elective office, he revealed that being president can be fun. Instead of submerging his rare gift of dry good humor, he gave it reign and lightened our proceedings, thereby showing that a leavening of humor is fully compatible with the serious role of modern controllership"
In his inaugural address, the 1965-66 Chair, Carl M. Blumenschein, said: "To accomplish our goals, we must continue to stress a high code of ethical conduct for business management. The Institute should also continue to encourage a broader view of business among those primarily interested in financial management."
1962-63: Steve H. Bromar. "FEI is particularly fortunate in that Steve Bromar's administration coincided with the first full year under the new name and concept, which broadened both eligibility and the scope of the Institute. He said, 'Our greatest challenge is to build a firm moral foundation for business enterprise. The financial executive is in a position to furnish leadership necessary to maintain high standards and ideals. As a famous philosopher said, 'We must not be simply good--but good for something.'"
* THE LATER DAYS
A few examples of leadership challenges from the 1980s onward follow. In many cases, former chairs have commented in their own words. These are denoted with an asterisk (*)
1986-87: R. Hartwell Gardner.* "Having started my FEI membership as an assistant treasurer at national headquarters and a member of two technical committees in New York, I was not familiar with the normal experience most members experience through local chapter involvement. Thus, as the organization dealt with mid-1980s membership problems, the melding of what we were about and how we were to become more relevant to members and potential members became critical.
"Also, FEI made a major effort to have more influence with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the Emerging Issues Task Force and Financial Accounting Foundation. While not always successful, these efforts did lay a good foundation for future collaboration, which is so evident today."
1987-88: William L. Lamey Jr.* "During my tenure, as well as a year or two before and after, we convinced FEI Canada to remain a part of FEI. In addition, we moved to make the magazine (Financial Executive) either financially self-sufficient or defunct. Bob Moore was reaching the end of his term as president and CEO, and we were about to begin a search for a successor. Ultimately, we hired Norm Roy after my term expired."
1990-91: Robert M. Patrick.* "A debate of some importance was taking place between the standard-setting community, championed by FASB and the private-sector preparers, represented by FEI. (For all I know, that debate could still be taking place.) A proactive FASB was aggressively promoting accounting standards that would end up directing, or at least influencing, corporate behavior. In essence, the thrust was based on the board's concept of what the private sector's behavior should be, and in which direction it should go. FEI's position was that accounting standards should accurately report and disclose corporate results and not influence corporate direction or behavior. The issues of direction and behavior would be monitored by shareholders if accurate disclosure was taking place.
"It is obvious that in certain instances corporate behavior in subsequent years was neither adequately reported nor influenced by accounting standards. In hindsight, maybe both parties were correct. Enron and similar corporate failures might not have happened if accounting standards had properly required adequate disclosure and had directed human behavior for the better. However, I believe otherwise. Bad people acting in a perfidious fashion can always bend or circumvent society's rules of behavior, regardless of the standards. Tough, harsh punishment for those abusing corporate trust is the best deterrent."
1991-92: John R. Edman.* "A significant item that came up in my year was a decision regarding whether to continue publishing FEI's magazine. We were losing money because of sparse advertising and a small number of subscribers, as well as having articles without substantial readership appeal. The straw vote feeling was that the vote would be 50-50. After reflection, at the Spring FEI meeting, we recommended continuation because this was our only published contact with the financial world, which would be lost if we discontinued the magazine. Fortunately, this recommendation was approved. The rest is history--the magazine is informative and outstanding now!
"An interesting issue during my time was the need to harmonize accounting on a global basis vs. accounting for a U.S./Canada domestic economy. Unfortunately, it has taken us over a decade to step up to this need."
1993-94: E.H. (Al) Creese.* "My biggest challenge while chairman was a stressful internal problem. A couple of key FERF board members launched an attack to spin FERF out of FEI and become a totally independent entity. It's unfortunate that so much time had to be focused on an internal situation, but the structure of the organization was at risk.
"I remember Chris Christie, immediate-past chairman, after a very heated FERF board meeting in Phoenix, said, 'You've got a lot of people teed off at you. What are you going to do now, Mr. Chairman?' To which I replied: 'I'm going to work on the FERF board members one at a time until I get a majority, and we WILL keep FERF as an integral, important part of FEI.' And, we did!"
1994-95: James N. Clark.* "During my term, there was a lot of turmoil in the nation. The Congress had just changed hands and the incoming legislators, many of whom were rookies, wanted to change the way things had been done; the platform was lower taxes and spending and increased prosperity. The new Speaker of the House, New Gingrich, had announced the "Contract with America," and FEI jumped on board with much of the proposal and worked hard at gaining passage of those sections that seemed good for America. I worked a great deal with the FEI Washington D.C., office, especially calling on Congressmen and voicing our support. I also did a piece on CSpan. Also, we did some additional work on COSO during my tenure.
"In looking at FEI today, I am impressed with the scope of the organization. It is much more visible because of all the involvement of the president and others in the important financial matters of the day. I believe that the advent of the Internet has broadened the influence of FEI tremendously, and it has given the organization the opportunity to deal immediately and directly with its thousands of members--something that could not be done in the mid-1990s."
1995-96 Penelope A. Flugger. "Penny" Flugger made FEI history by becoming the first woman to be elected chairman of the Institute, and her tribute indicates a few other "firsts." She focused on reshaping FEI to better meet the needs of members and the complex business world. Among her achievements: a program was initiated to have directors and senior staff meet with chapter representatives to learn first-hand how to enhance membership value; she guided an effort to provide a range of services geared to specific interests of segments of membership, the focused services program; and she oversaw the National Annual Sponsorship Program, which enlisted four sponsors that year and four the following year. This sponsor support enables FEI to reduce pressure on dues, while providing expanded member services.
1996-97 Frank J. Borelli.* "There were three major accomplishments during my term. One was the establishment of the office of the chairman (OOC), which consisted of the chair, prior chair, vice chair, two other officers and the president. This group held bi-weekly telephone calls to help move along the significant changes that were required to better serve our members. It also provided for continuity between the president and chair and made each year's change to a new chair seamless.
"Also, we adopted a new governance structure that gave FEI chapters greater say in governing the organization. This structure immensely improved the communications between the national organization and the chapters. The organization became chapter-driven, which has led to the creation of a number of new committees and forums for those members who were not being fully served.
"Lastly, we reached out to the CFO community, which had begun to desert the organization in favor of industry groups and the like. We were successful in attracting CFOs to FEI-sponsored roundtables, where important issues were discussed that helped these members to do their jobs better."
1997-98: William U. Parfet.* "The restructuring effort [that] started with my predecessor's term continued, as the group of five who identified the issues continued to support the efforts.; we all acknowledged that the process would continue with the next few chairs, in accordance with the succession plan. The OOC was the mechanism that allowed us to make the changes, as the same agenda carried over to each leader. Thus, each of us really had a four-year tenure.
"In the external environment, we were being challenged in a lot of areas that for many years had been the core competencies of FEI, but were no longer appropriate. For example, financial executives were using computers and gravitating towards using the Internet to gather information. Also, as the finance role was broadening further, they had less time to attend local meetings. We looked outside for ideas, using a public relations firm.
"The group of five refers to Frank Borelli, who preceded me, and those who followed: Jim Abel, Fred Allardyce and Bryan Roub. We developed a strategic plan--FEI previously had more of a tactical plan. We went out three years, choosing 2000 as a goal to put changes in place. We identified the basic processes of FEI: to provide services to our members and to leverage what FEI is regarded for. We changed the governance structure and certain processes. It was also time for a change in full-time leadership, and Philip Livingston became the president and CEO."
* FEI CHARGES INTO THE 21st CENTRY
2000-01: Bryan Roub.* "We changed the name of FEI--from 'Institute' to 'International' to reflect the growing importance of FEI as a key player in global financial matters. We also used the name change as a foundation for a branding change, which provided a good starting point for improving national/local chapter communications. The link between national and local chapters had always been a major concern, and we were able to begin a shift toward more timely communication of matters relevant to the chapters. The national staff had been working hard on this issue for many years, and it is a journey that will never end; national continues its work and is continually seeking improvements.
Externally, Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD) was enacted by the SEC. In my view, it was much-needed, and over the past five-plus years has had an enormous impact on how companies communicate with analysts and investors.
"When Reg FD was enacted, there was an enormous amount of concern about publishing forecasts, legal liability, etc. As I recall, FEI moved cautiously. FD isn't really an issue for the Committee on Corporate Reporting (CCR), where FEI generally demonstrates strong actions one way or another. In my opinion, FEI did what it does best when FD was enacted: it provided a forum for peer interaction--vital in this case--and with an ongoing flow of technical information and professional opinions about compliance."
2001-2002: David A. Young.* "My year as chair was one of disruption--both external and internal--and one that marked a difficult and changing time for FEI. Just two months into my year, the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. occurred. Besides the economic and general business uncertainty, with business travel curtailed, much of FEI's leadership activities came to a grinding halt (albeit temporarily) as conferences and in-person meetings were cancelled. Leadership met via teleconferences, which, in my opinion, are not as effective.
"Also, there came the implosion of Enron, and as my year ended, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law. With much pressure on CFOs during this time, FEI participated with the U.S. Congress by contributing recommendations for certain items that have become part of the Act.
"Internally, our then-president and CEO, Phil Livingston, announced he would be departing, and a search for his replacement began. In general, I'd say that with Livingston, the face of FEI to our public had changed, as he began a style that connected more with outside others, be they regulators, members, chapters, the press and other constituencies of FEI. I'd say this was a positive change, particularly for members who didn't have access to day-to-day activities of the organization. For certain, his style changed how FEI is perceived. I believe Colleen Cunningham has approached her role with this same internal/external vision, which is a good thing."
2002-03: Ridge A. Braunschweig.* "While chairman, FEI became my day job and my day job became my night job! FEI is all about people and relationships. The members, volunteer leadership and staff who, when inspired and motivated to collectively work towards achieving a common goal, accomplish great things for the finance profession at-large.
"Among the significant events during my year: corporate governance became a major focus (with Sarbanes-Oxley having been passed in 2002), and we re-examined and revised FEI's Code of Ethics, making certain it was both Sarbanes-Oxley- and SEC-compliant. I took to heart the need to ensure that the "i" in FEI signified that FEI was transforming from a U.S.-based organization to an international organization with a global focus. We examined our relationship with IAFEI and formed the Global Oversight Committee (GOC).
"Also, being the CFO of a private company, I championed more focused activities for private companies (by 2006, about half of our current membership). Finally, it was a time of transition--dealing with the exit of one president/CEO and overseeing the search, selection and transition to a new president/CEO, Colleen (Sayther) Cunningham. With the organization still primarily a male-dominated group, hiring a female for the top spot was a bold, brash move, but it was the right one. I think the past three years have proven that."
2003-04: Dr. H. Stephen Grace Jr.* "Having 'grown up' assuming various leadership roles during my (now) 35-year membership with FEI, I noted there were always challenging issues facing the chair, the board and senior staff; and the year of my chairmanship was no exception. These were financially challenging times for firms, and members were asking what the value of FEI membership meant to their firms and themselves personally. We recognized a misconception among many members about FEI's focus, and began communicating the value proposition (understanding FEI's roles: the ongoing work of the technical committees, and more). Communicating FEI's value proposition is a challenge on which FEI's leadership must always remain focused.
"Also, following the significant reorganization of FEI's governance structure in the mid-90s, which created a 140-member board structure, we recognized the difficulty of a board of this size functioning effectively. A smaller executive committee of between 30 and 40 individuals was formed to exercise the majority of governance. Since FEI values both transparency and member involvement, it was important to keep chapter presidents closely linked to the national organization. So, the National Chapter Leadership Council was created. All of this required rewriting the organization's bylaws.
"Finally, I began my year with a new president--one who is talented, dynamic and both member- and staff-oriented--Colleen (then, Sayther) Cunningham. A change in leadership is never easy, and her evaluation and shaping of the staff required considerable time and effort on her part, as well as addressing the external issues FEI is concerned with. We developed an effective working relationship with the new staff and volunteer leadership, and discussed operations in weekly (instead of bi-weekly) telephone calls. Also, in an effort to not only talk about governance but to practice it, an independent review of FEI's internal controls was conducted."
2004-2005: Mary Jo Green.* "During my year, we added a few new services and aimed at specific audiences in efforts to enhance FEI membership. As only the second woman chair in FEI history, I had a strong desire to increase the numbers of women members and also enhance diversity in general, since I believe diversity makes very sound business sense. We launched a women's task force to identify issues and begin to formulate solutions, and the percentage of women among new applicants has been enjoying a steady increase in the past years.
"Also, as a treasurer, I was interested in broadening FEI's focus on providing content for treasurers and tax professionals. Among other areas, we expanded offerings for private companies and began identifying additional sources of non-dues revenue and enhancing professional development. As a result of this focus, FEI now offers more continuing professional education (CPE) credits online."
2005-06: Robert J. Walker.* "Several initiatives that were begun in earlier periods came to fruition. The Research Foundation (FERF) was joined more closely to FEI in several ways. FERF research reports were once again made available to all FEI members as part of membership dues; and the FERF research agenda was linked to the interests of the technical committees. The Committee on Private Companies (CPC) expanded its activities, reflecting the needs of the majority of FEI members who are from private companies. As a complement to CPC, a task force on small public companies was formed, which provided input to the SEC.
"A letter of understanding with FEI Canada was approved by the boards of both FEI and FEI Canada, reflecting the evolution of their relationship and reinforcing the desire to continue to work closely together to benefit members of both organizations. A new information system is now being installed and should be in full operation by the end of the fiscal year. The new system provides many new capabilities, including better linkages and services to the chapters.
The external environment continues to reflect concerns about the costs and complexity of the regulations. This includes high-visibility issues like Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 compliance and the accounting treatment of stock options, as well as many issues related to valuation. The demands of this complexity on CFOs and other senior financial managers makes the value of FEI that much higher for our members."
One can only guess what the next 75 years will hold for FEI. If history repeats itself, the organization will continue to flourish. It's likely that with the ever-growing pipeline of leaders, FEI will still be strong. However, it's anyone's guess as to its shape, size or even its name!
RELATED ARTICLE: Seven-Plus Decades of FEI Leadership
1931-33: Frank J. Carr
1933-34: Daniel J. Hennessy
1934-35: J. Calvin Shumberger
1935-36: Rodney S. Durkee
1936-37: Paul J. Urguhart
1937-38; Henry C. Perry
1938-39: Roscoe Seybold
1939-40: Oscar N. Lindahl
1940-41: Verl L. Elliott
1941-42: John A. Donaldson
1942-43: T. C. McCobb
1943-44: John C. Nalor
1944-45: Edwin W. Burbott
1945-46: Edwin E. McConnell
1946-47: John H. MacDonald
1947-48: C. E. Jarchow
1948-49: K. Y. Siddall
1949-50: William Herbert Carr
1950-51: Vincent C. Ross
1951-52: Charles Z. Meyer
1952-53: Edmund L. Grimes
1953-54: George W. Schwarz
1954-55: C. R. Fay
1955-56: Robert N. Wallis
1956-57: Dudley E. Browne
1957-58: James L. Pierce
1958-59: J. McCail Hughes
1959-60: Roger A. Yoder
1960-61: Frank S. Capon
1961-62: A. L. Boschen
1962-63: Steve H. Bromar
1963-64: L. Keith Goodrich
1964-65: C.J. Kushell
1965-66: Carl M. Blumenschein
1966-67: William R. Thomas
1967-68: L. C. Guest Jr.
1968-69: M. S. Simpson
1969-70: Herb Blevins
1970-71: C. M. Allen
1971-72: Charles C. Hornbostel
1972-73: W. Ernest Issel
1973-74: Fred W. Miller
1974-75: Edward J. Mack
1975-76: J. O. Edwards
1976-77: Daniel F. Crowley
1977-78: W. Drew Leonard
1978-79: E. A. Vaughn
1979-80: Paul J. Dunphy
1980-81: Warren J. Robertson
1981-82: Robert C. Thompson
1982-83: Charles R. Allen
1983-84: John F. Ruffle
1984-85: P. Norman Roy
1985-86: C. Eugene Ray
1986-87: R. Hartwell Gardner
1987-88: William L. Lamey Jr.
1988-89: Ronald Mead
1989-90: Herbert A. Phillips Jr.
1990-91: Robert M. Patrick
1991-92: John R. Edman
1992-93: C. J. Christie
1993-94: E.H. (Al) Creese
1994-95: James N. Clark
1995-96: Penelope A. Flugger
1996-97 Frank J. Borelli
1997-98: William U. Parfet
1998-99: James J. Abel
1999-2000: Fred A. Allardyce
2000-01: Bryan Roub
2001-02: David A. Young
2002-03: Ridge Braunschweig
2003-04: Dr. H. Stephen Grace Jr.
2004-05: Mary Jo Green
2005-06: Robert J. Walker
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|Title Annotation:||Financial Executives International|
|Author:||Heffes, Ellen M.|
|Date:||May 1, 2006|
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