Like so many traditional roles in business, the role of the senior financial officer is changing. It's evolving into a proactive leadership position in the strategic management of the company. Today's financial executive is expected to take a panoramic view of the company, to understand the full extent of its operating businesses and to possess the more intangible qualities of leadership, like being a big-picture thinker, an effective influencer, a team player.
"More and more operating chiefs are looking to their chief financial people to provide not only integrity in financial reporting but to add their financial expertise in evaluating business opportunities," explains Bill Parfet, Financial Executives Institute's chairman for 1997-98. "To prepare financial executives for these and other demands, FEI is committed to continually improving the offerings we provide our members."
Ideas You Can Use Right Away
For starters, we're fine-tuning FEI's focused services offerings to address the specific needs of different member groups. Programs like the one for CFOs held in conjunction with Harvard University will become annual offerings. Future programming plans include alliances with world-class partners like the Juran Institute, Andersen Consulting, Hyperion Software, Price Waterhouse and Deloitte & Touche.
We'll provide members more access to vendors' benchmarking and best-practices data, replicating the success of FEI's information-technology benchmarking program underway with The Hackett Group. And FEI's conferences and seminars now feature not only general presentations by innovative thinkers, but also smaller, interactive sessions on specific topics.
Two new national technical committees promise to provide corporate controllers and members of private and closely held companies the chance to interact with their peers on issues of common interest.
As members have less time to be away from their offices, the programs available to them in their own communities become more important. So FEI is working at the national level to support chapter programs and to enlist the aid of chapters in presenting programs that are available both locally and regionally. We're also developing a mentoring program to link small FEI chapters with larger chapters, enabling them to benefit from the successes of their counterparts.
FEI's Internet home page, at www.fei.org, will continue to expand members' peer network by providing useful, interactive information and facilitating communication among members, chapters and the national headquarters - in effect creating a "seamless" FEI. Perhaps the most significant feature of the web site is the new secured access to the full membership database through an individual password assigned to each member. When it's fully implemented, the site will also provide members with interactive forums where you can talk business with colleagues in a secured environment.
To coordinate all these new initiatives, FEI recently adopted a new governance structure, approved by members by proxy at the annual business meeting in June. The new structure will take advantage of the experience and insight of chapter presidents and national technical committees in FEI's decision-making process. The major elements of the new structure are:
* Restructuring the six regional Area Operations Committees, made up of area chapter presidents and the area vice president, into Area Boards that will make sure FEI chapters have enough resources. to reach their membership and professional development goals
* Restructuring the present national board of directors into a new Leadership Board by adding chapter presidents and technical committee chairs as members
* Adding technical committee representation and expanding the scope of the governance responsibilities of the national executive committee, while reducing those of the Leadership Board to allow it to focus on chapter and area operations matters.
FEI is positioning itself for the next century by working smarter - and by helping you to work smarter, too.
FEI in the Year 2000
* A proactive, growing, flexible organization that's oriented to members and value-added programs and services
* Global in focus
* A preferred partner in sponsoring professional-development programs
* Proficient in using information technology to deliver services
* Balanced in sources of revenue, with a decreased dependence on member dues
What To Expect From FEI
* Exposure to best practices from top-rated companies
* Opportunities to exchange ideas and experiences with others who share your interests and concerns
* Access to today's experts in corporate financial management, who willingly share their expertise
* Representation before government and other regulatory agencies
* A confidential corporate finance job-matching and referral service
* A code of ethics to which all members adhere
* The professional stature that comes from membership in an organization of leading executives in corporate finance
* Hundreds of professional development programs, through national conferences and seminars, chapter meetings and programs
* Financial Executive magazine, filled with case studies and other practical information
* Executive summaries of all studies published by Financial Executives Research Foundation
* Exclusive access to FEI's home page on the Internet, linking you to critical business information and to an online database of your peers
* National and chapter membership directories
FEI's Office of the Chairman
William U. Parfet Chairman
* Founder and co-chairman, MPI Research
* FEI member since 1981
* Western Michigan Chapter
* B.A., economics, Lake Forest College; M.B.A., international finance, University of Michigan
* First job: Staff auditor, The Upjohn Co.
* Favorite restaurant: "My wife's cooking"
* Favorite reading: Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler novels and biographies, in particular William Manchester's Churchill
* How he spends his spare time: Collecting antique automobiles, boating, golfing, hunting and fishing
* Favorite vacation: Boating with his family
Bill Parfet knows continuity. He, his wife, Barbara, and two of their seven children live near a lake in Hickory Corners, Mich. - in the same house his grandparents lived in, which happens to be next door to his parents' house. "I've had the same driveway all my life," he says proudly.
So it's natural for Bill to look for continuity in his business life. He and the other members of FEI's Office of the Chairman are stressing this important quality in everything from member benefits to the new structure governing the institute. Now, Bill explains, FEI's leaders can share duties and establish goals that endure beyond each person's one-year term at the helm.
Bill has five specific objectives for this year. He wants to diligently pursue the strategic direction the planning committee and the FEI leadership jointly established. He also wants FEI to better manage its resources, in particular to improve how we partner with volunteers. "We're well aware that our most valuable resource is members' time," says Bill. "And we want to make sure we use that time most effectively."
Third, Bill plans to grow the membership by tapping into areas of the financial community we've left unexplored. Part of this requires rethinking the way FEI markets its new membership benefits and, he adds, "just beating the drum a little harder." Along with this, Bill wants to enhance FEI's image through public relations and other communications projects.
Finally, he intends to make certain the new governance structure does what it was designed to do. This process started several years ago, Bill explains, with Jim Clark, FEI's chairman for 1994-95, who openly addressed some tough issues facing FEI. Then Penny Flugger, the 1995-96 chairman, established a "virtual board," which opened the institute to input from more members, "not just from a small group of members sitting in a conference room in some hotel but from the chapter level, from the grass roots," he says. And Bill credits his immediate predecessor, Frank Borelli, with streamlining FEI by applying a healthy dose of his organizational savvy when he established the OOC. "You see, we really have a nice continuity here," Bill says. "So I don't think I'll be making any big changes. I just hope to keep the momentum going."
Bill joined the association in 1981 when a member of the Committee on Corporate Reporting asked him to add his expertise to the committee's ranks. He quickly formed friendships in the Western Michigan Chapter and eventually held offices at the chapter level, at the area level and ultimately for the national organization. "But the real benefit to me has been the opportunity to network with other chief financial executives in the Western Michigan area," he points out. "I've built a lot of camaraderie locally."
On a larger scale, Bill says his participation with CCR and FEI is directly responsible for his spots on the audit committees of several public companies on whose boards he serves. Plus, his FEI experience led him to his current roles as a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation and chairman of FAF's oversight committee for the FASB.
With so many organizations clamoring for his time, where does Bill turn to relax? To his family, he says. His guiding principle: Family always comes first. They boat together often, usually on Lake Superior. Bill also takes time out to golf, hunt waterfowl, fish and collect antique automobiles. He stores his family's impressive collection of autos - the oldest is an 1899 Locomobile - in several old Michigan barns the family has restored and turned into a public museum.
"You know, everybody's busy, but if you think about it, when you're born, the only thing you have is time. So it's how you decide to allocate your time, "Bill reasons. "I make time for FEI because it's always had a special spot for me, because of the people."
James J. Abel Vice chairman
* Executive vice president and CFO, Lamson & Sessions Co.
* FEI member since 1982
* Northeast Ohio Chapter
* B.S., industrial management, Purdue University; M.B.A., St. John's University
* First job: Financial analyst, RCA
* Favorite restaurant: Masa's in San Francisco
* How he spends his spare time: Family activities and golfing
"It was simple," says Jim Abel when asked why he joined FEI. "I was looking for help in my professional development and I needed to do some networking. The managing partner of our audit firm suggested I join FEI, and I did."
True to his purpose, Jim immediately became involved in chapter activities. He chaired both the membership and program committees, became a member of the chapter's board of directors and, under the chapter's officer rotation program, became chapter president in 1990-91. "I was particularly involved in new members' hospitality. We initiated some new things that made new members feel welcomed. That's what I looked for - and got - when I first joined FEI, and I wanted to pass it along. I felt like I was really helping people. It also helped us keep some members whom we otherwise might have lost."
Help is a two-way street. Jim points out that his involvement in FEI at both the chapter and national levels has helped him in his career. "FEI gives me lots of opportunities to learn what other people are doing, and I'm able to bring back a lot to my company. It's also taught me how to deal effectively with people and how to operate within a structure. This is particularly important to me because Lamson & Sessions is a mid-sized company, and it's easy to become isolated."
Jim's involvement in FEI at the national level gives him the opportunity to support his profession. For instance, he explains, "There's so much change in business today, primarily because of the change in the speed of communications and information flow, and that naturally accelerates our involvement in global issues. But the process by which accounting standards are set in the U.S. simply can't keep up with these changes. Here's where FEI plays a vitally important role. We in FEI need constantly to insist on the importance of getting the best solution, regardless of who proposes it. Yes, we need to protect our capital markets, but the standard-setting process can take years. We need a middle ground, a more productive model than we now have."
Another of Jim's concerns is the education of future financial executives. He points out that the present educational system emphasizes accounting. "We'll have better financial executives in the future if students today are exposed to broader issues. I'm especially concerned about how little emphasis is given to communications skills and how to work in a team environment. We have to learn how to listen and to be willing to put ourselves in other people's shoes."
How does he get it all done? "I'm involved in lots of things. My wife, Sharon, and I have four sons and one daughter. Our oldest son is 23, our youngest is nine. We do lots of things to support our children's activities. You have to set priorities. If I wasn't getting something from FEI that I could take back to my company, believe me, I'd be less active. As it is, it takes a lot of support from my family and company to make all this work."
Clearly, Jim has set his priorities. As FEI's 1998 vice chairman, he's in line to chair FEI in the last year of the century.
Frank J. Borelli Past Chairman
* Senior vice president and CFO of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.
* FEI member since 1980
* New York City Chapter
* B.B.A., business administration, Bernard M. Baruch College, City College of New York
* First job: Junior auditor, Haskins & Sells
* Favorite restaurant: Le Cirque in New York
* How he spends his spare time: Family outings, some golfing and gardening
"When I left public accounting, FEI was the first organization I had in mind to join," recalls Frank Borelli, last year's FEI chairman. And in his 17 years of membership, Frank has left a lasting impression on the organization, both at the national and chapter levels.
"I've always enjoyed working with groups of people in a leadership capacity," he says. During the many hours he has poured into his Frank has accomplished a great deal. Consider this impressive legacy: He established the CFO Council of the New York City Chapter for large area companies, involving many chapters members who hadn't been active. While serving as national FEI chairman for 1996-97, he established the Office of the Chairman, a core group of senior volunteer leaders and staff that oversees all aspects of the institute.
Also as chairman, he designed the restructuring of the national board of directors, a plan to increase communication and involvement throughout FEI.
As he passes the chairmanship to Bill Parfet, Frank looks forward to staying active as a member of the Office of the Chairman, a role in which he will be responsible for overseeing membership activities. Frank created the Office in 1996, in large part because "no one person could do the job alone!" He explains that by establishing a line of succession to the chairman, FEI ensures longer-term stability and continuity. The group also provides board-level support of all FEI activities and formalizes a process for member feedback on major FEI initiatives.
FEI's newly adopted governance restructuring plan, a plan that Frank also crafted and shepherded through the approval process, will give chapters greater say in governing the organization and perhaps most importantly, break down communications barriers between the national organization and chapters.
As for the year ahead for FEI, Frank is enthusiastic: "Bill Parfet is going to be an outstanding chairman. He has a lot of charisma and energy and brings to the office the unique perspective of having been vice chairman of a major corporation (Upjohn) as well as the founder of a biotechnology start-up (MPI Research). It will be an exciting year."
The Borellis - Frank and his wife, Madlyn, their two sons, Frank Jr. and Rick, and three grandchildren, Amanda, Riana and Danielle - all reside in New City, N.Y., which makes for frequent family get-togethers. They like to all get away together at least once a year, too. Their latest adventure? This past February, Family Borelli packed up and cruised to the Carrribean.
Fred A. Allardyce Vice president at large
* Vice president and CFO, American Standard
* FEI member since 1977
* New York City Chapter
* B.A., economics, Yale University; M.B.A., University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
* First job: Budget analyst, Continental Oil
* How he spends his spare time: Sailing
* Favorite cuisine: Northern Italian
* Favorite reading: Murder mysteries
In his undergraduate days, Fred Allardyce found he relished the two semesters of accounting he took as part of his economics curriculum. Encouraged by his accounting professor, he decided to make finance his career. Once he got out of graduate school, he came to another fork in the road: public vs. private accounting. He opted for the private realm, and he's been there ever since.
Fred says FEI has been invaluable as he's climbed the corporate ladder. "I came up through the controllership ranks, and FEI was and is the premier organization to belong to. Every time we've faced a new business problem or situation at American Standard, I've always been able to get valuable input from other FEI members. I've had so many close working relationships with very interesting people," he reflects.
Take Frank Borelli, FEI's immediate past chairman and a member of the Office of the Chairman, for example. Fred recalls attending a meeting of the New York CFO Council and, at the last minute, the dinner speaker couldn't make it. "Well, that didn't faze Frank a bit. He was totally unflappable," Fred reports. "He just stood up and started calling on people in the audience to give presentations on various topics. In fact, Jim Kaitz, FEI's executive vice president, was there, and he ended up doing an excellent presentation on Washington politics!"
Fred's commitment to serving as a volunteer leader stems from a desire to return something to an organization that's paid him many personal and professional dividends. "Once you think enough of an organization to participate in its activities, you should make the time to help it go forward," he explains.
His personal vision for FEI? "A fiscally sound organization recognized in the business community for its strength and depth, with a meaningful role in shaping the regulations of the finance profession." And as the Office of the Chairman member overseeing communications, Fred wants to undertake a communications program that accurately conveys everything FEI has to offer its members.
Bryan R. Roub Vice president at large
* Senior vice president and CFO, Harris Corporation
* FEI member since 1975
* Orlando Chapter
* B.S., Ohio State University; M.B.A., Wharton School of Business
* First job: Junior auditor, Ernst & Ernst
* Favorite restaurant: Seasons in Las Vegas
* Book he couldn't put down: "Clear and Present Danger"
* How he spends his spare time: Family first, then golf
* Favorite vacation: A week at Bally's in Las Vegas
"This is the biggest job I've signed up for in FEI," says Bryan Roub of his position as a member of the Office of the Chairman. "The governance structure FEI has evolved over the last several years makes taking a leadership position doable. I was on the Executive Committee several years ago and, when my one-year term was up, that was it! Now members of the Executive Committee serve two-year terms, which I think is a vast improvement. The OOC goes one more step. The continuity it provides is vitally important in developing and implementing FEI's strategies in concert with the views of its volunteer leaders."
Bryan is also enthusiastic about the process by which the OOC does its business. He points to the biweekly conference calls, which, he says, vastly improve the group's efficiency. "By being in such frequent contact with one another, everybody really listens to everybody else. There's a lot of interaction, which allows us to know and trust one another." He also likes the fact that Executive Committee meetings, held three times a year, are scheduled on Friday with a half day on Saturday. "Less time away from Harris," he explains. "It's more like work than it used to be, but without this structure I couldn't participate."
Like the other volunteer members of the Office of the Chairman, Bryan is a long-time member of FEI. Why did he join? "Prestige. It was an honor. It was early in my career, and FEI gave me the opportunity to meet older, seasoned financial executives. I was very proud to be a member." Being a member still is an honor, according to Bryan, even though now he is one of those seasoned executives that early in his career he was so pleased to meet. "FEI does important things for the profession and for business. I want to help out and to provide direction, to be part of the action. And, of course, I get to spend time with some very smart and delightful people."
One of the big challenges is to find the right balance between work, family and volunteering. "I determine the number of hours I can comfortably spend on non-Harris activities by deciding up front what's fair to the company. And I'm very careful about how I spend those hours."
In addition to the work he does for FEI, Bryan serves on the local board of the Easter Seal Society and, with his wife, Judy, he's heavily involved with the Space Coast Marine Institute, a national organization that helps delinquent boys, and the local Museum of Art and Science. And he still finds time to devote to his three sons and three daughters-in-law and to the occasional game of golf. But all of this may soon be thrown into disarray. He says, with great anticipation, "We have a granddaughter on the way. She'll be our first grandchild!"