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Looking back at 75 years of change.

The past 75 years have seen the most tumultuous changes in history, and Financial Executives International has evolved with those changes. From a meeting of eight corporate controllers in New York City back at the end of 1931, FEI has grown into an international organization with more than 15,000 members that serves as the voice of the corporate finance profession. In the process, it has changed its name twice and added a panoply of professional services and functions.

Of course, the finance function has changed enormously as well. Recent generations have seen the evolution of a chief financial officer, tremendous growth of computerization and automation, and the transformation of the top finance role from purely financial control to one that involves strategic leadership at the top reaches of the corporation.

Financial Executive has been tracing the seismic changes at work in the past seven decades in a series of articles this year. The editors have elected to excerpt from some of those articles to reprise some of the thoughts and observations of the writers about vital subjects in the world of corporate finance.

From "Born into Darkness: FEI in the 1930s," by Glenn Alan Cheney (January/February 2006)

It was a terrible time, the dark December of 1931. Eight million workers had no work. Banks closed. Businesses failed. Investment evaporated. Bankruptcy prevailed. The Dow Jones had dropped to a miserable 41, down from 400, and radicals were questioning the viability of capitalism.

News from the rest of the world was no better. England had just abandoned the gold standard, Japan had invaded Manchuria and Stalin was collectivizing agriculture in the Soviet Union. In Germany, the Nazis held 18 percent of the Reichstag and Mein Kampf was a bestseller.

Two days before the end of that desperate year, eight corporate controllers met in New York City. Their conversation may not have bubbled with economic optimism, but their agenda carried a spark of hope. That agenda was to complete the final details to launch a new organization of financial executives, The Controllers Institute of America. The organization they formed would dignify the private practice of accountancy and put it on a professional basis. It would also allow the exchange of ideas, experiences and knowledge for individual and aggregate advantage of corporations. The causes of the Great Depression had little to do with these financial executives, but if the nation's crisis had a cure, they believed it was, to a certain extent, in their hands. After all, it was an economic crisis, and they were the men who controlled the money.

From "Business and Finance Go Global," by Jeffrey Marshall (March 2006)

Globalization of business has been boosted by any number of developments, but none more important than quantum leaps in air travel and communications. Long gone are the days when traveling to Europe from North America meant days at sea; you can be there in six hours by jet, then fly on to Cairo or New Delhi. And telecommunications lines, once limited to heavy physical cables, have gone wireless; you can punch in a few numbers on a keypad and be talking within seconds with someone in Hungary or Argentina. Cable television, business newswires and the Internet have ushered in an era of "24-7," much of that arriving just in the past decade.

Many products are still shipped by sea, but containerization has brought vast improvements to distribution. Goods are now loaded into truck carriers that are offloaded from freighters in the country of shipment and whisked to warehouses and distribution centers. In the air, Federal Express, United Parcel Service, DHL and other freight carriers are flying millions of tons of goods every day throughout the world.

Increasingly, FEI members have been part of the globalization stream, chiefly as their companies have gone overseas for the first time or have expanded their reach to still more world markets. CFOs are busily tapping on their Black Berries or talking on cellphones, whether they are in Tokyo or Chicago; or perhaps they're reviewing spreadsheets on a laptop on a flight from New York to Frankfurt.

From "CFO Evolution: From Controller to Global Strategic Partner," by Robert A. Howell (April 2006)

The CFO is at the crossroads of a firm's information and, as a result, a key source of advice and counsel to the CEO. Together, the CEO and CFO often represent the highest level of strategy formulation for the company. However, in addition, the CFO has the responsibility to assure that the plans are enacted and that the results are accurately and clearly presented to the investor community and others. Being a CFO today is a big job and a huge responsibility!

So, where does the CFO go from here? First, globalization will continue to be a major element of corporate direction, including outsourcing production, offshoring and global sourcing activities, as well as serving emerging markets. The CFO will have to be able to evaluate a host of alternative approaches with global implications and consequences.

Second, more firms will be relying on intellectual capital, rather than physical or financial capital to drive success. Investments in human capital and other intangibles will need to be managed, and accounted for, in very different ways than has been the case to date. Intellectual capital needs to be carefully selected, developed, maintained, and accounted for as an asset, rather than effectively ignored. Stakeholders, rather than just shareholders, will need to be the focus of firms in the future. New metrics that consider all of the firm's key stakeholders will need to be developed, maintained, and reported. Firms will still need to create shareholder value if shareholders are to continue to invest in the firm. Inasmuch as the intrinsic value of any economic entity is the net present value of the future cash flows which it will produce, financial executives must continue to focus explicitly on the cash flows the firm is producing. This should result in new, cash-oriented metrics and financial reporting.

From "The Explosion of Accounting Standards" (May 2006); this section was written by Dennis Beresford, former FASB chairman and one of the Hall of Fame inductees.

The accomplishments [by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or FASB] add up to an impressive track record to date, and I express pride that at least some of them occurred during my tenure as chairman. However, opportunities to improve continue, and improvement is essential for the board's continued success. Three specific areas are: building trust, strategic planning and simplicity.

* Building Trust. Greater trust must be built between FASB and all of its constituents, particularly the corporate community and accounting firms.

* Strategic Planning. In 1992, the board developed the first notion of a strategic plan when it decided to address many of its constituents' concerns through a new program called "The Three S's" (selectivity--dealing with the highest-potential issues first; simplicity--making accounting standards simpler and shorter; and speed--dealing with issues more quickly).

While board members all agreed on the goals, they unfortunately did not change their day-to-day behavior much. FASB has often criticized the resistance to change of many of its constituents, but the board itself has also been slow to embrace the changes inherent in the strategic plan. Many other organizations have had similar problems in operationalizing their strategic plans, and FASB should give this the very high priority that it deserves.

* Simplicity. This involves the complexity of accounting standards. While one goal of FASB's initial strategic planning efforts was to shoot for simplicity in accounting standards, in the years since board members first agreed on that goal, the standards have gotten much more complicated. FASB often argues that complexity is necessary because auditors, regulators and corporations ask for it; they want clear answers for nearly all possible situations they might encounter.

But rather than acceding to the requests, the board should ask itself: "Will all the detail actually result in better financial reporting, or will this galloping complexity outpace the ability of many professional accountants to keep up with and understand and, thus, cause a real decline in application quality of standards?" Reasonable accounting standards and excellent professional judgment are both essential ingredients in an effective financial reporting framework, and the trick is finding the right balance; FASB's scales need to be lightened up a little on the complexity side.




FEI: The Controllers Institute of America founded in New York City by Arthur R. Tucker, with 30 members; Frank J. Carr, first president

Events: Electron microscope, cathode ray tube receiver invented. Britain abandons gold standard. Ford turns out 20 millionth automobile.


FEI: Institute's offices open January 2. Holds first Annual Meeting, adopts by-laws, elects first board of directors.

Events: Franklin Roosevelt elected president. Polaroid photography, parking meter, radio telescope invented. General Electric divests RCA, Kodak introduces 8mm film.



FEI: First chapter organized: New York City. Membership surpasses 300. Chapters opened in Pittsburgh and Chicago.

Events: FM radio, stereo records, drive-in movie theaters invented. First 100 days of New Deal. Federal bank holiday; FDIC, TVA established.



FEI: First issue of The Controller published. First spring conference held. Two new committees formed: Education and Cooperation with the SEC.

Events: FDR signs Securities & Exchange Act, Federal Housing Administration formed. Monopoly, Kodachrome invented.



FEI: Research Council organized. National Committee on Social Security formed. Fifth chapter chartered: San Francisco.

Events: Social Security Act passed. Treasury Dept. recognizes signature of Controller or Chief Accounting Officer on tax returns. Nylon, canned beer, radar invented.



FEI: The Controller carries its first cover in color. Membership reaches 500. Tenth chapter chartered: Cincinnati.

Events: FDR re-elected, civil war rages in Spain. Life magazine launched, Hoover Dam completed. Photocopier, jet engine invented.


FEI: Public Service Company describes duties of its controller in by-laws. National Planning Committee established. 15th chapter chartered: Milwaukee.

Events: Hindenburg crash, inventions of ballpoint pen, Teflon, freeze-dried coffee, turboprop engine.



FEI: Membership reaches 1,000. Committee on Cooperation with Treasury Dept. established. 20th chapter chartered: Kansas City.

Events: Stock market hits all-time low; Samsung and Hewlett-Packard established. First ski tow opens in Vermont. Oil discovered in Saudi Arabia.


FEI: Membership represents 1,240 businesses. The Institute releases a study on effect of new SEC regulations.

Events: Germany invades Poland. Federal Reserve Act permits LIFO accounting. First commercial TV broadcast. Helicopter invented.




FEI: Two studies published: "Controllership: Its Functions and Techniques" and "100 Questions and Problems on Controllership."

Events: Churchill succeeds Chamberlain as British Prime Minister. Color television, the jeep invented. Excess Profits Tax adopted.



FEI: Institute forms Committee on Cooperation with the War Program and Committee on Post-War Problems. Membership at 1,500.

Events: Pearl Harbor bombed; war declared. New: aerosol spray cans, nuclear reactor.


FEI: Programs and conferences canceled due to war. 25th Chapter chartered: Chattanooga.

Events: Siege of Bataan begins; Battle of the Coral Sea. Voice of America begins.


FEI: At request of U.S. Treasury, The Institute conducts survey on whether companies want filing extensions for income and excess profits tax returns.

Events: Pentagon dedicated; Battle of Stalingrad. Italy surrenders to Allies. New: synthetic rubber, Silly Putty.


FEI: The Controllership Foundation is formed to do research. Committee on Termination Audit Procedures recommends creation of a "Contract Settlement Board."

Events: D-Day invasion; FDR elected to 4th term. Tojo resigns. Bretton Woods Agreement signed.



FEI: Director of Education Research appointed. Foundation issues statement on research plans and policies.

Events: Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombed. World War II ends. FDR dies, Harry Truman sworn in as president. ENIAC computer completed.


FEI: Foundation issues progress report. 15th Anniversary observed at annual meeting.

Events: Baby Boom era begins. United Nations holds first meeting. New: soap operas, microwave oven, drive-up teller windows.


FEI: Office of Chairman of the Board created; John H. MacDonald elected. The Controllership Foundation publishes first study.

Events: Marshall Plan launched; CIA and Department of Defense created. New: transistor, Polaroid Land Camera.



FEI: Three new committees formed: Ethics and Professional Standards, Cooperation with the Government, and State and Local Taxation.

Events: Berlin Airlift. The U.S. Army appoints a comptroller. Truman beats Dewey. State of Israel founded. New: Velcro.



FEI: Management Planning and Control Committee formed. First annual conference on West Coast held in San Francisco.

Events: NATO founded. Emmy Awards begin. Tokyo Stock Exchange formed. Federal Republic of Germany formed.



FEI: Planning Committee suggested membership be based on duties, not title. 45th chapter: Puerto Rico.


Events: Korean War begins. Alger Hiss convicted of perjury. Sen. McCarthy kicks off anti-Communist campaign. New: TV remote control.


FEI: 20th Anniversary. The Institute seal adopted. Ethics & Eligibility Committee recommends clarification of duties of controller.


Events: Rosenbergs tried and convicted of treason. Remington Rand delivers first computer. New: Super glue, power steering.


FEI: Board of Directors asks Planning Committee to undertake long-range study of The Institute's eventual objectives.


Events: Truman seizes steel industry; loses election to Eisenhower. I Love Lucy debuts. New: bar codes, diet soda.


FEI: Committee on Canadian Affairs formed. Controllership Foundation adopts Statement of Research Policy and Long-Range Research Program.

Events: Korean War ends; Stalin dies. McCarthy hearings begin. TV Guide debuts. New: radial tires, transistor radio.


FEI: Institute's Western Conference, first outside U.S., is held in Victoria, B.C.


Events: TV ad revenues exceed radio revenues; White Christmas, Shake, Rattle & Roll released. New: oral contraceptives, solar cell, polio vaccine.


FEI: Revised eligibility standards and membership rules adopted. Membership: 4,500.

Events: Disneyland opened, GTE formed. Marlboro Man debuts. New: optic fiber.


FEI: Plan on Accounting Procedures established to cooperate with American Institute of Accountants.

Events: First trans-atlantic phone cable. Eisenhower opens interstate highway system. New: computer hard disk, hovercraft.


FEI: Membership passes 7,000. Institute wins an award for its annual report.


Events: First Japanese car (Toyota) sold in U.S., Digital Equipment Corp. formed. Sputnik launched. New: Fortran.


FEI: Members approve recommendations of Second Joint Committee on Long-Range Research Objectives and reorganizes The Institute into six areas.

Events: NASA created. Krushchev becomes premier of USSR, De Gaulle becomes president of France. New: modems, laser, Hula Hoop.


FEI: Membership reaches 5,000. Founder Arthur R. Tucker dies. The Controllership Foundation renamed "Controllers Institute Research Foundation."

Events: Alaska and Hawaii become states. New companies: National Semiconductor, Computer Sciences Corp. New: pacemaker, microchip, Barbie Doll.



FEI: 10-year review of the work of the State and Local Tax Committee on multiple taxation is published.


Events: First televised presidential debates. John F. Kennedy edges Richard Nixon. Haloid became Xerox. New: Halogen lamp, laser.


FEI: Instituto Mexicano de Ejecutivos de Finanzas founded. Membership passed 5,400.

Events: Berlin Wall built; Peace Corps founded. Yuri Gagarin orbits the Earth. Valium, nondairy creamer.


FEI: Institute's name changes to Financial Executives Institute, permitting non-controllers to join. Controllership Foundation renamed Financial Executives Research Foundation. (FERF)


Events: Cuban Missile crisis. First Visa credit card, first Wal-Mart. New: audio cassette, silicone breast implants.


FEI: FEI forms International Liaison Committee and Committee on Government Business. The Controller renamed Financial Executive.

Events: JFK assassinated in Dallas. New companies: Applied Data Systems, Boston Consulting Group. ZIP codes introduced.


FEI: Association Nationale des Conseilleurs et Controleurs de Gestion formed in France.


Events: Civil Rights Act adopted; Gulf of Tonkin resolution in Vietnam. New: acrylic paint, Touch Tone phones.


FEI: Membership Committee issues membership manual. Research Foundation agrees to study education of financial executives.


Events: Voting Rights Act passed. Civil rights demonstrations erupt in South. ITT buys Avis. New: Astroturf, soft contact lens, Kevlar.


FEI: Committees merged to form committees on Corporate Reporting, Taxation, and Employee Benefits.

Events: Cultural Revolution begins in China. Xerox sells first fax machine, Nokia formed. Star Trek launched. New: electronic fuel injection.


FEI: Financial executives associations formed in Australia and Argentina. First woman member.

Events: First heart transplant performed; first Super Bowl. Six-Day War erupts in Mideast. New: hand-held calculator.


FEI: Financial Executives Institute of Philippines formed.

Events: Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy assassinated; Tet offensive in Vietnam.


FEI: First International Congress of Financial Executives, Marabella, Spain. German financial executive association formed.


Events: Richard Nixon sworn in, De Gaulle resigns. Astronauts land on moon, Wood-stock. New: artificial heart, ATM, bar-code scanner.



FEI: International Association of Financial Executives Institutes (IAFEI) formed from 12 organizations, including FEI.


Events: Environmental Protection Agency formed; Kent State shootings. New: daisy-wheel printer, floppy disk.


FEI: Instituto Brasileiro de Executivos Financeiros formed. First full-time FEI president, Charles C. Hornbostel, is named.

Events: Southwest Airlines launched; Nasdaq opened for trading. New: dot-matrix printer, microprocessor, VCR.


FEI: FEI announces support for the Wheat Report, leading to formation of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.


Events: Watergate break-in reported. Dow Jones index first closes above 1,000. SAP founded. New: word processor, Pong, email.


FEI: FEI Canada established in Toronto. Financial Executives Association formed in Ireland.

Events: OPEC oil shock. FASB and IASC formed. New: gene splicing, Ethernet.


FEI: FEI opens Washington, D.C., office. Committee on Government Liaison formed.


Events: Watergate crisis escalates, Nixon resigns. ERISA law signed. Federal wage and price controls lifted. New: Post-It notes, liposuction.


FEI: Financial executive associations formed in China and Indonesia. FEI meets with White House staff for the first time.


Events: Computer Associates, Microsoft formed. SEC issues first Staff Accounting Bulletin. New: laser printer, push-through can tab.


FEI: Financial Executive article: "Own Up to Social Responsibility."

Events: Jimmy Carter elected president; U.S. celebrates Bicentennial. New: Apple I computer launched, ink-jet printer



FEI: Financial executives associations formed in Austria, Costa Rica.

Events: Elvis Presley dies. Roots mini-series, Star Wars premiers. Oracle and JD Edwards formed. New: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).



FEI: FEI recommends "management report" in annual reports. Robert W. Moore becomes FEI president. Membership passes 10,000.

Events: Camp David accords. First test-tube baby born. Polish cardinal becomes Pope John Paul II. New: VisiCalc spreadsheet, Jarvik-7 artificial heart.


FEI: FERF and Coopers & Lybrand study OPEB costs.

Events: U.S. hostage crisis in Iran. Margaret Thatcher becomes prime minister in Britain. Paul Volcker assumes chairmanship of the Fed. New: Sony Walkman, roller blades, cell phone.



FEI: Hong Kong forms Financial Executives Institute, Ltd. First FEI "satellite unit" formed: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. FEI Canada restructured.

Events: Ronald Reagan elected president; U.S. boycotts Moscow Olympics. Chrysler bailout. CNN formed. New: compact disks, laptop computers.


FEI: J. Peter Grace discusses Reagan's economic plan in Financial Executive. Committee on Corporate Finance formed.

Events: Kemp-Roth tax cut. Space shuttle launched. AIDS virus identified. First woman joins U.S. Supreme Court. MS-DOS operating system, MTV debut.


FEI: FEI relocates headquarters from New York to Morristown, N.J.


Events: Falklands War. First PC local area network (LAN) created. New companies: Compaq, Sun Microsystems. New: human growth hormone.


FEI: Oklahoma City joins as 84th chapter. Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt keynotes CFRI conference.

Events: U.S. invades Grenada; "Star Wars" defense initiative announced. GTE buys Sprint. New: soft bifocal contact lens, Cabbage Patch Kids.


FEI: New Mexico and Regina (Canada) bring chapter roster to 86.


Events: Reagan re-elected. Poison gas leak in Bhopal, India. Cisco Systems created, AT & T dismantled. New: CD-ROM, Apple Macintosh.


FEI: FEI helps form Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO), which later issues new control framework.


Events: Titanic wreckage found. "New Coke" introduced. "Hole" in the universe discovered. Microsoft introduces Windows. AOL debuts.


FEI: FEI recommends participation in SEC pilot project called EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval).

Events: Iran-Contra scandal breaks; space shuttle Challenger explodes. General Electric buys RCA. New: Disposable cameras, synthetic skin.


FEI: FEI supports recommendations from National Commission on Fraudulent Financial reporting--"The Treadway Commission."

Events: Worst single-day plunge on NYSE, Oct. 19. PeopleSoft founded. New: 3-D video game, disposable contact lenses.


FEI: FEI launches Financial Management Network video series. Committee on Information Management celebrates 20th anniversary.

Events: Trans-Atlantic fiber optic cable laid, George H.W. Bush elected president. Pan-AM 103 bombed. New: RU-486 (abortion pill), Doppler radar.


FEI: P. Norman Roy succeeds Robert Moore as FEI president. European Federation of Financial Executives formed.


Events: Berlin Wall dismantled; Tiananmen Square massacre. Federal S & L bailout; Exxon Valdez oil spill. Time Inc. merges with Warner.



FEI: FEI successful in supporting Chief Financial Officers Act, which is signed into law. Act mandates position of CFOs at federal agencies.

Events: Iraq invades Kuwait; reunification of Germany. Short recession begins in the U.S. World Wide Web created.


FEI: Membership passes 14,000 in 91 chapters. FEI Canada completes survey on Canadian financial management practices.

Events: Gulf War rages in Kuwait and Iraq. Maastricht Treaty signed. Collapse of the Soviet Union. Internet made available for commercial use.


FEI: FEI takes key role in development of new COSO risk management framework. Revamped Financial Executive magazine introduced.


Events: Bill Clinton elected president. Rodney King riots erupt in Los Angeles. Hurricane Andrew rakes South Florida. First computer virus reaches national attention.


FEI: Financial Executive warns readers about preparing for launch of EDGAR, the SEC's electronic filing project.

Events: European Union formed. World Trade Center bombed. Pentium processor debuts.


FEI: Controllers Institut formed in Netherlands. IAFEI and FEI hold joint conferences in Washington, D.C.


Events: NAFTA goes into effect. Republicans gain control of Congress. O.J. Simpson arrested for double murder. Nelson Mandela elected president of South Africa.


FEI: Penelope Flugger becomes first female FEI chairman. IAFEI becomes voting member of International Accounting Standards Committee.


Events: Oklahoma City bombing; Yitzhak Rabin assassinated in Israel. Trading scandal forces Barings PLC into bankruptcy.


FEI: FEI Website,, is launched. FEI turns 65.

Events: Clinton re-elected president. Unabomber arrested. Mad Cow Disease hits Britain. AT & T spins off Lucent Technologies and NCR; Disney acquires ABC.


FEI: Committee on Private Companies formed.


Events: Hong Kong returned to China from the U.K.; Princess Diana killed. Scientists clone "Dolly" the sheep. First Weblogs, or "blogs," created.


FEI: FEI member Lynn Turner named SEC chief accountant.

Events: Clinton impeached. GTE and Bell Atlantic merge to form Verizon. IASC issues core set of international accounting standards.



FEI: First FEI annual report on the Web. Philip Livingston becomes President and CEO.

Events: Euro introduced as pan-European currency. Shootings at Columbine High School. "Melissa" virus erupts.



FEI: FEI renamed Financial Executives International, opening membership to financial executives from around the world. FEI Express newsletter launched.

Events: George W. Bush wins contested election for president. USS Cole bombed in Yemen. "Y2K" computer scare proves a non-event. Millennium celebrations ring around the world.


FEI: FEI turns 70 and develops recommendations in response to Enron scandal.


Events: 9/11 attack on U.S.; stock market plunges, then recovers. Dot-com "bubble" bursts, dooming many Internet firms. Enron files for bankruptcy after accounting is questioned. iPod introduced by Apple.


FEI: FEI moves headquarters to Florham Park, N.J.; FEI participates in formulating Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Globalization Oversight Committee formed.

Events: Sarbanes-Oxley Act signed into law in July. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board established. Scandals erupt at WorldCom Inc. and Tyco International. New: birth control patch.


FEI: Colleen Sayther [Cunningham] named FEI CEO and President, first woman to hold this post. FELIX-PC, a list exchange service for private company members, debuts.


Events: U.S. forces seize control of Iraq; space shuttle Columbia disaster. Richard Grasso resigns as chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. Electrical blackout darkens the Northeast. Hybrid car introduced.



FEI: Financial Executive magazine expands to 10 issues per year. Membership of women increases 40 percent in two years.

Events: George W. Bush reelected. Companies wrestle with first year of Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 on internal controls. Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay indicted by grand jury. Google launches historic "auction" IPO.



FEI: FEI tracks cost of Sarbanes-Oxley and benchmarks best practices. CPE Center launched to help members earn and track CPE credits.

Events: Hurricane Katrina rips Gulf Coast and floods New Orleans. Former CEOs Bernard Ebbers and Dennis Kozlowski convicted and sentenced to prison. Richard Scrushy, former CEO of HealthSouth, acquitted of fraud.



FEI: FEI turns 75, implements new database system to better serve chapters and members.

Events: Alan Greenspan steps down as Federal Reserve chairman; he is succeeded by Ben Bernanke. Former Enron CEOs Lay and Skilling convicted; Lay later dies of heart attack. Stock option backdating scandals roil tech companies.
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Publication:Financial Executive
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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