A CFO Conversation: Building A Culture of Leadership & Trust


This is Part 2 of our CFO Conversation series. Read Part 1 here.

“It’s time for Finance and Accounting to really step up.”

These are inspiring words from BlackLine CFO Mark Partin during a conversation with Gina McNamara, CFO of SAP ANZ. He goes on to encourage accounting and finance professionals to act like a CFO to help their organizations grow.

This is powerful advice in a business landscape where trust is both scarce and more important than ever, and we’re reaching a tipping point where organizations are realizing the limitations of their legacy systems and processes.

Read more of the conversation between Mark and Gina to discover why they agree that the future of finance is looking pretty good.

Mark Partin: There’s a lot of news and interest in the Royal Commission that’s going on in Australia. Tell me about that.

Gina McNamara: It’s a hot topic right now. As we were talking about earlier, we have a real obligation to our consumers to build trust and look after their best interests. Fortunately, with the Royal Commission, a lot of things came out about behaviors and the lack of processes and systems, particularly around risk.

Now, we need to make sure that as we’re working with our customers, we’re embedding the processes and the systems to take care of them and their consumers.

Mark Partin: So much of [BlackLine and SAP’s] partnership together is to help our customers create better visibility and transparency. In the banking environment, that’s a necessity.

Gina McNamara: Absolutely. Banks are key, and we have a real trend in that industry at the moment. Some of the smaller players are coming in and shaking things up. It’s really important that the Royal Commission is looked at, and we ensure that startup banks have the systems in places to be able to avoid this situation from happening again.

Mark Partin: I’m asked often by our investors and our shareholders about these types of events, whether it’s a situation like the Royal Commission or in the United States, where we’ve had collapses and loss of trust from customers and society in general.

My response is always the same: it’s time for Finance and Accounting to really step up. If you think about the integrity of the systems and the integrity of the people, we’ve been a steward of that for so long in our profession, from being a CPA to becoming the heartbeat of most organizations, and I think Accounting and Finance can provide strong leadership through these kinds of situations.

Gina McNamara: We can. We have a moral compass, we’ve been trained in ethics, and I think it’s really important that we take the lead on this topic and ensure that we don’t have compliance issues in our businesses.

Mark Partin: I often have the chance to talk to finance and accounting professionals around the world, and my advice is to act like a CFO. Really get invested in the business, the market, the product, and make yourself important to the leadership of the company.

This means wanting to know how you can help the company grow, because historically, so much of our focus is on the bottom line. So much of our focus is on what has already happened.

In my early career as an accountant, I spent most of my time hoping we wouldn’t grow, because that just meant bigger problems. But as finance and accounting leaders, it’s our job to help the company grow.

You have to build the right platform and the right systems so that our teams can evolve and provide that leadership.

Gina McNamara: I totally agree Mark, and I think the other thing that our colleagues need to remember is: don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve had a lot of help in my career—I’m sure you have as well—and we can’t ever think that we know everything.

The best leaders are learning from other people, so be strong and confident enough to say, “I was wrong” or “what did I learn from that?” and “hey, I need some help with this.”

Mark Partin: I agree 100%, and I don’t think there’s a harder working group in the business then the accounting and finance teams. We’re usually the latest ones there.

We’re putting in the hours and so, as an extension of asking for help, ask for budget. Don’t be afraid and it will ultimately help the company.

Time and time again, during presentations at conferences, you hear how people have taken the ball and they’ve saved their company money. They’ve built solid reporting and accounting systems and they feel like heroes. That’s really empowering to us, because we helped them do that.

Gina McNamara: They are the unsung heroes. They’re the ones staying back to make deadlines, so it’s very important to give them the support they need to develop their career.

Mark Partin: So, our advice for future finance leaders is to ask for help, and don’t be afraid. Be a leader, act like a leader, and don’t be too worried about the future: the finance future looks pretty good.

Read this CFO Playbook to learn more about how your organization can build internal and external trust in this uncertain world.