For chief financial officers, the only thing as valuable as their banks' capital these days might be their own time.
In an effort to gain insight into the life of the CFO, American Banker heard from about 75 CFOs through interviews, emails and a survey by American Banker Research in the last two months. And it's clear that they are a busy bunch these days, especially as they're finishing up and reporting their first-quarter results.
But what would they do if they had more time? While the answers were varied, they all involved less about today and yesterday and more about tomorrow.
"The future. The day-to-day work of a CFO can be dominated by reporting on what's already occurred," said Tani Girton, the CFO of the $1.8 billion-asset Bank of Marin in Novato, Calif., in response to a question about where she'd like to spend more time. "While it's tempting to get caught up in the headlines of quarterly reporting, it remains of utmost importance to focus on creating long-term value."
Regulations written after the 2008 financial crisis have made the traditional parts of CFOs' job more intense and additional duties have swelled.
"Regulatory issues, regulatory issues and regulatory issues. Don't get me started on all the new financial disclosures in our financial statements. It's mostly an exercise in futility. The shareholders don't pay any attention. The only folks looking at them is our auditors," said Kirk Billingsley, CFO of the $267.5 million-asset Pendleton Community Bank in Franklin, W.Va. "These additional disclosures are, of course, a knee-jerk reaction to the financial crisis. That takes a lot of time each January and February, and it's time that could be better spent looking forward instead of looking back."
In the survey, the CFOs were asked to discuss how they prioritized several traditional duties now compared with a year earlier. The duties included things like corporate governance, budget management, financial analysis, investor relations, regulatory compliance and strategic advisory. Of the 52 respondents, each category had only one or two saying that any of those things have decreased in priority. In most categories, the CFOs said that there was no change in priority. The functions that saw the greatest increases in higher priority were regulatory compliance (66%), budget management (48%), and strategic advisory (48%).
CFOs say that risk management is something that now takes up a significant amount of their time that didn't before the financial crisis. They are spending more time considering how the actions of others could affect them. As one Chicago-area CFO described it, it is no longer enough to concentrate on one's own underwriting and stay out of Florida. Due diligence on new endeavors is more intense and involves more people. Although the work is more tedious, some CFOs see it as time well spent because it could help them the next time a crisis rolls around.
"While more time-consuming for me and others, this discipline has helped the organization focus its resources on sustaining a well-managed risk profile, which should mitigate its performance volatility the next time adverse market or economic conditions arise," said Dale Gibbons, CFO of the $10.6 billion-asset Western Alliance Bancorp in Phoenix in an email.
Still, several CFOs said they view their job as tied directly to shaping and overseeing strategy and wish they could spend more time on it.
"I'd like to spend less time on the compliance aspects of the position and turn that attention to analyzing and researching new strategic opportunities to improve our key operating metrics," said Christopher Treece, CFO of the $2.1 billion-asset Guaranty Bancorp in Denver.
Others said they'd like to spend more time investing in people in and around the bank.
"I would love to be able to spend more time teaching financial literacy to bank customers and providing the basis for individual development of bank personnel," said David B. Marshall, CFO of the $250 million-asset Union State Bank in Arkansas City, Kan.
Billingsley said he'd like to spend more time on planning for the future, too. But he also said he could spend more time on the traditional bank functions, like asset/liability management and managing the investment portfolio. That function perhaps plays to a competitive streak - he said it is rewarding because it can easily be compared to other banks.
"In addition I enjoy reviewing the commercial loan requests, and digging into their numbers. I have a real interest in small business and how businesses work," he said.
His first reaction, however, to the question of where he'd like to spend more time was decidedly offsite.
"I'd really like to focus more on my fly fishing."