Slideshow 10 Ways to Succeed as Bank CFO

  • May 05 2016, 2:00pm EDT
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The job of chief financial officer is more complex than ever, requiring high levels of expertise in not just accounting, but also compliance, technology, investor relations and strategic planning. CFOs today also need to have strong interpersonal skills and show an ability to juggle multiple tasks at once. Here are some helpful hints from existing CFOs on how to flourish in one of banking's most demanding jobs.

Understand Tech

Larry Sorensen
Washington Trust Bank, Spokane, Wash.
$5.3 billion of assets

"You need to marry your business education with information management systems. The complexity of those systems is dramatically different from when I entered the industry. You don't have to be a computer scientist, but you have to be able to manage those types of systems."

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Work on Communication

Harold Carpenter
Pinnacle Financial Partners, Nashville, Tenn.
$8.7 billion of assets

"The CFO has to have a much deeper understanding of the bank's business model and be able to communicate the key metrics that make the franchise more valuable compared to other franchises."

Be Willing to Adapt

Kimberly Kling
Morganton Savings Bank, Morganton, N.C.
$80 million of assets

"Adaptability to a constantly changing landscape with regards to compliance, banking regulation and accounting pronouncements is important. A well-rounded background in all areas of banking is a plus, along with understanding all departments and their interrelationships."

Step Up as Needed

Clint Stein
Columbia Banking System, Tacoma, Wash.
$8.9 billion of assets

"Always be willing to work on projects that need to be completed without regard for functional ownership. It will enhance your understanding of how banks operate, build your network across the various areas of the organization, and cultivate your leadership skills."

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Broaden Your Horizons

Haynes Standard
First State Bank, Wrens, Ga.
$103 million of assets

"Don't focus on simply one thing. Banking is still largely a people business and I don't see that changing even with millennials joining the team. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and be open to taking risks because the financial industry is changing and we have to change with it."

Pay Attention to Details

John Michel
First Foundation, Irvine, Calif.
$2.6 billion of assets

"Take time to understand the nuts and bolts of the financial process so you can develop an ability to be an essential part of any management team as they meet the nonstop challenges provided by any business."

Learn from the Past

Karen Parkhill
Comerica, Dallas (left to become CFO of Medtronic)
$69 billion of assets

"One aspect of my job that I have come to appreciate is learning from the past to continually improve upon the future. You're constantly looking back and forward in finance; it's part of the daily routine. Ultimately, it gives you a better appreciation for history while enlightening you to make informed decisions that impact the future."

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Learn to Delegate

Jason Hicks
New Hampshire Mutual Bancorp, Concord
$1.5 billion of assets

"Don't be a control nut. Train and mentor your employees to develop a trusted working relationship, then let them start making decisions at appropriate levels. Over time, and with a little luck, you may cultivate the next generation of leaders in your company. We encourage people to bring fresh ideas into the banking industry to foster innovation."

Know Your Customers

Edward Czajka
Preferred Bank, Los Angeles
$2.6 billion of assets

"Today's CFO must have a keen understanding of the client base, as well as the markets the bank serves, in order to develop initiatives and recommend strategies that will further the bank's financial goals. As the bank's primary investor relations contact, it is imperative that I can intelligently discuss our customer base so investors understand our business well enough to make their investment decision."

Chart You Own Path

Kellie Presnell
Touchmark National Bank, Alpharetta, Ga.
$196 million of assets

"I believe the keys to being a successful CFO are having a good team behind you, making decisions that are best for your bank and not trying to replicate another bank that has a different business model, and always adapting to the ever-changing banking market."