Full Transcript of CFO StudioLIVE: Interview with Leonard Williams, CFO, The Nature Conservancy
I’d like to introduce you to today’s guest interviewee, a friend of ours at CFO Studio and a friend of mine, Mr. Leonard Williams, the CFO of the Nature Conservancy.
As a Nature Conservancy’s Chief Financial Officer, Leonard is accountable for managing and directing the organization’s finance, investment and business services functions, while also supporting the design and execution of the company’s overall strategy, and providing the leadership and management necessary to ensure that the Conservancy has support programs operational controls, financial, administrative and reporting procedures, financial systems and human capital. All of it in place to ensure financial strength, operating efficiency and competitive advantage in support of the conservation mission.
Leonard joined the Conservancy in 2018, and has over 20 years of financial, operational and technological management experience in mission-focused and value-driven organizations. Leonard is a trusted advisor, leader and big picture thinker with substantial experience in controlling costs, identifying opportunities that create value, advancing organizational culture and driving innovation with a passion for building loyal and motivated teams that collaborate and contribute to a culture of success.
Leonard holds an MBA in finance and Decision Sciences from the Wharton Graduate Business School and MSEE in Computer and Information Technology and a BSc in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania. As you can tell, Leonard is real slouch, rather accomplished individual.
He has completed posts graduate studies at MIT in the Darden Schools Graduate Executive Education Program. Oh wow. A frequent speaker at professional conferences. In 2014, Leonard was named first runner up as NFP CFO of the Year by the Washington Business Journal and practitioner of the year by the industry group inside NGO, rather impressive career.
A little background on the Nature Conservancy. The mission of the Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Nature Conservancy is proud of what it’s accomplished since its founding in 1951. The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 117 million acres of land and 5000 miles of rivers worldwide, and it operates more than 100 marine conservation projects globally.
Nature Conservancy has more than one million members and works in all 50 United States and 72 countries around the world. Protecting habitats from grasslands to coral reefs from Australia to Alaska to Zambia.
The Nature Conservancy addresses threats to conservation involving climate change, fire, freshwater, forest, invasive species, and marine ecosystems. If you’d like to learn more about the Nature Conservancy, visit www.nature.org/aboutus.
So it gives me great pleasure, it really does, to introduce you today to my friend, today’s CFO Live interviewee, Leonard Williams, CFO of the Nature Conservancy. Leonard it’s so nice to have you join us here on CFO studio live. Welcome, nice to see you.
Always a pleasure, Andrew. This is something I’ve been looking forward to for some time. I want to thank you and all of the folks at CFO Live for creating this opportunity for me. Also want to thank my colleagues at the Nature Conservancy who’ve supported me in getting ready for this very important conversation.
But before we begin, Andrew, just let me say a couple of things that I believe are really relevant to the times that we are currently working in. Given the mission of the Nature Conservancy, it will be very easy for this organization to be one that just focus only on the pure hearts of the conservation work that we do. Then pay very much attention at all, to the growing set of very important social changes that are facing on our society today.
I just want to take the opportunity to let all my colleagues at the Conservancy know and let the folks on this call know that the Conservancy has provided enormous opportunities for its staff and for people like myself in leadership positions, to become engaged in areas around equality, social justice, and connecting that back to environmental justice. We really feel strongly about these things. As we go forward, we’re going to be focusing as much on how we in fact, engage people as well as we engage place as we work to not only conserve this planet, but also create opportunities for social and environmental justice.
Well, you know what, not surprised to hear you say those things, great words and from an organization as oppressive as the Nature Conservancy, more power to you.
Leonard, goes without saying that these are most unusual times, confusing in many respects, interesting in other respects, not to suggest that there’s anything positive associated with a pandemic and the difficulty and the pain and the sorrow that many people are experiencing. But from a business perspective, there are some very interesting things going on. So before we talk about that, in general, how has the Nature Conservancy fared during the crisis from a health and a business perspective?
Yes, great question Andrew, and let’s start first from a health perspective, because at the Conservancy we really do view our employees and our staff as being our most valuable asset. We really have worked in how we have been structuring our business to in every instance, we provide a safe and effective environment for people to operate in. We are fortunate at the Nature Conservancy that we have over the course of conservancies existence almost been very much of a dispersed organization, one that values very highly the autonomy of it’s local chapters.
As a consequence, when it came time for us to begin to operate in a very dispersed mode, because we were shutting down many of our office buildings, we already had in place a set of policies, practices and procedures, as well as a number of technologies that allowed us to operate very effectively in this very dispersed working remotely kind of environment.
The challenge that we face though is that people can only run like that, in that remote operating mode for a limited amount of time. You can only go so far now with adrenaline and mission focus. Eventually you come to a place where people really begin to think. Well, we as an organization, want to begin making some additional changes in how we operate ourselves. Then the support that we’re going to be giving to our staff in order to help them remain effective and efficient.
This is especially true for many of our staff, who happen to have school aged children at home, or who are caring for a spouse, or a partner who may be suffering from the disease, or who may have an elderly parent living with them. So as we look across our population, we will be moving away from well, you’ve got a computer that you can work with at home, you’ve got great internet access that we’re willing to pay for, and just start thinking more about well, how can we help you with things like child care? How can we help you with things like emotional support that you’re going to need as this working home extends from maybe two or three months to six or nine months? How can we as an organization, be supportive of you in terms of creating some self-collaboration spaces that will allow you to recreate as it were some of the collaboration that you had in office.
So for us, that’s really the next build up that we see organizationally, that myself and others as executive leaders in the organization are going to be wrestling with as we go forward. In terms of the business itself, coming in, and to [inaudible 00:09:26] FY 20, which our fiscal year ended June of this year, we were in a position where we were just coming to the close of a very successful capital campaign.
In fact, FY 20 results from a fundraising perspective were in fact the best results we’ve had in the history of the organization. So combining that with the fact that me and my staff, as I also manage the investment portfolio the business, had begun moving more into cash beginning in the fourth calendar quarter of 2019 and in the first calendar quarter of 2020. We made that change because we had seen a couple of inversions of the yield curve in November and December of last year.
As a precaution, thinking that we might be heading for a recession, began to stockpile some cash so we’d be in a position to weather that out. So we found ourselves in that March, April timeframe when things were going to hit on a hand wagon with sufficient cash on hand for us to weather that downturn and had a portfolio that was less focused on domestic equities, much more focused on things like private equity, and hedge funds, and with a book of cash at the ready. That allowed us to weather that storm and at the same time allowed us to be as generous as we could reasonably be with our staff in terms of providing the support that they needed as we went through the first two or three months of the pandemic.
So FY 20, great year. In fact, one of the best use financials that we’ve had. In terms of the staff, I think, stepped out and done an incredible job of keeping the business going in that March, April, May, June, July timeframe. The challenge we’re going to have is that as we look forward now, across August, looking to perhaps as late as January, can’t expect people to keep running on adrenaline, can’t expect people to keep running on mission strength, we will have to start coming up with some more tools and techniques that allow people to be even more, continue to be effective, while we give them additional tools, stipends, or whatever it takes in order to help make them [crosstalk 00:11:47].
Well Leonard, it sounds like you guys were very, very thoughtful about this at the outset and prior to the pandemic. But you also said something that I found was very interesting. A lot of companies talk the talk, as they say, and say our employees are our best assets. But listening to you it’s obvious that the Nature Conservancy truly believes that, not only talks to talk but walks the walk. It sounds like you’re giving a very substantial amount of thought as to how these people will continue, not just to perform but to exist, how your staff will be able to maintain decent lives.
I applaud you and your team for thinking that way and for putting it into action. But in that same vein, I wanted to ask you, prior to the pandemic, did the Nature Conservancy have a large percentage of its employees working from home or did that occur as a result of the pandemic?
Actually, Andrew, at any one point in time, we probably would have had about 40% to 45% of our staff working either remotely, for example, from home or out on the road working. We generally only have, we only have people coming into our offices about maybe two, three days a week, except for those folks who are doing things like accounts receivable, accounts payable, some of the core financial stuff.
Obviously, some of the folks that work in support are active organizations, some of our lawyers, they tend to come in more frequently. But the guys and girls that were involved in our core science, core conservation work, even many of the folks that are involved in our fundraising, marketing and development work, were able to expect with [inaudible 00:13:42] and development, we’re expected to not be in office very much, but actually out in front of potential donors.
So we really had built up a network of using a couple of very effective wide area networks, very strong security. Set of protocols we’ve established to enable people to work remotely and work remotely as if they were back in their office behind a full corporate firewall.
Were there any particular technologies that the Nature Conservancy put into place beyond the digital video conferencing and the broadband, anything in particular that helped the organization continue on its mission?
No, actually, we were able to pretty much just leverage many of the tools that we had in place already. Actually, we made a more forceful push on the security side to make sure that everyone had the right encryptions on their laptops, that we were fully encrypting all of the data that were on edge devices attached to the network, that kind of thing, because once you move away from the formal firewall, there are a lot of spam wear and other security intrusions that you become more susceptible to.
So we did take some additional steps to support edge devices. But beyond that, not very much more, no. We were in pretty good shape coming into this. We were able to leverage that technology and leverage the culture of the organization in order to continue to keep up with.
You’ve been able to continue the mission as a result?
Yes, we have. Obviously, some of the work that we would like to have done in some of our reserves, we’ve not been able to do. That’s because we had some states that we operate in that were on full lockdown. So as a consequence, you’re not able to have people out doing research and/or working around some of our door reserves.
Same thing was true for some of the conservation projects that we had people working on, where they were working under grants from various grand tours. Again, while we might have been able to work remotely, some of our partners may not have had that same opportunity. So that tended to slow up some of the work that we would have been able to do otherwise. But for that work that we were able to control and contain ourselves, we were able to pretty much continue that pace.
Well, they say that there are a lot of heroes that emerge when there’s chaos, and certainly, everyone in this country and around the world are thankful for the folks, the real heroes, the doctors, the nurses, the people who delivered everything from food, to supplies, even down to the janitors who are cleaning the floors so that people can stay healthy and eat in restaurants and be saved in hospitals.
There’s so many heroes that have emerged from what’s going on. But I think it’s important to acknowledge something that you said a moment ago because there’s another set of heroes that I think we need to acknowledge, the technology worked. We all kind of went home on a Tuesday and kept our fingers crossed and hope that the technology was going to work and it did. Not to diminish the good works that the true heroes in life are doing today, but from a business perspective, my view is that the true heroes from a business perspective today are the IT executives, the folks who have built the backbone that sustained under tremendous weight of everyone having every conversation, either by cell phone, landline, or video.
Every minor conversation, we used to walk down the hall and knock on somebody’s door and stick your head and say you got two minutes? That all happens now by cell, email, hotline, or video. We all experienced our bumps and bruises but the backbone worked and it’s still working, thank God. I think the IT execs are the heroes of the business component of what we’ve been doing.
Let’s talk about the bigger picture for a moment. Let’s talk about your views on the global economy. The suspension of so many components of the US and the global economy, how does that trickle back? How does that affect the Nature Conservancy’s ability to take on new projects and continue the mission?
in a couple of ways Andrew. We are fortunate in that unlike many NGOs, we have a very healthy portfolio that allows us to do some things that other NGOs might not necessarily be able to do, especially in today’s environment. We are committed to leveraging that portfolio to continue the good work that we’ve set out in front of us. Is important, and the reason why this is not money that we were holding as an investment synthesizer, we can say, geez, look at how much money we have. But rather this is the result of contributions and gifts and requests that people make to this organization over the years, with the intent that we would in fact, look at rainy days like this and we leverage that portfolio to continue to advance the mission of the organization.
So that really is what our mission is going to be, to leverage that portfolio, leverage your savings prudently and efficiently, but leverage them nevertheless, to continue to advance the mission one. Secondly, I know in terms of the broader environment we’re facing, our expectation for FY 21 is that we would see a substantial downturn in contributions gifts and fundraising for this organization. That’s precisely because our expectations that, notwithstanding where the S&P 500 may be heading now or where the Dow Jones 30 industrials are heading right now.
We do feel vast majority of people out there are going to feel a real decline in their personal wealth. So while we may still continue to see the very large, the very generous gifts that we have been traditionally recipient of, it is those guys and girls who would at the end of the year, think about the important mission that we’re providing and write us a check for 50 bucks, $100, 250 bucks, something like that.
Those are the folks that are not going to be able to continue to do that going forward, especially [inaudible 00:20:39] everything that’s going on. That really is not insubstantial portion of the monies that we have coming into us. So we do expect to see our income flattened out a bit if not decline somewhat in FY 21, but we do expect we will be back [inaudible 00:20:59] a bit with service that we have in our portfolio. Additionally, we have had two as a result the expected downturn in some of [crosstalk 00:21:09]
Could you can you repeat that Leonard, I didn’t hear your last statement.
I said even though we are expecting to see a bit of a downturn in some of our gifts and contributions and requests in FY 21, mainly because of just the absence of a wealth effect that many of our sponsors and exhibitors might have. We will continue to try and push organization forward, our mission forward, leveraging the reserves and savings that we have. That all being said though, we have had to unfortunately, layoff a little over 100 people in the organization.
That’s only out of a set of about 4000 people, so not a heck of a whole lot percentage basis. But for every one of those 100 people, it was a very important event, and one that we worked diligently to try and avoid. Additionally, we’ve always had to furlough a number of folks as well. But the notion behind those furloughs is that as soon as we find ourselves in a place where we would feel comfortable bringing those people back into the organization, we intend to do so.
So what happens after the crisis? Will the Nature Conservancy consider changes in how it operates, and maybe changes in the mission, will the mission evolve in some way, as a result of the crisis?
I think the mission is not one that evolve very much. I think the notion that we have in front of us, which is to let the conservation of the planet doing what we can to mitigate the amount of carbon that we’ve got out there, take on issues around climate change, work to ensure the availability of fresh water. Those kinds of things still remain important. In fact, critically important. The challenge that we are going to have though is that I don’t think we’re ever going to be back in a place where you’re going to have 300, 400 or 500 people working in a large office building.
I think that we want to find ourselves in a place where we would probably be back working in a much more locally focused environment with decisions will be traditionally be made in this organization very much at a local level. But now may perhaps and even more hyper local level, take into consideration the realities on the ground of a particular region that we’re at.
Let’s say that as an example, I use as an example the fact that while we’re here in the United States, we continue as everyone does, struggle with the rates of infection and growth in a number of cases. However, in places like New Zealand, where we have, obviously there is China, where we have a facility. Some parts of Europe where we have our offices.
We will probably be reopening many of those offices sooner rather than later. Simply because of the conditions existing in some of those countries. So as I said before, so we’re not going to be able to say that there’s going to be a one size fits all for the operating model that we have. It’s going to be one, it’s going to be affected in a very profound way by this pandemic.
We even today don’t know what social distancing means in an office environment, in the United States especially. However, in several places like New Zealand, in places like China and some places in Europe, we may in fact move back into an operating model that’s not very much different from the one that existed before the pandemic. But we may be looking at places like, not to pick on in one country with places like Brazil, places like Venezuela, some places in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the ability to react and control the infectious rates have not been as successful as they’ve been at all parts of the world, but we may end up with a very different operating model than one that we had before the pandemic.
So we are fortunate that we’ve got some very creative and very bright people working in this organization at the local level, to whom we’ve given, I think, sufficient leeway to make the kind of decisions that they need to make in light of local conditions. As a result, I think we’ll be able to continue the mission but with operating models that may vary a bit from geography to geography, given realities on the ground.
So then that takes me to another question, wanting to get a sense as to the other mission-based organizations, other tax exempt organizations. How do you think that your peers, your tax exempt mission-based peers are faring in the current climate?
Address it on an environmental round-table and consists of about 25 or 30 CFOs from a real popery of environmental organizations, from some of the smallest, 10, 15, 20 employees all the way up to organizations our size and even some a bit larger. Unfortunately, some of the smaller organizations are really being challenged by this, they are not necessarily in a position where they have the packets available to them to sustain their operations across this next period.
They’re also challenged by the fact that they may not necessarily have the technologies available to continue to operate in a truly remote and [inaudible 00:26:56] manner. Then there’s probably a middle group there that’s going to be guys and girls that are probably in that maybe $100 million to $400 million kind of revenue range that have a sufficiently diverse set of funding streams, that they’ll be able to carry themselves through. But again, even for them, they may not necessarily have the portfolios behind like we and some others do.
They would have had to be making some hard decisions about which aspects of their programmatic work they want to be able to continue to do, and which they may in fact, unfortunately, have to walk away from. Then I think there’s probably a third set, which is the [inaudible 00:27:47] people refer to as the big green organizations themselves. People like Blue Wildlife Foundation, Sierra Club, that kind of thing. Who have strong financial backing, very dedicated sponsors and supporters, donors who consistently provide support to those organizations.
I’m not going to say will be just fine, but I think that we have the resources to weather this for the next little while and I think we’ll be reasonably okay. But even for people like us, I think organizations are going to be looking very closely at certain things that they’ve been doing up to now and use this as an opportunity to determine whether or not they’re going to continue the whole spectrum of work that they were doing in the past going forward.
So Leonard, in our discussions with CFOs, we hear all different kinds of guidance. Very often it’s dependent upon, the guidance we hear is dependent upon the company size of the industry, or the specific circumstances, but interestingly enough, we’re hearing from a large number of CFOs that the intention as a result of the work from home effort working successfully, that a lot of companies are seriously considering increasing their work from home employee base and leaving it in place permanently.
Then we have other CFOs who say that they’re considering a greater geographic diversification of employees and offices, especially for critical operating functions like customer care and others, finance. Given the unique manner in which a mission-based organization like the Nature Conservancy functions, what do you think the future is? Do you imagine reopening offices? Is it just a matter of reopening offices or is it a matter of going more toward geographic diversification? Is it increasing work from home employee base or is it some combination or is it something else?
I think it’s going to be a combination as well as a few other new things as well Andrew. It’s interesting when you talk about the geographic dispersion of certain functions. I remind people that my head of FP&A, lives and works in Wisconsin. My Chief of Staff lives and works in Minnesota. The person who provides much of our financial advice and support to our Asia Pacific region, lives and works in Seattle, Washington.
So I’ve got, and in fact, is I’ve step back and thought about this as we were moving people out of the building as we were shutting down because of the pandemic. Only two of my direct reports actually live here in New Washington, three now actually live here in the Washington DC area.
The other seven are literally scattered across the country. So I’m not unusual in that regard. We have had and we expect to continue to have a geographically dispersed organization, people working either from home or working in regional offices that best fit the tempo of what they need to do and reflects an appropriate work and lifestyle balance. Now that being said, as I was about to remind people, I’m not going to have guys and girls opening checks at their dining room table. I’m not going to have people doing accounts payables from their kids record room.
There are some things that we get a bit rightly or wrongly, we will need to have done at fairly secure and protected environment. So whether that is done in a traditional office setting or whether that’s done in a regional work center, remains to be seen. But to the extent that we can give people the flexibility to work from home, we certainly are going to, it’s not something new for us.
The challenge though is that, I don’t think we want to be forcing people to necessarily work from home. I think there will always be some folks who, until this pandemic gets under better control, until there’s a vaccine that’s out there that’s safe, effectively and widely available, there will always be people who will say, we will not necessarily interested in returning into an office environment. So that’s something we’re sensitive to, and we’re not in a place where we’re going to be forcing people to go back into an office.
That being said, there are some functions that are really done best in offices environment. For those, we will need to find some mix of office work versus working from home, versus perhaps having people meet up at a Starbucks. Not to give them a commercial here but to meet in an environment like that where they really need to do something [inaudible 00:33:19].
Some of our conservation workers and scientists have for instance this summer meeting in parks, where they can sit around a bench, put in place appropriate social distancing, but at the same time, have that opportunity to collaborate around some very important projects that they’re working to advance. So we will find a way to get the job done. We will depend very often on the creativity of our staff to identify what those ways are. I think that’s really what the future for this organization is going to be.
Well, sounds like you’re getting the job done as we speak. So let’s go back to the global economy for a moment. With all that’s going on, with all the change and the evolution and the uncertainty, what would you say the near term and long term effects will be of the pandemic on, let’s talk about US and global economies.
Sure. I think that Andrew, the performance of the S&P 500 and performance of the, especially S&P 500, to a certain extent, the performance of the NASDAQ, has clouded the perceptions about the global economy.
Can I ask you to speak a little louder because we’re having some…
I’m sorry about that. Sure. I believe that the revenue performance of some of the financial indexes have clouded the actual performance of the larger true economy. If you look at S&P 500, once you pull out the Fang stocks, the Facebook’s, the Apple, Netflix, Google and a couple of other, Microsoft, a couple of large socks that really make up the bulk of the capitalization of S&P 500. Once you pull them out, the S&P 500 has not performed very well at all this year. I think that’s indicative of where the large economy is going.
Andrew, with 40 million people collecting unemployment benefits, it’s hard for me to imagine that somehow to other, this country is experiencing that level of economic success that you would perhaps be in evidence that informs some of the financial indexes. So my concern really is that as we, looking at the United States, is that one, we have been beyond fortunate with the way that the government has provided things like the PP&P loans, has provided things like the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, has provided the $1200 checks that have been sent out to folks.
That really has kept this economy on life support on the consumer side. Candidly, the efforts of the Federal Reserve to effectively just open up the cash window, and has been come one come all, irrespective money effectively for free, has been able to keep the wheels of the financial side of the economy turning as well. I don’t see how that works over the longer term though. The deficits that are being incurred as a consequence, the additional cash that’s being pumped into the marketplace will eventually end up with us facing some level of inflation, or at worse stagflation as we go forward. That’s a real concern I have about the United States.
As you look more globally though, I see China recovering smartly from the pandemic, they’ve had a couple of fall backs because of some second waves that have hit. But I think they’re beginning to rebuild their economy and same thing is starting now to happen in Eurozone. So I really do believe that the ability of the United States to remain an integral and important part of the global economy is always going to be there. However, understanding that a substantial portion of our economy was built around consumerism, and given the fact that consumers may now be facing a period over the next six to nine months unless something very special happens from the administration of not necessarily having that kind of support, it’s going to be hard for me to imagine the economy not slipping into a recession or slipping into stagflation.
On the other side, with respect to the money supply. Again, you cannot continue to keep pushing this kind of money into the marketplace without eventually triggering inflation as those dollars then begin to chase relatively few hard assets and start creating asset bubbles as well.
Your points are all well taken. There really is no free lunch and I concur that I’m pleased that the output that we’ve received from the government and I know there’s more coming or believe there’s more coming, but that’s future money, and we’re going to have to pay that back and it’s going to have a very, very significant price. It would have a significant price either way. Either today, and I think the cost would be considerably more today if we didn’t have the assistance from the government. But I think all your points are very well taken.
You mentioned employment in your last comments. Before this happened, we were beyond full employment as a country and many other parts of the world too. So what do you think the long term effects will be on the availability of employees? Got a lot of people out of work today. Do they remain out of work? Will there be an abundance of available employees? Will they be inspired to go to work because we’re hearing stories about people who prefer to stay on unemployment? So what do you think the long term employee availability pictures?
Yeah. I think is that unfortunately, and unlike in the last recession that we had back in 2008, 2010 timeframe, the impact of the reduction in employment levels has landed most squarely on votes and the service industries. Within that service industry, even more squarely on the backs of millennial women. I’m horribly afraid that we could be looking at a world where a substantial percentage 10%, 15%, maybe 20% of the folks of those millennial women may not necessarily ever have a job to come back to because of the way that the service economy will be deflected and be depressed over the next little while, one.
Two, again, we say well, Jesus, these guys and girls that are in the service economy are not making a lot of money anyway, so what’s the big deal? I think that’s a rather cynical way to come at it. But I think at the same time though, vast numbers of people that we’re talking about is going to have a depressing effect upon our economy, even if the actual wage dollars that that segment of the economy was generating might not be as large as perhaps you might see if that was same number of people were out of work in other sections of the economy.
Just the social and cultural impact of having that many people out of work, that many people struggling to make ends meet. It’s going to have a profound impact on our society, a profound impact on how we structure social safety nets going forward and how we structure jobs in this country going forward as well.
Leonard, your thoughts have been great, you’ve been gracious with your time, you’ve been transparent with your knowledge and I’m so grateful that you chose to participate with us at CFO Studio Live. I want to thank you very much for sitting with us today, I know your time is incredibly valuable. I’m glad that you’re healthy and that you’re so willing to share your ideas with us.
Before I thank our audience, I’d like to take a look at a couple of questions we’ve gotten from our audience. First one has to do with government rescue measures. It actually ties back to something you said earlier about the stock market and some of the Large companies performance. Of course as the expected, government rescue measures will be enough to keep large companies afloat along with the US economy.
For sure. And some of the larger companies Andrew, it’s going to be less of an issue of government rescue measures as much as the actions of the fed. That’s the stability of companies, even companies that are in bankruptcy or near bankruptcy to be able to access capital markets and be able to borrow money between 4% or 5%. That’s really what’s going to Keep a lot of large industrials going as we go forward here.
The other question we.ve received from the audience has to do with digital transformation. Do you see the pandemic obstructing the progress of so many companies who were digitally transforming their operations, specifically in the area of finance?
Andrew, for us and from other CFOs I’ve spoken to, they have seized and are seizing this opportunity to actually accelerate their digital transformation. I think people are now, among my accountabilities is executive oversight of our IT organization. I would say that we are taking this opportunIty to advance as quickly as we can along a number of venues in that space, because we really do view technology as being a key enabler in success of our organization.
I think that other organizations are, when we are looking at things whether it’s RPA, whether it’s artificial intelligence driven thing, whether it’s chat bots, not so much to displaced workers but to all the men workers to be able to leverage the workers that they do have to be even more successful. So I really do see digital transformation efforts actually increasing these days and not decreasing because governments appreciate that that is an area of investment that has an incredibly high returns associated.
Leonard, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your thoughts with us. Thanks so Much for being with us on CFO Studio Live. Sounds to me like the Nature Conservancy is certainly well lead by your office as well as those of your colleagues, It sounds like you’ve got a great team, certainly putting in place controls and thoughtfulness that occurred before and throughout this pandemic.
Certainly the Nature Conservancy is an organization that’s sorely needed not only here in the US but around the world. You’re doing wonderful work and I wish you continued success and luck for yourself and your team and the organization as well.
Andrew, thanks so much for the kind words and wish you the best of success to you and your organization and looking forward to working with you and others in this regard going forward.
Well, when we all come out of our cage, I’ll look forward to breaking bread with you again in Washington. I’d also like to extend that to our guest. I want to thank our guest for joining us today, this has been a great interview. I hope you’ll all send your thanks to Leonard Willams, the CFO of the Nature Conservancy.
I’d like to remind our guest also that we have a number of exciting events coming up which I mentioned at the introductory section of today’s interview. Visit cfostudio.com for a list of our events, the changing daily and we’ve got some pretty exciting folks coming up in future interviews.
Leonard, thank you so much, to our guest and our friends, thank you very much for joining us. If you’re commuting from the kitchen to the living room, be careful because there are some traffic at the table. Other than that, I hope that you all stay well, stay healthy, I hope that we get to see you again. From me to you, God bless.
Take care my friends.