Interview with Barbara Kane-Burke
Interviewer: Andrew Zezas, SIOR
Following is the transcript of a CFO Studio video between Andrew Zezas, CEO of New Jersey based Real Estate Strategies Corporation and finance executive, Barbara Kane-Burke
Visit www.CFOStudio.com to read about this interview and to watch the entire video interview.
Role of the CFO
Zezas: Hi, this is Andrew Zezas, your host at CFO Studio. I’m here today with Barbara Kane- Burke, finance executive, and we’re here to understand Barbara’s view on finance, the economy, and a lot of other great stuff. Barbara, thanks for being here today.
Kane-Burke: Thanks for having me Andy.
Zezas: Barbara, let me ask you this: You’ve been a finance executive for a while now and you’ve got some prominence in the industry. I’m dying to hear your opinion on the evolution of the role of CFO. What changes have taken place in the last, let’s say, 10 years in the role of CFO?
Kane-Burke: Well, in the past 10 years I’ve been involved in small companies. I think in small companies the role of CFO is more collaborative and a strategic partnership. So, there’s been more acceptance of the CFO as a business person versus someone with the green arm bands.
Zezas: The green arm bands, the green eye shades.
Kane-Burke: The green eye shades.
Zezas: We’ve been told more and more that no longer is a CFO merely a financial executive, that it only begins with strategy. Most of the CFOs that we encounter are involved in virtually every aspect of the corporate structure, small and mid-cap. Would you say that that’s accurate?
Kane-Burke: Absolutely. I think one of the things that is overlooked [is] that the CFO touches every part of an organization. It’s not just the accounting. They touch I.T. They understand how the business model works, so there’s more exposure that the CFO has than most any other executive in the company.
Zezas: Exposure is the right word. Let me ask you about growth. We’ve been in a funky economy. The recovery is getting some traction, albeit slowly. But for those companies that have been growing, are you seeing more growth coming from upsells to existing customers or are you seeing it through acquisitions of new customers, or some other view?
Kane-Burke: Well, in a lot of cases it’s a combination of both things. You know you have some areas where, in our business, we’re in the women’s health business, and we’re looking for new uses of our product. So, we’re getting to more doctors and getting our product more known.
Zezas: So, in that regard, it would be [selling] more often to the same customers?
Kane-Burke: Different end-use customers. You know, a lot of our products go out to distributors, and so, we’re really looking at selling to different avenues in the women’s medical health community.
Zezas: Understood. Let’s talk about the board room and shareholders. As the role of CFO evolves, how can CFOs play a more active role in bringing board and shareholders together in terms of their overall communication? How can CFOs be more effective at bringing those groups together?
Kane-Burke: Well, I think the CFO has, in many cases, more exposure to the shareholders than the board does. You know, at your annual meeting, most shareholders don’t show up. But, when there’s something going on with the company, they are calling the CFOs and saying, “what’s happening and why is this happening.” So the CFO is really on the line to be able to respond to the shareholders and the investment community as to what is going on with the company. Also, [the CFO is very focused on] helping the board to get their message to the investment community and the shareholder community.
Zezas: More and more CFOs are COOs these days.
Kane-Burke: Absolutely, it’s really a dual hat.
Zezas: But, only one salary.
Kane-Burke: But, only one salary.
Zezas: Let me ask you about the economy. The last couple of years, everyone’s been cutting cost to the bone…through the bone. In terms of cost-cutting, has it really helped in maximizing gross profits, for most companies, especially in the mid-cap sector?
Kane-Burke: Well, it’s tough. Sometimes you cut costs or you don’t spend money. And, so it’s a combination of two things and when you’re not spending money, there may be some improvements you can make to your structure or organization that would help the business go further. But, you’ve decided not to spend the money, so you don’t get the results that you want. It’s a double-edge sword.
Zezas: It’s definitely a double-edge sword. What do you think the greatest challenge has been in the last three years since [having been in] a very funky economy? What do you think the greatest challenge has been overall for the role of CFO?
Kane-Burke: Well, in a lot of cases, it’s doing more with less. I mean that’s been historically [the case] in the financial organization over the past 20 years. And then, especially for public companies, you have more demands on [the CFO]. One of the things at this conference that I am doing is [looking at] XBRL applications. So, it’s something that I hadn’t planned on doing, but [as CFO] you have to do a lot, multi-task.
Zezas: With less.
Kane-Burke: With less.
Zezas: So, not only [is there] more to do, but more risk and liability as a professional.
Zezas: So, Barbara, we’re almost at the end of our time. Let me ask you one more question. For the CFOs watching today, for small-cap and mid-cap finance executives, what should they be looking out for in the future? What should they be preparing for as the recovery takes hold?
Kane-Burke: Well, I think [the key is] to be proactive and to be ready for growth in the economy, and be ready to respond.
Zezas: Be ready to respond and look for surprises.
Kane-Burke: Always look for surprises! That’s what every good manager’s mantra is. No surprises, but you have to have surprises. It always happens.
Zezas: And, they happen, and those who are prepared, prepared for things that they’re not prepared for, basically- to coin a phrase, are the CFOs that are most successful.
Zezas: Barbara, listen you’ve been great! I want to thank you for being on CFO Studio.
Kane-Burke: Thank you very much, Andy.
Zezas: Nice to have you.
Kane-Burke: Nice to be here.
Zezas: This is Andrew Zezas, saying thank you for watching CFO Studio, and we’ll see you again.
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