Strategic Finance Lab Podcast Episodes


Wanted: Strategic CFOs Who Drive Revenue and See Risk Holistically

Steve Rosvold envisions chief financial officers and their teams using analysis skills to drive sales, while taking a wide view of risk.

In the newest episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast, Steve Rosvold, the founder and chief learning officer of CFO.University, shares a vision of the future for chief financial officers and the teams they manage, including FP&A. It’s a future where finance organizations use their expertise at analysis to mine insights from data and add more strategic value to corporates, in part by focusing on pricing, revenue growth and forecasting.

  • That, Mr. Rosvold says, requires CFOs and other finance leaders to move beyond mindsets built around costs, audits and historical facts and figures and embrace softer skills and storytelling that help finance teams influence other stakeholders.

Wanted: Strategic CFOs Who Drive Revenue and See Risk Holistically

Steve Rosvold envisions chief financial officers and their teams using analysis skills to drive sales, while taking a wide view of risk.

In the newest episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast, Steve Rosvold, the founder and chief learning officer of CFO.University, shares a vision of the future for chief financial officers and the teams they manage, including FP&A. It’s a future where finance organizations use their expertise at analysis to mine insights from data and add more strategic value to corporates, in part by focusing on pricing, revenue growth and forecasting.

  • That, Mr. Rosvold says, requires CFOs and other finance leaders to move beyond mindsets built around costs, audits and historical facts and figures and embrace softer skills and storytelling that help finance teams influence other stakeholders.

Stablecoins, DeFi and the Future of Payments with Caitlin Long

Many finance professionals at multinational corporations remain skeptics about cryptocurrencies, including stablecoins. No wonder: Fraud charges tied to the collapse of ⁠FTX⁠ as well as two stablecoins losing their dollar pegs—⁠Terra⁠ and ⁠USDC⁠—have fueled well-founded fears about the world of digital assets in the last year. But that’s ⁠not the whole story⁠.

To help shed more light on what can seem like an opaque, complicated topic, ⁠Caitlin Long⁠, founder and CEO of ⁠Custodia Bank⁠, joins NeuGroup founder and CEO ⁠Joseph Neu⁠ in the newest ⁠Strategic Finance Lab⁠ podcast. She shares her belief that the worlds of traditional finance and blockchain-based decentralized finance, or DeFi, are at an inflection point—and how a bank like Custodia could serve as a bridge between the two.

Ms. Long’s ⁠resume⁠ includes 22 years of corporate finance experience, with stints at Salomon Brothers, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley. She’s a ⁠Wyoming native⁠ who founded Custodia in her home state in 2020.

Though not yet operational, the bank plans to function as a non-lending special purpose depository institution, which means it will hold 100% cash reserves. She says that will essentially eliminate any concerns around the counterparty risk of working with a new, small bank.

Custodia Bank has received its certificate of authority to operate as a state charter bank, which allows it to offer custody services for bitcoin and ether, which it plans to launch shortly. But ⁠getting approval⁠ for also banking US dollars is a separate issue.


Finding Career Success: Embrace Change, Understand Yourself

PwC principal Kristen Michaud discusses her career path from biology to finance, and what she’s learned along the way.

In the latest episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast, Kristen Michaud, a principal in PwC’s Finance Transformation group, joins NeuGroup’s Julie Zawacki-Lucci to discuss what they’ve learned from decades in finance—and advice they wish they’d received earlier in their journeys.

In the podcast, which you can listen to now on Apple and Spotify, Ms. Michaud discusses her career path, beginning with a biology degree and possible plans for medical school—until her fascination with finance and technology took her to IBM, GE Capital and now PwC.

Ms. Zawacki-Lucci compares notes with Ms. Michaud and shares her insights from a decade and a half working in treasury at CVS and Hasbro. And she talks about the benefits for some working mothers—including herself—of remote and hybrid work models.


She Told the CFO She Wanted To Be Treasurer One Day. Now She Is.

Advice on advocating for yourself from Sandra Ramos-Alves, treasurer of Bristol Myers Squibb.

Sandra Ramos-Alves was an assistant treasurer at Celgene when Bristol Myers Squibb bought it in 2019. By June of 2021, she was acting treasurer of BMS. And in October of that year she was named senior vice president and treasurer of the pharmaceutical giant that had acquired the company where she had worked for more than 14 years.

In a Strategic Finance Lab podcast episode you can hear by heading to Apple or Spotify, Ms. Ramos-Alves says she may not have her current position if she hadn’t taken the advice of an insistent mentor and mustered up the courage to set up a meeting with the CFO. At that meeting, she told him she was interested in being BMS treasurer “when the time is right.”
That experience taught her the importance of advocating for yourself and telling people what you want. Because someday, when an opportunity arises, they may deliver for you. “We all do own our careers,” she says.
She also tells NeuGroup’s Nilly Essaides that mutual trust and integrity are the foundation of her leadership style. Trust in her team allows Ms. Ramos-Alves to empower people to make decisions and only bring her in when needed. By not wading too deep into the details of every issue, she avoids being an impediment, she says.
Even better, the trust allows her to step away and spend time with her family—her top priority. That includes taking vacations and leaving her laptop at home. But she never completely disconnects, she admits. Her iPhone is always on.


Nurturing a Finance Career and a Family: One Woman’s Journey

How Emily Backstrom of General Mills navigates career and family, and how the company supports women in finance. In this Strategic Finance Lab podcast marking Women’s History Month, Emily Backstrom, vice president for corporate finance at General Mills, shares with NeuGroup’s Nilly Essaides how she has successfully managed a 21-year career at the company, rising to her current position overseeing enterprise FP&A among other responsibilities.

Ms. Backstrom also discusses the value of deciding to lean into your career at certain times and, at other times, to step back to devote more time to family, as she did when she was a new mother.

In addition to offering advice for women juggling work and family and describing how General Mills supports women employees, Ms. Backstrom walks through her career journey, including a decade of experience in commercial finance leadership roles across the company’s operating segments and four years in Singapore, where she served as vice president of finance for Asia & Latin America.


Empowering Diversity in Finance: Views From Two Women Bank Execs

Loop Capital’s Sidney Dillard and Sobani Warner of Siebert Williams Shank discuss their careers, working at Black-owned firms, the role of D&I coordinators and more.

Many multinational corporations in recent years have increased their commitment to hiring banks, brokerage firms and asset managers that are owned by members of minority groups—so-called diverse-owned firms. NeuGroup is committed to learning and sharing more about these firms, the people who run them and the value they bring to corporates in capital markets transactions and other activities.

  • So to celebrate Black History Month, this episode of the Strategic Finance Lab podcast features two women in senior leadership positions at two of the top Black-owned financial firms in the US: Sidney Dillard, partner and head of the corporate investment banking division at Loop Capital Markets and Sobani Warner, co-head of corporate finance at Siebert Williams Shank.
  • Ms. Dillard and Ms. Warner speak with Andy Podolsky, head of NeuGroup for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a working group for NeuGroup members, to discuss their career paths, how corporates can prioritize diverse-owned firms by providing more meaningful, active roles in capital markets transactions and more.

Funding Growth-Tech During a Downturn: A Tech Banker’s Insights

Bank of the West’s Andreas Bubenzer-Paim on markets, ChatGPT and bankers helping tech firms weather recessions.

The collapse of the IPO market in 2022 is just one factor weighing on growth-tech firms that need financing as they prepare for a possible economic downturn while watching many mega-cap tech companies eliminate jobs. That’s the backdrop for this timely Strategic Finance Lab podcast conversation with Andreas Bubenzer-Paim, managing director and head of technology banking at Bank of the West.

Mr. Bubenzer-Paim shares his insights with NeuGroup’s Antony Michels on the outlook for growth-tech firms, cryptocurrency, space technology and how tech companies can forge stronger ties with banks—and what they should expect from those banks during good times and, more importantly perhaps, when the going gets tough.

Mr. Bubenzer-Paim also gives his take on ChatGTP and artificial intelligence.

The interview took place before Microsoft announced it would integrate ChatGPT technology into its Bing search engine and Google’s event on Wednesday to promote its new AI chatbot called Bard.
Those developments dovetail nicely with what Mr. Bubenzer-Paim says about ChatGPT: “It’s certainly a milestone development. It’s still a very specialized tool, it’s built to fulfill a very specific purpose. I think those kind of AI [tools] are bound to be successful.”


ChatGPT, AI and the Future of Finance: An FP&A Leader’s Vision

Baxter International FP&A head Aaron Bloomer shares insights on how FP&A can lead finance into the digital future.

The buzz surrounding the OpenAI tool ChatGPT has highlighted the power of artificial intelligence and the potential for AI to bring the future of finance forward—in ways that will further disrupt and transform finance organizations.

That’s the jumping-off point for a lively Strategic Finance Lab podcast conversation between NeuGroup’s Justin Jones and Baxter International vice president of FP&A Aaron Bloomer about AI, advanced analytics and the leading role finance should play as corporations turn insights derived from data into strategic action.


Starting Treasury from Scratch: One Expert’s Not Secret Recipe

NVA treasurer Chris Ingoldsby shares insights grounded in his creation of the treasury function at two companies.

Building a complete treasury team is a marathon, not a sprint. However, there’s real value in a new treasurer scoring some quick wins soon after joining a company. That’s according to Chris Ingoldsby, an ultramarathoner who created the treasury function at NVA, and previously built it from the ground up at Riverbed Technology.

NVA, short for National Veterinary Associates, is a for-profit business owned by the European private equity firm JAB Holding Company, and comprises 1,500 locally run veterinary clinics, hospitals and pet resorts located in North America and overseas.

Because the company has a vastly different business model from the tech companies where he worked before, Mr. Ingoldsby stresses the need for an incoming treasurer to know what they know and then surround themselves with people with knowledge they don’t possess but need. It also helps to have an open mind, a taste for adventure and a tolerance for risk.
Mr. Ingoldsby—who in addition to running ultramarathons likes to hang glide—said this about his experience so far at NVA and making treasury a strategic partner of the business: “It was really kind of going out and figuring out how do I define treasury, what is treasury going to be? It really started out with the basics….creating the building blocks. Once you create the building blocks, then you get to do more of the fun stuff.”


Fresh Takes: Cash Flow, Spending Discipline, Profits and People

Timely insights on liquidity and how finance can add value to the business from Chris Ortega of Fresh FP&A.

"Profits are a dream but cash is a reality." That’s among the timely, on-target insights aimed at CFOs, treasurers and other finance executives in this episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast.

It’s delivered by Chris Ortega, the CEO of Fresh FP&A, a consultancy focused on finance transformation that provides businesses with fractional CFO, FP&A and finance support. Mr. Ortega’s insights are grounded in his extensive background in accounting, audit, FP&A and finance leadership at high-growth companies.

In an interview with NeuGroup's Nilly Essaides, he makes clear and compelling the need for finance teams to adjust to volatile capital markets and a shifting economic landscape by building paths to cash flow sustainability and optimizing working capital management. It’s all about liquidity.

Equally critical for finance leaders: partnering with business units and providing value amid rising inflation, higher interest rates and the likelihood of recession.

And as you'll hear, Chris Ortega is passionate about urging finance leaders to put "people before the profits," in part by taking a hard look at what they spend— on technology and consultants for starters—before reflexively turning to head count reductions. "At the end of all your analysis," he says, "there's a human element involved.


The Importance of Timing When Buying Political Risk Insurance

Laura Burns of WTW explains the benefits of policies that insure losses caused by geopolitical crises in episode nine of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast.

Russia’s escalating war with Ukraine and rising tensions between the US and China are two big reasons why multinational corporations might want to consider buying political risk insurance—in other regions of the world, where it’s not too late to find coverage.

To learn what corporates need to know about political risk insurance, hit the play button to hear insights from Laura Burns, who heads the political risk practice for WTW, formerly known as Willis Towers Watson. She joins NeuGroup Insights writer Justin Jones on the latest Strategic Finance Lab podcast, recorded in August.

Political risk insurance policies fill gaps in traditional property insurance policies, picking up where other coverages drop off, Ms. Burns explains in the podcast.

Ms. Burns also discusses how growing up in Bermuda with family in the insurance business provided an up-close view of innovations in insurance policies and, along with a lifelong enthusiasm for international affairs, made political risk insurance the perfect job for her.

"I discovered this little niche called political risk insurance, and I thought, ‘Well that’s interesting, marrying the family business with my particular interest in geopolitics," she says. "I would say this is the best-kept secret in the business."


FP&A’s Role in Making Finance an Indispensable Business Partner

In a world with growing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, also known as VUCA, so grows the importance of finance organizations that can accurately see what’s coming down the pipeline, understand how that will impact the company and how to adjust. And the skills FP&A brings to the table are critical to succeeding in that mission.

In the latest Strategic Finance Lab podcast episode, General Mills CFO Kofi Bruce joins Nilly Essaides, NeuGroup’s managing director of research and insight, to discuss the role FP&A teams must play at organizations navigating an increasingly VUCA world.

Mr. Bruce’s vision of finance evolution features an FP&A team that connects information from across the enterprise, using its vantage point in the flow of information to develop foresight that produces insight that leads to action that supports business growth.

As Mr. Bruce says in the podcast, FP&A’s role isn’t to only understand what will happen, but also to share “what I think we need to get on right now, and some ways and some places we can start the conversation. That’s what makes a differential FP&A organization.


Supporting Diversity Firms: Verizon, Morgan Stanley, Wellington

Influential issuers, investment banks and investors are pushing to give diversity brokerage firms active roles and more meaningful opportunities in corporate debt deals: NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast, episode 7.

NeuGroup founder and CEO Joseph Neu leads a panel discussion on the roles corporate debt issuers, investment banks and investors can play in providing more meaningful economics and opportunity to banks and brokerage firms owned by Black people, Hispanics, women and other minority group—so-called diversity firms.

On the podcast panel are:

Scott Krohn, treasurer of Verizon, a leader among investment-grade corporate debt issuers supporting diversity firms. In 2021, Verizon spent $21.1 million on fees to D&I firms, or 13.2% of the total fees the company paid. And in a $25 billion Verizon bond offering last year, all nine D&I firms had an active role and were allocated a combined $487 million in bonds—most likely the largest allocation to D&I firms ever in a single deal.

Betanya Aklilu, a managing director at Morgan Stanley and head of D&I relationships and initiatives within the fixed-income capital markets group at the firm. Under her leadership, Morgan Stanley has served as D&I coordinator on 31 investment-grade bond deals since 2021—the most on Wall Street and more than six times any other bank. D&I coordinators are lead managers on a deal whose role is to support and facilitate active participation by diversity firms.

Keenan Choy, a managing director at Wellington Management, which manages more than $1 trillion in client assets. As a member of the fixed income syndicate desk, which oversees Wellington’s participation in new bond offerings, he works directly with issuers and underwriters, which include D&I brokerage firms.

NeuGroup for Diversity and Inclusion, led by Andy Podolsky, is a working group where NeuGroup members and their colleagues share and learn about ways to expand meaningful opportunities for diverse finance professionals, diversity firms and to support diversity and minorities in communities where companies operate or do business.


Treasury, Tech and Tennis: Cloudflare Treasurer Christine Jensen

Christine Jensen brought 15 years of experience working at corporations including eBay and Johnson Controls to Cloudflare last August when the fast-growing cloud platform and cybersecurity company hired her to run treasury. To build a top-notch treasury team, she’s drawing on best practices and perspective learned at other corporates in the US and abroad, her proven ability to thrive under pressure (she’s a three-time Illinois high school state tennis champion) and her determination to make treasury a true strategic partner at Cloudflare.

Ms. Jensen discusses with NeuGroup Insights editor Antony Michels how her experiences working at large companies help her meet the challenges and opportunities facing a high-growth tech firm that went public in 2019; why cryptocurrency may represent an important opportunity for some treasury teams; key areas where treasury can add significant strategic value; and one vital skill that some top tennis players may need to develop to win big in the business world.


Planning For a Recession: An Interview with WM’s Eric Davis

The likelihood of a US recession is raising the stakes for finance executives whose responsibilities include planning, forecasting and budgeting. And a critical first step to prepare for the future is to learn from the past. That’s among the takeaways from this podcast interview with Eric Davis, a vice president of finance at WM, the company formerly known as Waste Management.

Mr. Davis has been at WM for nearly 25 years, including six as director of financial planning and analysis (FP&A). In his current role, he oversees FP&A, capital management, internal reporting and investor relations. In the interview with NeuGroup’s Nilly Essaides, he shares valuable insights about the finance function’s strategic role.

For example, Mr. Davis describes how FP&A incorporates insights and analysis from past recessions to help the company decide “where we need to focus our attention within our business structure and cost structure” to prepare for the economic downturn that lies ahead.

You’ll also hear how the finance team at WM has evolved in recent years, upgrading its use of technology as it becomes more integrated into strategic decision-making by business leaders.


ESG Investing: An Interview with Marina Severinovsky of Schroders

Investors who don’t acknowledge that countries and companies are decarbonizing as they commit to net-zero emission goals will find themselves on the "wrong end of a massive flow of capital." That pragmatic approach to sustainable investing is among the insights you’ll hear in this podcast featuring Marina Severinovsky, Head of Sustainability for North America at Schroders.

In an interview with Nilly Essaides, NeuGroup’s Managing Director for Research and Insight, Ms. Severinovsky says that a commitment to maximizing returns and minimizing risks is the driving force behind how Schroders integrates ESG principles into investment decisions for its clients. Whatever your personal beliefs, this trend is creating both opportunities and risks that must inform investment strategy.

Ms. Severinovsky—who has spent more than a decade at Schroders in various roles—also talks about her journey as a woman in finance, the importance of creating more inclusive pathways for other diverse candidates and why she ended up in finance instead of law.


A Treasurer’s Mission to Make Real Progress on D&I

Guest: Tim Muindi, Treasurer and Vice President, ServiceNow

In the third episode of NeuGroup’s Strategic Finance Lab podcast, ServiceNow treasurer Tim Muindi shares about his role in ServiceNow’s $100 million racial equity fund managed by RBC Global Asset Management that aims to boost homeownership, affordable housing and entrepreneurship in 10 Black communities where ServiceNow employees live and work.

In the interview with NeuGroup Insights editor Antony Michels, recorded during Black History Month, Mr. Muindi also shares about challenges he’s faced during the course of a 23-year career when he’s often been the only Black person in a company’s finance department, and the steps treasury teams can take to improve diversity and inclusion.

To find out more about NeuGroup for Diversity and Inclusion, our working group focused on how finance can do more to promote diversity and inclusion within the organization and in the community, please click here


Women in Finance: The Importance of Mentorship

Guest: Subadra Rajappa, Managing Director and Head of US Rates Strategy, Societe Generale

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, Nilly Essaides, Managing Director for Research and Insight at NeuGroup, discusses some of the obstacles facing women pursuing careers in finance—and the keys to overcome them—with Subadra Rajappa, head of US rates strategy at Societe Generale. Rajappa believes mentorship is the most effective means to promote diversity and inclusion in finance organizations at companies making a concerted effort to retain women and guide those in junior positions to more senior roles. It requires more experienced professionals to help younger colleagues build professional networks, but also means junior team members need to be proactive in seeking out mentors. Employee resource or affinity groups have an important role to play in helping foster inclusivity and helping individuals feel part of a group as well as part of the whole, Rajappa says. And in her view, one positive effect of the pandemic may be a better understanding at companies of the need for employees, including working mothers, to have the flexibility to advance their careers while raising a family. NeuGroup offers women in finance opportunities to share knowledge with each other through Women in NeuGroup, or WiNG. Please click here for more information on WiNG, a group created to help women in finance and treasury connect and achieve their career development goals.


ESG Reality: Finance Teams Must Help Ensure Corporate Sustainability Promises Are Kept

Guest: Stephen Ferguson, leader of The Hackett Group’s Account-to-Report Advisory Practice, EMEA

NeuGroup’s Nilly Essaides, Managing Director for Research and Insight, interviews The Hackett Group’s Stephen Ferguson about the need for financial planning and analysis (FP&A), treasury and other finance teams to take a comprehensive approach to helping corporations make good on achieving their net-zero carbon reduction goals and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics. Ferguson, who advises major European corporations on all aspects of finance, says corporates face a major challenge as regulators start imposing new disclosure standards and companies are evaluated by investors and other stakeholders not only on their own records but those of their suppliers—the major source of carbon emissions for some multinationals. The stakes are high and companies viewed as engaging in greenwashing will pay a price. That means it’s vital for finance teams to take a leading role in rewiring performance and risk management strategies, KPIs and incentives as well as accounting, reporting and procurement processes. Is your company up to the challenge?

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