CFO of the Year Awards 2010
The Arizona Chapter of Financial Executives International (FEI) held its fourth annual CFO of the Year Awards on Nov. 4. FEI Arizona presents the CFO of the Year Awards to financial professionals for outstanding performance in their roles as corporate financial stewards. The nominations and awards recognize exemplary financial management in all types of businesses: public, private and nonprofit. An impressive set of independent judges from local business and academia selected the winners based on their contributions to their respective organizations and their involvement in the community. The following CFOs were honored at the event:
Nonprofit CFO of the Year
Mary Jane Rynd
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust
The talent and drive that Mary Jane Rynd put into becoming the first female partner of a national accounting firm in Arizona is now benefiting one of the state’s largest nonprofits.
As executive vice president and chief financial officer, Rynd she oversees the investment management of the approximately $500 million endowment of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. She also supervises the trust’s investment consultants and staff in the investment committee of the board of trustees.
For more than a decade before Virginia Piper’s death, Rynd served as the philanthropist’s tax adviser. As a result, Rynd has a full understanding of Piper’s approach to her philanthropy — and translates that every day into the work and spirit of the trust.
“I think I’m really lucky, because the people that I work with are highly motivated, extremely good professionals,” Rynd said.
Among her achievements at the trust is the identification, purchase and complete renovation of the nonprofit’s current offices. Over the past four years, she also has managed the diversification of the trust’s investment portfolio.
Private Company CFO of the Year
In his 13 years as chief financial officer, Tim Einwechter has guided his company from a small startup to the $160 million corporation it is today.
When Einwechter began his tenure at the company that was then known as Alliance, he had to deal with cash shortages and other various financial struggles. He aggressively pursued investment capital that allowed the medical device company to take advantage of opportunities in its market. He also initiated a merger in 2005 that allowed the organization to continue growing, and played a key role when Stryker Inc. acquired the company, now known as Ascent Healthcare Solutions, in 2009.
“Life as CFO is not one of simply saying no,” he said. “Rather, it is one of bringing sense of reason to the discussions, understanding the business drivers and supporting what is important to drive the success of the business.”
Beyond the financials, Einwechter is committed to maintaining the ethics that make Ascent a success. In fact, the company’s mission statement of “Results, Integrity, and Quality” was coined by him. Einwechter’s understanding of what makes a business successful, along with a strong focus on ethical behavior, has created a shared ownership of the company’s commitment to integrity.
Public Company CFO of the Year: (Small — less than $1 billion in revenue)
In just two years at Grand Canyon University, Dan Bachus has made an indelible mark on the company. While his accomplishments in 2009 were spectacular, Bachus really hit his stride this year.
In September, Bachus led the university through a successful $120 million secondary offering. He also is playing an integral role in GCU’s massive $100 million campus expansion.
In addition, Bachus is helping to guide GCU through a difficult political environment, in which congressional leaders are calling for reforms in the industry and the Department of Education is increasing its scrutiny on private, higher-education. Bachus is advocating the following initiatives to better position GCU: Educating congressional leaders and staff about the positive benefits that GCU offers; self-imposed limits on enrollment growth; transitioning the university to a “non-term” institution; and incentivizing enrollment counselors to focus on student success, not just registration.
“I thoroughly enjoy being actively involved in shaping the vision of a dynamic, visionary company such as Grand Canyon University, and I believe all companies benefit greatly from strong financial leadership,” Bachus said.”
Public Company CFO of the Year: (Large — greater than $1 billion in revenue)
Tod Holmes’ efforts in helping Republic Services successfully complete the largest acquisition in its history during the 2008 economic meltdown continues to resonate positively with the company.
Republic’s purchase of Allied Waste Industries, which formed the nation’s second-largest non-hazardous solid waste services company, is considered Holmes’ signature achievement in his 12 years as the company’s vice president and chief financial officer. On closing, the acquisition had an equity value of approximately $4.5 billion and a total transaction value of $11 billion.
Holmes also has worked to make sure Republic Services adjusted as the economic crisis unfolded. As of March 31, 2010, Republic has achieved approximately $180 million in annual synergies — approximately $115 million were realized in 2009, and an additional $65 million-$70 million are expected this year.
Under Holmes’ financial stewardship Republic Services has been named one of the Most Shareholder Friendly Companies by Institutional Investor magazine for the past four years. Holmes himself has been named as one of the Best CFOs in America by Institutional Investor magazine for the past seven years.
Karen M. Abraham
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ), Karen M. Abraham is known as a “go to” executive who is often called upon by the CEO and senior leadership to help solve a wide variety of business problems — and with good reason. Abraham has been working for BCBSAZ since 1983, starting as a Medicare auditor. Before being appointed a senior vice president, Abraham had served as vice president of finance since 1997. During her tenures as vice president and chief financial officer, BCBSAZ has grown from $313 million to $1.5 billion in revenue.
Among her many significant achievements at BCBSAZ was getting the company in compliance with the BCBS Association requirement to obtain a rating from S&P. The process by which she implemented this requirement resulted in a major change in how BCBSAZ manages its organization, specifically providing an additional discipline in its budgeting, forecasting and rating of its products.
As the “go-to” executive, Abraham has served in various dual capacities, including acting as chief information officer while the search for a permanent CIO was being conducted. During this time, she launched design and construction efforts for the company’s new state-of-the-art, 45,000-square-foot data center. Now Abraham is rolling up her sleeves for the next big challenge facing BCBSAZ — health care reform.
“The new reform law is very complex and has dramatically changed the industry,” she said. “We need to make changes to meet these new demands and to continue to be looked upon as Arizona’s trusted leader in health insurance.”
Bradley C. Anderson’s role at Amtech Systems has been described by CEO Jong S. Whang as “quasi-COO, as well as CFO.”
Amtech Systems is a global supplier of solar and semiconductor equipment, and Anderson’s leadership has had a significant impact on the company’s performance. In 2004, Amtech posted annual revenue of approximately $20 million. Revenue for Amtech’s third quarter this year was a record $43.1 million.
In his four years at Amtech, Anderson has done much to bring the solar company out of the shadows. During his first year, he led the company through two successful secondary offerings, including numerous investor “road shows.” In addition, Anderson instituted quarterly earnings’ calls with analysts, thus helping to raise the company’s profile among analysts and investors. He also has developed a strong technical knowledge of solar cells and semiconductors, which he shares at investor and industry conferences.
Another of Anderson’s achievements is the instrumental role he played in bringing about Amtech’s 2007 acquisition of R2D Automation, a solar and semiconductor automation company located in France. The acquisition has significantly enhanced Amtech’s solar growth strategy by offering an integrated system.
Along with his fiduciary responsibilities, Jason Berg, chief accounting officer at AMERCO/U-Haul, also is a driving force in expanding the company’s real estate and sustainability efforts.
“If my performance creates opportunities for the marketing and operations areas of the organization, I have done my job,” Berg said.
Berg has developed a distressed mortgage loan acquisition program to find and purchase first mortgages on self-storage properties. The company has been able to maximize shareholder value either through taking title to distressed properties at a deep discount or from high yields by rehabilitating the loans. Over the past few years, the company has closed on nearly $30 million in such deals.
He also is a leading voice and contributor to AMERCO/ U-Haul’s extensive sustainability efforts. He was part of a team that created and implemented a program aimed at lowering AMERCO/U-Haul’s environmental impact. Under this program, storage facilities have been retrofitted to reduce their electricity use, pavement has been switched to permeable ground cover, and waste collection and disposal efforts have been further expanded.
In these difficult economic times, Sojourner Center couldn’t ask for a greater champion than Linda Cohen.
Sojourner Center is a Phoenix-based domestic violence shelter for women and children. Sojourner has 280 emergency shelter beds and 32 transitional apartments, and serves 2,900 women and children each year. But in 2009, the organization’s continued ability to provide these needed services came under siege, as the economic downturn battered the state’s budget, forcing a 13 percent funding cut for Sojourner Center.
Cohen’s hard work averted disaster. After countless hours and weekly cash-flow projections, Cohen and a board-run finance committee were able to determine how Sojourner Center could weather the $1 million funding loss, continue to operate at current capacity and avoid staff layoffs.
“For me, ultimately we need to be able to withstand tests of financial stability and sustainability to ensure that women and children who reach out to us for shelter won’t have to look elsewhere, because oftentimes there is nowhere else to go,” Cohen said.
Under Cohen’s stewardship, Sojourner’s annual budget has grown from $2.2 million in its 2005 fiscal year to an estimated $7 million for fiscal year 2011.
Chief Financial Officer
AAA Arizona Inc.
In just under five years, Keith Cowan has increased AAA Arizona’s revenue and membership — all while the nation’s economy spiraled downward.
During Cowan’s tenure as chief financial officer, AAA has grown from $58.4 million in revenue in 2006 to $74.3 million in 2010. In that same period, membership grew from 709,000 to 791,000.
Cowan accomplished all this by taking on several initiatives to keep the company growing and healthy. He enhanced strategic partnerships with other AAA Clubs; led the move of the club’s data center, which significantly reduced the organization’s operational risk; launched AAA Arizona’s new intranet; and initiated and sponsored a new time management program.
His leadership also has produced important improvements in AAA Arizona’s reporting. Awareness of financial and other detailed metrics has increased through monthly operational and strategic review meetings, and dashboards for all levels of the organization.
“The goal setting needs to occur in an informed way, so we strike the right balance between pushing to achieve continually improved performance and being grounded in a realistic assessment of the stretch capabilities of the team,” he said.
Thanks to his “can-do” attitude, Michael N. Deitch, chief financial officer for Providence Service Corporation, is recognized as a positive and powerful force within the company. In this past recession, that positive attitude has served Providence very well.
During the economic downturn, Tucson-based Providence Service lost 90 percent of its market value. But by staying in front of banks and rating agencies, Deitch has been key to the company’s turnaround.
“I must be proficient and current in accounting standards, SEC rules and regulations, and congressional legislation that affects public companies,” he said. “This knowledge is also required for managing a public company’s finance and accounting department effectively.”
Providence Service Corporation is dedicated to providing and managing government-sponsored social services. Benefiting from the growing trend for government privatization of social services, Providence provides human services and non-emergency transportation services management directly to children, adolescents, young adults and families who are eligible for government assistance. It provides these services in the client’s own home or in community-based settings versus institutional care.
Infusionsoft is an entrepreneurial venture that has gone to the next level — and company leaders say Chief Financial Officer Mike Effinger has played a major role in that move.
Before Effinger joined Infusionsoft more than two years ago, the software company was being successfully run through intuition and customer growth. Today, Infusionsoft’s senior management acknowledges that Effinger has provided guidance and direction to “mature” the company and lay a solid foundation for growth.
“As CFO, those I work with know that my primary objective is the accomplishment of our business goals and ensuring that those I work with have the information they need to do the same,” he said.
Effinger initiated a complete conversion of Infusionsoft’s financial reporting systems. This reduced the time it takes to close monthly financials by 50 percent.
Even in the midst of the stocks market’s crash in 2008, Effinger was able to help Infusionsoft secure the investments needed to fund a change in revenue model and continue the company’s customer growth. As a result of this change, Infusionsoft is on track to become cash-flow positive by the end of the year.
Golf may be an individual sport, but Ruth Engle understands it takes a team to run a company. As executive vice president and chief financial officer of Troon Golf LLC, Engle believes that one of her most critical roles is to create a strong team to propel the company to success.
“Nothing is more critical than choosing the right team; balancing skill sets to meet organizational requirements; setting lofty but realistic expectations; challenging, motivating and mentoring staff to permit them to reach the pinnacle of their capabilities; encouraging intellectual curiosity and appropriate risk taking; and performance management,” Engle said.
In addition, the team also must align its functions and activities with the goals of its customers and stakeholders, setting strategic objectives, evaluating and improving process and providing the adequate tools.
Engle leads Troon Golf’s total quality initiative, and has been instrumental in defining and mapping the company’s processes. As part of that, she helped to spearhead Troon Golf’s new initiative, which goes by the appropriate acronym of GRiP (Growth, Retention, Individual Responsibility and Profitability). Engle also helped to define metrics for each element of GRiP.