June 26, 2019 – CFOs continue to be in high demand. Finding them is keeping many of the nation’s top recruitment operations busier than ever. Recently, executive recruiter True Search placed former Assurant executive Gregg D. Bien as the new CFO of wireless technology company Starry Inc. Partners Rick Bank and Rick Faubert led the assignment.
“Starry is in a period of explosive growth,” said Chet Kanojia, co-founder and CEO of Starry. “We have more than doubled our headcount in the last year and have expanded our network footprint coverage to pass more than 1.5 million households. Bringing Gregg in at this juncture will be critical to maintaining this pace of growth and maintaining the financial discipline that has enabled this success. Gregg is a proven financial leader who understands how to drive success in this industry. We’re thrilled to welcome him to Starry.”
Mr. Bien has three decades of experience in senior financial leadership roles. Previously, he was CFO of Assurant, where he oversaw the financial initiatives, pricing and global financial deal development that resulted in exponential growth at Assurant’s mobile division. Prior to that, Mr. Bien was CFO of the Signal, a cell phone insurance provider which was acquired by Assurant in 2008. Before joining the Signal, he was vice president of financial operations for TeleCorp PCS, a wireless provider covering 32 million people. Additionally, Mr. Bien has worked in financial positions at AT&T, the Walt Disney Company and in public accounting for Touche Ross, now Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
Mr. Bien is joining Starry’s senior leadership team at a time of rapid growth. The company employs about 500 people across five markets and has raised more than $250 million from world-class investors including Tiger Global, KKR, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity Management and Research Company, ArrowMark Partners, IAC, Related Companies and HLVP. Starry’s network is live and serving subscribers in Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York City and Denver with 17 additional markets in build process.
Working in both the private and public sectors, True has offices throughout the U.S. as well as the EMEA and APAC regions. Since the late 1990s, the firm’s founders have refined their search process with a blend of data-centric insights, relationship-building and experience to produce a methodology that consistently improves hiring decisions and accelerates growth. Clients include: Jet, Work Front, Summit Partners. True is a subsidiary of True Talent Advisory, a global portfolio of human capital services and products for high-growth tech and tech-enabled organizations.
CFO Confidence Crisis
At most companies, few roles are as important as chief financial officer. But the CFOs today who are thinking about tomorrow are growing nervous about a key talent issue: They worry that no one else in the company can assume their role.
According to one Korn Ferry report, 81 percent of CFOs surveyed say they want to groom the next CFO internally, but don’t believe that there’s a viable candidate in-house. Today, about half of new roles are filled internally.
“The current CFO is the one charged with identifying and developing that talent, and since they know best the skills required to meet what’s coming, they are realizing the internal bench isn’t fully prepared,” said Bryan Proctor, senior client partner and global financial officers practice lead at Korn Ferry.
The lack of confidence is partly because CFOs feel that their firms’ leadership development programs have failed to keep up with the rapidly changing role of the CFO, Korn Ferry said. Core functions such as finance and accounting are increasingly being combined under one role, with CFOs citing a lack of resources or skills and career development opportunities as reasons for the merging. Korn Ferry surveyed more than 700 CFOs worldwide, asking them about their own internal talent pipelines. The top two abilities CFOs feel their direct reports need to develop are “leadership skills and executive presence” and “strategic thinking.”
As CFOs Gain in Stature, Succession Plans to Replace Them Falter
As with all things in the business world, the role of a CFO has evolved over the past 10 years. Gone are the days of the CFO being the top accountant focused on the timely and accurate recording of transactions to generate a set of financial…
“The tapestry of skills and experiences CFOs of today and tomorrow need are vastly different than what was needed in the past,” said John Petzold, senior client partner and CXO optimization lead at Korn Ferry. “The reason subfunctions are merging is because the focus is less on a role or person and more about the capabilities that need to be covered by a set of individuals.”
In essence, the CFO function is being deconstructed for optimization, according to Korn Ferry. Leaders are breaking down necessary functions based on their organization’s strategy and identifying people with a combination of those skills and piecing them together to get the right set of talent to execute against that plan. Core financial functions such as taxes, capital allocation and M&A still need to be done accurately and in compliance with regulations, of course. But experts say the CFO role is becoming more about adapting and deploying talent in the most efficient manner possible.
“The leadership profile of the future CFO is less about tactical, direct experience, and more about learning agility, adaptability, and big-picture global perspective,” said Mr. Proctor. “That kind of nimbleness and ability to pivot isn’t naturally ingrained in the typical CPA.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media