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April 25, 2019
It was about 2011, and my wife and I had moved up here to the Pacific Northwest from Los Angeles to be closer to her family. Because of the economic downturn at the time, the landscape of opportunity wasn’t exactly the greatest for me, but luckily a recruiter connected me with Parker, Smith & Feek.
I interviewed with the former CFO, who was looking for help modernizing the department and workflows. It was kind of my forte, actually; helping professional services organizations restructure, improve efficiency and stabilize. I’d done the same for a real estate company down in Orange County, CA. So, I took the job!
It took a lot of work and extra hours, along with our senior accountant, Eliza Tudor, streamlining things. We were always trying to find margin; in the professional services industry, the only way to do that is through efficiencies. In other industries like manufacturing, the answer can be finding cheaper materials or automating labor. But in our company, we don’t have steel; we have highly knowledgeable professionals. So, the goal was to find ways to save time and money in the back office, which would enhance our service to our clients.
After about two years on the job, tragedy struck when our CFO suddenly passed away. While the firm began its search for a new CFO, I took on the duties in an interim capacity. Eventually, I was asked to fill the role on a permanent basis. I guess they figured I would do (laughs).
If there is an obstacle facing our department, my first thought is always, “How will the client experience be affected by this situation, especially if we don’t do something right now?”
In other words, instead of worrying about how much of a hassle a particular problem could be for us to fix or address, I think about the client. There are a lot of organizations with the culture of, “Well that’s not my job. Why should I follow you around and dust up your messes?” But while you point back and forth and argue, the client experience suffers, and that is a problem for me.
Now, once we resolve the issue for the client and that experience is maintained, I will absolutely go back and address what caused the issue in the first place to ensure that our workflows are updated. But that’s the difference I make in my role: I help keep the client experience consistently front and center.
I built and drove racecars for ten years in California! For five years, I did it professionally.
There are lots of things! Right up at the top of my list is AP automation technology, or robotic process automation (RPA). I’ve been looking into it for a while, and it’s really exciting. It’s much more than just a software, it’s kind of like a macro on super steroids. There’s a bit of AI technology in there.
So for our purposes, we’d use it for accounts payable. The program would scan an invoice, and recognize certain patterns, like “vendor name” and “total amount.” The RPA learns from these patterns and can then produce checks or wires, just based on scanning that invoice. That kind of process automation will be huge for our company, and the insurance industry as a whole, moving forward.
Well, it’ll be my thirtieth wedding anniversary in August. She’s a northwest gal.
We have two kids, our son Jordan (22) and our daughter Ashley (19). They’re both brilliant artists. He creates cartoons and caricatures for commissions, and she’s an oil painter. Their creations are just gorgeous. I might be a little proud…just a bit (laughs).
She’s just starting to look at colleges, whereas my son wanted to work for a while first. My advice to them has been that they don’t necessarily need to go to school for four years, but they do need to do something to earn a good living. I always tell them: find something that not a lot of other people know how to do. Go into air conditioning, plumbing, or healthcare – there are great opportunities for success in those trades, as long as you don’t mind waking up early and rolling up your sleeves.
I have been a member off and on, depending on my circumstances, since the early 2000s. My local chapter down in California at the time wasn’t particularly active, so I was a national member down there. When I came up here to the PNW I found that the Seattle chapter is very active. It is an excellent organization with great opportunities for networking and professional development. Right now I’m on the board as the membership chair, and I’ll be next year’s VP of membership. That level of involvement gives me a reason to stand up and talk once a month or so in front of 60 other CFOs and controllers, and that’s where I’ve really started building meaningful connections.
It also helps to keep me up to date. Funnily enough, I got an email newsletter from FEI just this morning all about artificial intelligence and people’s actual real-life experiences with using it.
Where are you from? Redondo Beach, California
Family? Wife, Tracy; Son, Jordan; Daughter, Ashely
Favorite vacation spot? Calistoga California – great wine, and one of the best racetracks in the U.S.
Favorite sports team? Seahawks
Seattle favorites? The Puget Sound on a sunny day
Favorite quote? “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” – William Lowndes