We are on the ground in Boston today with the finance and accounting community at Informa’s Finance and Accounting for Bioscience Companies East Conference. Our extended team enjoyed interacting leaders and experts from across the industry and we were struck by great sessions and compelling conversations. Common themes emerged, focusing heavily on how to build and orchestrate a strategic approach to finance and accounting. We’ve compiled some highlights and commentary for you below:
People drive performance
It all starts with the individual, both you and those on your team. Michael Woodbury, Corporate Controller at Werewolf Therapeutics and Michael Thater, Corporate Controller at Entrada Therapeutics, explored the shifting dynamic of talent – attracting, retaining, and empowering – and offered perspective on ensuring that team members receive the type of training that equips them to leave but incentives them to stay. Whether that is exposure to other parts of the business or increasingly job opportunity/stretch goals, they referenced the need to truly invest in your people as your most valuable asset.
Their panel as well as a CFO-focused panel in the morning underscored a personal component to leadership. The CFOs spoke to the necessity of cultivating and continuing an appetite for change and for curiosity. Within a tumultuous year in an already tumultuous industry, the flexibility and resilience required to thrive has only increased. Consultants from CFGI posited that “the pace of today’s operating model is a pressure cooker.” It’s the duty of the leader to “be comfortable being uncomfortable” and to create space for your team to navigate change deftly and collaboratively.
And finding hidden work superpowers – “the super user” – is even more important as tools and tactics coalesce into a new knowledge economy. As highlighted in the presentation from CFGI, Excel is just one tendril of a large and ever-expanding finance + accounting technology toolkit that ranges from ERPs to CRMs to close optimization to FP&A to payroll/HR and more. If a team member is identified as a power user of any platform or self-selects into expert status, give them the resources, training, and time to make sure they thrive with the solution and create untapped value for the company.
Plan towards planning
A second overarching theme was that planning and process were essential to long-term success – and that the right combination of people, process and technology deserves intense dedication and scrutiny. Across sessions, there was a shared struggle of inherited versus chosen systems: when entering a role, do you have the chance to create your own technology + team ecosystem based on the problems you see, or have you inherited a legacy system(s) that you must adapt to your current use case? CFOs echoed the challenges of delving deep into FP&A as an untapped frontier once fundamental bases were covered and warned attendees to avoid “getting trapped” by solutions that don’t serve their needs.
Multiple sessions touched on the need for finance and accounting leaders to deeply understand the business, especially the scientific or clinical sides. From reading the study protocol to maintaining touchpoints with science executives, going deep on the business can be a large undertaking, but a dialed in finance function can be a game changer for organizations. Especially given the complexity of clinical R&D, business leaders with clear, directive, and holistic data can steer their organizations more effectively, more efficiently, and more assuredly.
Michael + Michael’s session and resulting Q&A covered the importance of moving the finance and accounting disciplines from “service to value,” and bringing a business partner mindset to interactions with departments across their companies. Whether it is an Equity 101 session for their companies or proactive communication to scientists and executives, finance/accounting leaders echoed the call of finding clever and supportive ways to insert financial acumen and excellence into their organizational marrow.
Back for more tomorrow
Day 1 concluded with a session helmed by Auxilius Chief Operating Officer Erin Warner Guill – stay tuned a recap of Erin’s session.