Insight & Analysis

The road to CFO

Published: Nov 2020

Jack Spitzer, CFO of Plexus Worldwide, shares his thoughts on how treasury professionals can make the move to CFO, and the challenges they may need to overcome along the way.

Recently appointed as CFO of health and wellness company Plexus Worldwide, which is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona in the US, Jack Spitzer has had a varied career. His previous positions have included treasury roles at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Isagenix International, before he moved to Plexus Worldwide as Senior Vice President of Finance in August 2018.

Spitzer spoke to Treasury Today about how his treasury experience has prepared him for the role of CFO. He also shared his advice for treasury professionals who may aspire to a CFO role in the future, and outlined the challenges they may need to overcome.

How has the current crisis affected your team and your organisation?

We have had a strong surge in sales during COVID, so it has forced us to look further into how we can better handle spikes in volume from order to fulfilment to customer support. COVID was basically an extreme, live version of a stress test, with great lessons learned to help us prepare for the future. Additionally, like many companies, we are learning from all the remote work and are thinking about how we can apply those lessons learned in the future.

Could you give me an overview of your career path to date?

Over my 25-year career, I have moved from various accounting roles, to IT, project management/Six Sigma then on to treasury with increasing levels of responsibility.

How well has your treasury background prepared you for the role of CFO?

It’s prepared me very well in a few ways:

  • You really need to understand concepts, application and execution.
  • You tend to solve for complex challenges that force you to really understand drivers and timing.
  • You learn to anticipate what can go wrong and scenario planning.

Treasury teaches you to find and select proper banking and financial partners, collaboration with tax, financial planning and legal and build it forces you to focus on fostering strong relationships. All of this results in confidence, rigor and discipline. So as you get exposed to other areas of finance outside your comfort zone, you apply the same tools.

What do you see as the main differences between the roles of treasurer and CFO?

Besides the functional differences, you really have to be comfortable in not knowing everything; not being an expert an everything. You will have your areas of expertise and areas of understanding. It is an art to be comfortable in this concept while also being confident.

What advice would you give to treasurers who aspire to become a CFO?

First, be sure treasury in your organisation is elite. You need the reputation to apply it forward into something else.

Consider an alternative path in finance to get some tangential experience or take on a major initiative outside of your comfort zone that solves a company challenge (i.e. cost reduction or automation).

Think outside of your lane, and try to position yourself as a problem solver in a broader context than treasury.

What obstacles may treasurers need to overcome along the way?

In many medium to smaller companies, often a CPA or chartered accountant is desired. You may want to consider this, but don’t let it dissuade your pursuit of the role. You can make up for it by getting experience in other areas of finance or through a track record of accomplishments.

In addition: invest time in networking and relationship building. Find the few people who are highly networked, and foster those relationships. You want those highly networked people to think about you when they hear of an opportunity.

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