CFO Summit XXXVI 2019

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  • How a Board Seat Would Make CFOs Better at their Job

    Ellen Richstone, a speaker at the marcus evans CFO Summit XXVII Fall 2013, on how a board role makes a CFO better.

    Interview with: Ellen Richstone, Former Fortune 500 CFO and Former CEO, Current Board Member, NACD (New England), OpEx Engine and ERI. Board member of APC until sale. Named The 2013 Distinguished Director Recipient from the Corporate Directors Group.


    Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) who have a board seat are able to look at their own company’s problems from a broader perspective with a greater understanding of the directors’ issues and viewpoints. That makes them better CFOs because the board represents the shareholders,” says Ellen Richstone, Former Fortune 500 CFO, and Former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Current Board Member, NACD (New England Chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors), OpEx Engine and ERI. “It is important for all sitting CFOs to have the experience of sitting on another company’s board, to see how other boards function, ask questions and prod into different matters ” she adds. “ In addition, companies gain from having either former or current CFOs with operating experience on their boards, since CFOs often understand and can add to both strategic and tactical knowledge - in a very practical sense during discussions and decision-making. Finally, as a sitting CFO, my best Audit Chairs were those who were former CFOs and could provide advice and counsel to me,” added Richstone, who was also a board member of APC (a S&P500 company) until sale and named The 2013 Distinguished Director Recipient from the Corporate Directors Group (a well-known National Public Company Director organization).

    A speaker at the marcus evans CFO Summit XXVII Fall 2013, in Las Vegas, Nevada, November 14-16, Richstone discusses how CFOs can establish careers as board members and why they should.

    How can a board seat help CFOs become better at their job?

    They will be looking at and evaluating problems from a different angle. When they go back to their CFO role, they are able to view issues both from their own position as a CFO, but also from the board perspective. That means they will have a better sense of what boards look for. It will make them stronger CFOs because boards represent shareholders and CFOs need to be thinking of problems from the perspective of all stakeholders.

    How could CFOs establish careers as board members?

    The first assumption is that they are doing a good job in their CFO position, meeting their fiduciary responsibilities, completing all the requirements related to audit committees and being a strategic partner to the CEO and the board.

    You then take from there the fact that boards are always looking for outstanding people with strong financial skills, who understand the fiduciary requirements related to public companies and who can add value from a strategic partnership standpoint.

    Each person on a board brings a skill set. The value is in having a diverse group of people with different skill sells, all coming together and learning from each other, asking questions and bringing their value in. When you have seven board members, the value is a multiple of that because each person ends up being ten times more valuable.

    What are boards looking for?

    Boards are always looking for strong financial people who not only understand and can execute on the fiduciary requirements for the board and audit committee, but also add value in business decisions. Boards are looking for people with diverse backgrounds who can add value. It depends on what stage the company is in, so a board usually takes a step back, evaluates the backgrounds of the board members, what the needs of the company are today and what they will be over the next five years. It is not about today but about where they want to take the company. They then do a gap analysis to determine what kind of individual they need to help them fulfill that five-year vision.

    How can a CFO get a board seat?

    They need to let the board members of their company know that if an opportunity exists they would like to join the board of another organization. Board members tend to know other board members and hear about openings.

    They should not wait to get their first board seat and start the process of joining a public board when they are nearing retirement. They need to get their first seat at least six months to a year before they retire.

    Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division

    Tel: + 357 22 849 313

    About the CFO Summit XXVII Fall 2013

    This unique forum will take place at the Red Rock Casino, Resort, Spa, Las Vegas, Nevada, November 14-16, 2013. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on risk management, talent management and acquisition, the new tax landscape and driving organizational growth.

    For more information please send an email to or visit the event website

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    Please note that the Summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

    About marcus evans Summits

    marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world’s leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, case studies, roundtables and one-on-one business meetings. For more information, please visit

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