CFOs

Three things we learned from Andrew E. Page, CFO of Foot Locker

The CFO role comes with ever-shifting challenges.
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· 4 min read

During our virtual CFO Brew launch event, reporter Kristen Talman spoke to Andrew E. Page, CFO of Foot Locker, about the challenges of being a CFO in 2022, and what advice he has for the aspiring CFOs of the future. Here are three takeaways from their conversation:

Does a CFO need to be an accountant?

I would say from an accounting perspective—just my personal belief—is it affords you a wide array of opportunities. I know many accountants that have gotten into consulting, have gotten into finance, have gotten into econ, and have gotten into marketing, so it is a foundation of discipline that opens many doors for you.

But going on the vertical path from accountant, a CPA to auditor to CFO you know, that isn’t the only path. My recommendation is, as you think about the CFO of 2022 and beyond, having a broad-based business perspective, having the ability to generate followership, being a strong leader, and having a high finance acumen is definitely key. Again, that high finance acumen could come through accounting, it could come through finance, it could come through an econ background, it could come through engineering.

I’ve seen a number of CFOs that came the engineering route, but having that high finance acumen and being fluid and comfortable all across finance as a foundation is key. But that is just that, I think the thing that you need on top of that broad-based business experience across all disciplines, whether it be marketing, whether it be IT, whether it be finance, whether it be HR.

What would you say is the biggest challenge facing corporate finance today and how, as a CFO, are you approaching that?

I think maybe this has always been the case, but I just think there are so many moving parts with regard to optimizing business operations. I mean, obviously, it’s capital allocation, which is a big deal and to grow a company’s revenue base, there’s investment involved in that. If you are a quarter-to-quarter, or a month-to-month CFO thinker, you will never survive. You have to be able to look around the corner and think two years ahead as a CFO because today’s investments relate to tomorrow’s growth.

No one wants to talk about stability, but a CFO has to be bold enough to say, “Are we a stable company?” I can look 36 months down the road and figure out what investments we need now to be able to be where we want to be three years from now. So I think that’s fundamentally one of the toughest roles of the CFO…because the company complexity is now exponential. The customer journey is changing. The ways customers engage with services and products are changing. The workforce is changing. The labor force is changing, the gig economy. So there’s so many variants that didn’t exist just 20 years ago.

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Taking into consideration job hopping is widely accepted by workers and the quickest way for salary growth, what is your advice?

I don’t really ascribe to that idea. I think that making sure that you are doing what you really like and what you really enjoy doing. I just think that the long term—and when I say long term, I’m not talking years—but the longer-term benefits of being in a company and an organization and doing a job that you enjoy and doing a job that you’re respected and doing the job that you know where you’re valued. I just believe that that is more important than the quick bump that you may get in salary from a job that may be not as fulfilling because it all shakes itself out.

Now, I do think that every individual in the workforce should be paid market value and you should commend and have conversations, but I think it’s more important to talk to your employer about your market value rather than, you know, going to another job solely on the premise of money.

One of the things that I think is really benefited me—and I think it’s benefited a lot of folks that I've talked to around job satisfaction—is I appreciate the widgets that we produce. You go to a company where you believe in the widgets that they produce, whether it be a service, whether it be manufacturing, whether it be retail—if you believe in their mission or you believe in their product, you believe in what they do in the marketplace, that’s very enriching. It has helped me perform better and it has helped me to be able to command market value for my talent.—KL

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