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The well-rounded CFO

Tackle the tasks others don’t want, Simpli.fi CFO Evan Kolter suggests.
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Evan Kolter

· 3 min read

Coworking is a weekly segment where we talk to CFOs and other leaders in the finance space about their experiences, their companies, and the larger economy. Let us know if you are—or you know—a CFO we should interview.

Evan Kolter started as CFO of advertising platform Simpli.fi in October 2023. Previously, he served as CFO at other tech companies, including Meriplex and Cardtronics. He spoke with CFO Brew about his new role, and his advice for people who aspire to become CFOs.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe your role as CFO to someone who doesn’t work in finance?

I’ve had two taglines that I really liked that stuck with me over the years. One is being the company’s honest broker. You’re the person who brings facts to a decision…and tries to help their colleagues balance risk and reward. And then the second one that I always laughed at was being the traffic cop. You give people the red light or the green light to do things.

What’s one thing you’ve learned so far during your time on the job?

Make sure you listen to all aspects of a situation. The numbers may appear to paint a fairly black-and-white story, but you need to go out and source the other angles that you may be missing. Get a rounded view on things before making decisions, because the numbers don’t always tell the full story.

How do you think the CFO role has changed over the past five to 10 years?

The CFO is now viewed more as a universal type of executive who can jump from topic to topic and help get to a good outcome for the company. Traditional [areas] like accounting, tax, reporting, and forecasting are table stakes now.

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We’ve seen advancements in core technology around accounting. That has created capacity, and you can focus more on FP&A and analytics and forecasting and data management. But also, that’s where you see all of these other responsibilities creep in.

What advice would you give someone who aspires to become a CFO?

Try to tackle the things that folks don’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole. You can learn a lot and also come out of it as a better employee or a better manager. As I look back on my career, I was always willing to tackle anything. It really helped round me out. I got to see all aspects of accounting and treasury, investor relations, and FP&A.

On top of that, I had a role where I was able to leave accounting and finance for about three years and be a special assistant to the CEO. That really changed my perspective on things. You’ve got to do that [kind of thing] earlier in your career. When you get higher up, it’s a lot tougher to do.

If you weren’t a CFO, what would you be?

I took about a month off between switching roles, so right now, stay-at-home dad’s looking pretty nice. It was a really good time to reconnect with my family and get things done around the house. I have an eight-year-old son who keeps me active with baseball and sports, and he’s quite the character. But if you surveyed my friends and family, they’d probably tell you I’d own a restaurant.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.