Call it the era of nitpickers and penny-pinchers. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, chief financial officers are finally earning a greater measure of respect from their peers.
Big-name lenders now "depend on risk and finance [departments] to give an independent point of view," said Janice Fukakusa, Royal Bank of Canada's chief financial officer and chief administrative officer. Whenever the bank makes big decisions, her opinion is more influential than ever before. The poise with which Ms. Fukakusa handles the extra responsibility has made her stand out, earning her the designation of Canada's CFO of the Year from Financial Executives Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Robert Half.
Before the near-collapse of global financial markets, financial reporting jobs were overshadowed in terms of prestige by deal-making positions with their fat paycheques. Today that discrepancy is narrowing, and nowhere is the reversal more obvious than inside Canadian banks.
Despite the personal praise, Ms. Fukakusa said she wouldn't be anywhere without her team of "cracker jack" accountants and tax experts. They're the ones who help her answer all of the detailed questions on conference calls, she said, and they're the ones who are the true specialists in their respective niches.
"I don't want to go too deep on anything because then I'll get lost," Ms. Fukakusa said. Instead, she relies on her team to crunch the numbers and present near-final reports to her so that she can see the forest for the trees.
Ms. Fukakusa stressed that her auditing background helped her get ahead. When she was young, she said, she saw how companies from a slew of different industries ticked, and learned how to interact with management at the firms she was auditing. Those skills paid dividends when she first took a job in corporate banking at RBC, and they're even more helpful now that she sits on RBC's executive committee.