Leaders of Modern Finance – Developing People and Technology, hosted by Ben Murray ft. Wayne Kimber

Leaders of Modern Finance 35

On this episode of the Leaders of Modern Finance podcast, host Ben Murray, Founder of The SaaS CFO, is joined by Wayne Kimber, CFO at SymphonyAI.

Finding the Right Opportunities

Wayne likes to think of his career as being divided into two stages: pre-US and post-US. His early career saw him located both in New Zealand and in the UK. During this time, Wayne was primarily working in public accounting as an auditor, including a period in which he worked for one of the Big Four, in his case PwC.

This initial phase of Wayne’s professional life was focused on technical skill, teaching him the fundamental principles he would need to advance in his later work. Although it was an important part of his professional development, Wayne lacked mentors during this time and felt as though his abilities were reaching a plateau of sorts. Without a set of diverse challenges or avenues for mentorship, Wayne felt his work stagnating.

This prompted an important pivot, and Wayne moved to the United States to join Ariba at the prompting of its CFO. His initial role at this new organization involved the same kind of auditing he had been performing before, but two significant differences would propel his career in a new direction.

First, Wayne’s new industry brought him into Silicon Valley in the late 1990s and early 2000s, where the tech industry was beginning to boom. He formed industry relationships and gained knowledge of the growing world of technology that would be the impetus for his later work at SymphonyAI. It began to form him not only into a talented financial leader but also a knowledgeable technical professional. This would allow him to become more involved in company operations in the tech firms he would later work for.

A second notable distinction from his prior roles was that the CFO that prompted his move was the first of several important mentors that Wayne would have throughout his career. In particular, the CFO at Ariba not only provided advice and insight for Wayne’s professional development but also opened opportunities for Wayne to advance in his career. Though he was initially brought to Ariba to continue in the internal auditing work that Wayne was trying to shift away from, he would eventually become the VP of Corporate Finance. It was through similar roles that he continued to climb through the US tech industry before finally landing as the CFO at SymphonyAI where he would merge his financial and technical knowledge.

Human Assets

Wayne’s experience of professional development inspired a core principle of his that he tried to carry with him throughout his many roles. He strove always to value the people in his different organizations, and to develop and mentor them in the way that he had been mentored. It became one of the intangible joys of his work, helping individuals to grow in their skills and providing opportunities for them to advance in their careers. An important part of his approach was his comfort with making mistakes, so long as his team could learn from them. In a highly technical and perfectionist industry, this was an unfamiliar tactic to his team, but one that afforded the most beneficial professional education.

This approach to human capital allowed Wayne to place a tremendous amount of trust in his various teams because he knew that they were always receiving coaching and training, thus improving their skills. The strength of individual experts made room for Wayne to delegate work to his teams with a high degree of confidence in their competency, which opened him up to focus on improving organizational systems and processes.

Technological Resources

Besides Wayne’s emphasis on human capital, his professional path also taught him the value of technology in streamlining financial workflows. Coming into his element during the explosive growth of Silicon Valley afforded him the chance to be on the leading edge of the latest tools, and the organizations he would later work for would specialize in both producing and utilizing innovative technological resources.

Of immense value to Wayne was the ability to strengthen data collection and analysis through the use of AI systems. New advances and technology allowed him to combine seemingly disparate sets of data, like internal financial metrics and external customer profiles, into a single data stream that can offer insights into new best practices. Leveraging these new insights to pivot organizational workflows has been an interest and strength of Wayne’s since his early days in San Jose, and his current leadership philosophy emphasizes automation and digitization wherever possible.

Putting Tools in the Hands of Experts

Part of what makes Wayne such a successful financial leader is not just his passion for people or his ability to use technology effectively, but his ability to bring together the best parts of both.

When Wayne makes use of digital tools, his focus is on automating tasks that might otherwise slow down the work of his human teams. He leverages technology to free up his people from time-consuming work that can be just as effectively completed by a machine, so that they can focus on the kind of work that requires a human touch.

Similarly, his approach to mentorship emphasizes a broadening of knowledge of principles and intangible concepts that technology can’t impart. His team become better learners, more cohesive as a unit and more adaptable in the face of unforeseen challenges. He seeks to strengthen the humanness of his team in a way that no technology can match.

In short, Wayne’s leadership seeks to take the best parts of people and technology and put them together in a way that maximizes their strengths and shores up their respective weaknesses. The best technology is only as good as the person who uses it, and human assets are most effective when technology can free them up from their most mundane and monotonous tasks.

These two great resources are not inherently successful on their own but require proper development and utilization to be made successful. For Wayne, being able to merge people with the appropriate technology is made possible only by both proper professional development for essential team members, and through the implementation of digital tools that work in tandem with the skills being trained in that team.

In order to build successful systems in this way, the successful financial leader has to spend intimate time with their people to know their strengths and to develop their weaknesses. A deep understanding of the team dynamic can then allow leadership to hand-select specific tools to maximize team output.

As Wayne’s professional journey demonstrates, proper leadership does not place financial leaders above and beyond their team. Instead, truly successful leadership is developed alongside operational workers, and effective workflows are built from ground-level knowledge of both technology and the people that make use of it

This episode is brought to you by Stampli. The Most Powerful Way to Process & Pay Invoices. Stampli is the only AP Automation software that centers communications on top of the invoice so that accounts payable collaborates better with approvers, vendors, and anyone involved with purchases to quickly resolve issues and questions, resulting in 5x faster approvals.

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