Episode 13

The Future of Finance: Embracing Technology and Shifting Roles

March 13, 2024


Randy Wootton
CEO , Maxio
Tom Hood
EVP Business Growth & Engagement, AICPA & CIMA

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Video transcript

Randy Wootton (00:05):

Hello, everybody. This is Randy Wootton, CEO of Maxio and your host for the SaaS Experts Podcast, where I engage with SaaS and finance experts delving into the challenges they face, the victories they’ve achieved, the lessons they’ve learned, and what they see on the horizon for the industry. Today I’m joined by Tom Hood, who’s just been a great colleague I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of months. He is currently the EBP of digital engagement and growth at the AICPA, but has had a long history as a CFO in highway construction, and then he became the executive director, CEO, at the Maryland AICPA. And then most recently, for the last three years has been at the AICPA in a global position in this role of EBP of digital engagement and growth. And we’re going to get into what that is and his background and all the lessons he’s had in terms of thinking about accounting and finance and the brave new world of what’s in store for finance going forward. So thanks for joining us, Tom.

Tom Hood (01:04):

It’s awesome to be here, Randy.

Randy Wootton (01:06):

So when we first met, I just thought it was great. You started in highway construction, and can you give a little bit background of what you were doing there? And I think when we were chatting before you had this really interesting insight in terms of, hey, you were doing your job, but you realized there was more to be done and then that led you to the Maryland AICPA. But yeah, please tell us a little bit about that start.

Tom Hood (01:30):

So yeah, early on I went to actually night school, so I had to pay my way through college. So I went to accounting, actually, I started in a Loyola College at night and worked during the day. Got a job as a finance junior accountant and worked my way through that. Got through that, passed my CPA exam, and then got this job in highway construction and quickly moved up to CFO role, which I had never done before, obviously. And I’m pretty relatively new as a CPA. So what I figured out is I needed to find a tribe that I could learn from other people quickly, and that became the Maryland Association CPAs. My old boss when I was at the finance company, took me to a Maryland Association of CPA Event and I got Networks. So I joined the, at that point it was the electronic and data processing committee, because back then… That’s how old I am.


Back then it was like these big word processor or that was the closest thing you had to effectively a spreadsheet. It was on an old LAN computer and all that kind of stuff. Anyhow, that tribe helped me quickly get up to speed on what I needed to do as a CFO in this highway construction company. Highly competitive market, lots of ups and downs with all the major trends, but we were painting contractors. We had three or four asphalt plants in the State of Maryland. We were probably the top four asphalt producers and installers. And so it was pretty fast-growing business and lots of complexity. So it was kind of interesting to be able to do that.

Randy Wootton (03:20):

Yeah, what I love about what you’re saying is I talk to people about the fact I’m always operating at the edge of my own ignorance. And so if you approach with humility that I could be doing my job better, then it’s about, “Well, where do you go to get information? Where do you get insights? Where do you get recommendations?” I mean, this has been one of the fun parts of this journey is I’ve shifted from go-to-market tech where I spent 20 years into the office of the CFOs, I don’t know anything. So talking to people like you each time I meet someone, it’s been like, “Oh, that’s cool. That’s interesting.” I think the other point you’re making, I write about this in my Secrets of Success for CEOs is building your tribe and building your tribe for me is along three dimensions, having a mentor, having a coach.


So a mentor being someone who can give you specific recommendations for your context, a coach being someone who can help you with primarily like EQ and relationships. And then the third dimension, which it sounds like you were able to seek out as well, is just having a peer group, a group of people you can go to and say, “Hey, I don’t know. How have you thought about this?” And so it sounds like that really was transformational for you because then you actually went into the Maryland AICPA and became executive director and CEO for, was it 20 years?

Tom Hood (04:29):

20 years, yes. And what happened there is by becoming active in their committees, suddenly I got noticed. Next thing you know, they wanted to put me on the board of directors. So I was on the board of directors for a period of time, and I knew the CEO really well, lady named Barbara Zorn. She was getting ready to retire. And at that stage, my highway construction company was getting acquired, actually, it was more like a hostile acquisition from a big conglomerate. I didn’t want to go with that group. And so she was getting ready to retire. So they went on a national search and she goes, “Why don’t you put your name in the hat?” And I had done some legislative work for the highway side. So all that made the perfect skill set to basically work on the association of CPAs because that was my tribe that got me started. And certainly that’s part of what associations do.

Randy Wootton (05:22):

That’s great. That idea of luck being the intersection of opportunity and preparation. And here you had gone to the association to build your network and learn some skills. And in doing so, you created an opportunity, which a lot of people may have not envisioned. When you were doing night school, did you think you’d be the director executive, CEO of the AICPA, the top of the profession? I mean, it’s just really fascinating.

Tom Hood (05:46):


Randy Wootton (05:47):

And while we’re there, I mean one of the things I think that you bring to this podcast and more broadly in the industry is just you’ve done a lot of deep thinking about what’s happening in the world of CPA and what’s happening in the future of finance, which we’ll talk about in just a second. But even back then, in 1999, you released or oversaw the CPA Vision Project, which we’ll drop a link into. Can you talk a little bit about that experience and how the world has changed from 25 years, I guess now in 2024.

Tom Hood (06:16):

Yeah, 25 years. So it’s fascinating, because literally that was my first day on the job as the new CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs. It was at a meeting of the AICPA and all the state CPA executive directors like me. We got together a couple times a year. This one was in January, so I think it was somewhere in Florida. And that’s when Barry Melancon, who is my boss today, he announced this project called the CPA Vision Project, which was an attempt, first time any profession ever attempted, to define a vision for its future, not for the association, but for the profession.


He’s talking about this, and I’ll never forget, he goes, “Is there anybody that would like to be part of this?” And I’m like, “Are you kidding me? I’m starting a new role here and I get to actually work on a natural group to bring roundtables to my members in Maryland and talk about the future of what this profession looks like.” I’m like, raise my hand right away, sign me up. And shortly after that, they ended up tagging me as the leader for the implementation of it. So Jeannie Patten was my colleague in Utah. She actually took the first phase and then it went to me for that second phase. So that was a transformative time. And I learned a whole lot about engagement, about the wisdom of the crowd, obviously all the issues around trends and visioning, just a very rich experience, which has really helped my entire trajectory.

Randy Wootton (07:52):

That’s a great advice, career advice. I spent a little time in the Navy, and one of the things we say about the Navy is N-A-V-Y, never again volunteer yourself. And it just seems like each stage you keep volunteering and getting more to work on. And I think, didn’t that then play forward and there’s a new vision for CPA, is the 2025 report?

Tom Hood (08:13):


Randy Wootton (08:13):

And so it’s been an updated version of that. What was your association with that and maybe what are some of the trends that you’ve seen play out over the last 24 years or the new things that are in the 2025 vision?

Tom Hood (08:25):

So phase one was the Vision Project. It was looking out to 2011, so it was 1999, we were looking out to 2011. And then when 2011 hit, I’m still at the MA CPA, but by that time we had created a subsidiary called the Business Learning Institute, which was a consulting and training organization. And actually in that second phase when they announced that project, we actually bid on it and won the in-person grassroots visioning work. So we actually designed and built and facilitated the workshops all over the country to create the next version of the vision, which was taking it from 2011, looking out to 2025, so another 14 years out.

Randy Wootton (09:10):

Got it.

Tom Hood (09:11):

And interestingly, it reaffirmed the first vision. In other words, it did not change much from a vision standpoint. The skill sets for the most part, were pretty consistent. A couple tweaks there. And the difference is it basically took out what we had identified as core services and gave it more of a white sheet for that, for CPAs to continue to evolve into wherever they were going, which implied a much broader footprint. And keep in mind that covered both public accounting and what we know as corporate or management accounting today.

Randy Wootton (09:50):

Right. And so for people who are not maybe as familiar, can you describe the core services? So there’s audit-

Tom Hood (09:55):

Audit, there’s tax, financial planning, those are all kind of the core pieces. What started to show up as a bigger, bigger one would be especially technology. So to your point, you asked what are the big trends that drove it? Technology without a doubt was huge even in 1999, but it was very nascent then relative to where we are today, no cloud or any of those things. And then by 2011, it started to move even faster. And obviously if you move it today, it’s on hyper speed where you throw in GenAI and ubiquitous cloud and all those kinds of things, which obviously is the genesis of what you all do from a SaaS standpoint.

Randy Wootton (10:38):

Yeah, and I think specifically the more accountants I talk to, I think we were chatting a little bit about this, I think some of the larger accountancies are going to be able to embrace technology, build teams of people who are going to build technology to help their accounting staff have augmented intelligence and they’re going to take advantage of AI. But I think there’s something like 60,000 CPA firms in the US. A lot of them are single proprietors and they’re just trying to manage their workload.

Tom Hood (11:08):


Randy Wootton (11:08):

And so in some cases, I think those folks might be a little afraid of technology. They don’t have the mental headspace to take it on, understand it. They can’t hire people. How are you seeing that play out, because now you’re at the AICPA, so this broader remit, national remit working globally as well? We’ll talk a little bit about the future of finance work that you led, but just on this topic of technology and how your member constituencies are embracing it or being scared of it or what’s happening on that front.

Tom Hood (11:38):

What’s fascinating, Randy, I think I even pointed this out. So in 1999, we did the Vision Project. One of the really insightful pieces, and it’s one of those things where I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I look back on it, and you actually triggered a lot of that when I sent you the report, we were talking about it, I look back and we had an adoption curve in there. And one of the things our consultant identified early on was the fact that like everything else, there’s the Rogers diffusion of innovation curve or aka the adoption curve, Jeffrey Moore has kind of commercialized it. What it did, is it said that our profession like everybody else, is that bell curve. And so when you go from the early adopters, I think 13% from innovator, early adopter, then you have to get to the early majority and they call that crossing the chasm, and then early majority to late majority, and then you get down into the laggards.


So our profession, the bulk of our profession is in maybe early majority and late majority. But the fact is that late majority, they don’t do anything unless it’s proven and pure. So they’re not just going to go out and try some of that stuff. So I think what’s happened is if you look at our whole profession, the bulk of them were always waiting for things to be tried and true before they ever started to adopt. And then the adoption went over time. So as a profession, we aren’t known as being the first to jump into anything.


So that’s been the experience over these 20 years in terms of how fast are we moving? And we would argue that we probably should have been moving a little faster. I would hope that what we’re doing between what we did back then and now we’re encouraging giving CPAs and now CGMAs kind of the way to see the future and then hopefully get moving a little faster on their adoption, only because it’s more about survival now. And quite frankly, realizing this vision that technology can actually do a lot of the work for us if we let it. And I think that was the bane of my existence as a CFO. I’m sitting there trying to close the books. It would take me three weeks to close the books at that highway construction company. The CEO’s walking in going, “I want to know what’s happening next week.” I said, “I can’t tell you what happened last month.”

Randy Wootton (14:07):

Yeah, yeah. No, a great segue for a couple of things. One is just wrapping up this idea as a CEO, three-time CEO, I don’t want my CFO taking risks. And I think to your point, people that go into that profession are looking to be experts to be the people with the answer. They’re being held accountable for a testing and governance and compliance, and so they don’t want to introduce risk.


But technology is moving so quickly from Excel to database to now AI informed black box analysis that I think the CFOs will talk about this a little bit later, the modern CFOs are going to have to embrace it or have people on their team. But I do think this is where the AICPA provides a great service to their clientele. And the summits you do and the conferences, the Digital CPA conference where people can kind of hear about what’s tried and true now and where are people experimenting. So we haven’t talked about the AICPA. Can you introduce it? You’ve been there for the last three years with a very specific remit, but for people who may not know the AICPA, what is the organization’s remit?

Tom Hood (15:13):

So the AICPA officially the American Institute of CPAs, and about around 10 years ago, they actually did a merger with the CIMA Group, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, and created the AICPA CIMA. So CIMA was the management accounting group from the UK, started about the same time as the AICPA about 106 years ago. And that group brought the whole management accounting discipline in a big way to the AICPA. Thus, my remit in the America’s market is to basically move management accounting via the CGMA into the corporate accounting discipline. I was a business and industry member as a CPA versus my counterparts in public accounting, which when people hear CPA, that’s who you usually think about. That’s your auditor, the people doing tax, et cetera.


But about 40% of us were in corporate doing corporate CFO type roles so as CPAs. So now we brought the whole management accounting in. So we’re about 690,000 members strong in about 180 countries. So that global presence, Barry Melancon had a vision that we had to be relevant in a global marketplace. So thus, getting to that kind of mass of accounting and finance professionals global gives us that seat at the table. We literally have our advocacy group in Washington DC. We have another one over in Brussels for the EU. So we’re weighing in on all the major stuff that’s going on that could affect all of those members around the world in both public accounting and corporate or management accounting.

Randy Wootton (17:05):

Great. Lots of acronyms. One that I learned talking with you I hadn’t heard about before was the CGMA and the fact it’s a higher certification than the CPA. And this is something that you guys own, I think in terms of you’re the largest CGMA certification unit. Can you talk a little bit about what that is and why when I’m looking for CFOs, I should be looking for people that have CGMAs, not just CPAs?

Tom Hood (17:32):

Yeah. So I would quantify that just a bit. I don’t know that it would be higher than a CPA, but it would be more relevant for a CFO than a CPA or it would be a CPA plus a CGMA, in fact. So CGMA stands for Chartered Global Management Accountant, CGMA. It’s based on the CIMA, got a royal charter actually from the Queen of England to have that designation. So they own that designation.

Randy Wootton (18:01):

Interesting. Got it.

Tom Hood (18:02):

Which is different than the US CPA, which we don’t own. It’s actually in the law in all the licensing jurisdictions, states and territories. So we can’t do whatever we want with the CPA, that has to be done with legal work and through the national state boards of accountancy. So that’s where it’s different. Whereas the CGMA, we own that, it’s copyrighted.

Randy Wootton (18:26):

Got it.

Tom Hood (18:27):

That’s our credential. We can control what’s in it, who gets it, all that kind of stuff.

Randy Wootton (18:31):

Got it. And what we were talking about before, what was super interesting I think, was with that certification, it really introduces this idea of strategy as a skillset, and it helps the CFO bridge from controller to COO, CEO or partner. I talk about going from the back office to the front office where you’re moving from, “Hey, I’m dotting I’s crossing T’s and telling you what the cash is,” to I’m helping you with your monetization strategy and understanding when new pricing impacts win rates and churn rates. Can you talk a little bit about that area of expertise? I think it leads into both the conversation or the future of finance, and then very specifically the changing skillset of the modern CFO.

Tom Hood (19:12):

Yeah. So you’re spot on there, Randy, and actually you did pretty good understanding that and playing that back. I’m impressed. So the CGMA Finance Leadership program, we call it, and it generally can take about three years if you start right out of a junior college or entry-level college. But if you have an accounting degree, you actually come in at what we call the mid-level, which is the management level of this credential. And if you’re a CPA, you actually come in at what we call the strategic case study level. So that level has effectively three major buckets. One is strategic management, one is risk management, and a third is financial strategy.


But to your point, they’re all strategic. There’s no accounting per se in there. It’s about the strategy of running the business, which would include today’s modern B2B type approaches or modern SaaS businesses, technology. All those pieces are entered into that and it’s scenario based. So unlike the typical multi-choice type exams, this is all scenarios as you learn where you’re actually put in positions and the CEO comes in and says, “‘We have a supply chain problem, what should we do?” Or your new CEO comes in and says, “We’re going to implement a new ERP system, what should we…” So it’s those kinds of very strategic pieces that get to that kind of new role, which as you said, we’re seeing CFOs moving a lot into COO roles and even CEO roles more than we’ve ever seen now, which is pretty exciting from a career. And your point, from back office to front office is exactly what our future finance group talks about, the future CFO, we call him now the Chief Future Officer.

Randy Wootton (21:12):

Oh, ha. You got a marketing person in there that helped you with that, huh?

Tom Hood (21:15):

No, this is what our group came up with obviously.

Randy Wootton (21:17):

Okay. Oh, look at you guys.

Tom Hood (21:19):

They started talking about, we said, “All right, just identify where are we going from and too,” and we went from hindsight to strategic foresight, from rearview mirror to windshield. I mean that’s the difference.

Randy Wootton (21:33):

Just very tactical question, as I’m learning about CPAs, it sounds like there is an ongoing certification, CPE sort of credits that they need to take every year to maintain their certification. Is there something similar for the-

Tom Hood (21:48):


Randy Wootton (21:48):


Tom Hood (21:53):

So the answer is yes, the CGMA, is it because it’s not regulated the way the CPA is you don’t have to report it to a state board or any of those things? CPAs, on average, every state has slightly different timeframes, but it’s basically 40 hours per year of continuing education to keep current. The CGMA has a requirement of what they call CPD, continuing professional development. And that is basically you have to keep papers and a record of what you’re doing to continue to keep sharp, and you would have to report on that in periodic reporting. So it is a requirement to keep current, which we think for today’s finance person is like, look how fast stuff’s changing and you got to stay on top of it.

Randy Wootton (22:43):

Well, it’s been interesting for us, we’re working with a partner, I forget who it was, I actually met him at the AICPA executive forum, who helps companies like ours create content which qualifies for CPE credit. And so some of our webinars now are now being offered for CPE credit. So for people that are CGMA oriented, trying to move from financial reporting, the three financial statements, to business reporting using tools like Maxio or other tools out there and what that means, there are now credits people can take to count as CPA and I assume it would allow for the CPD as well.

Tom Hood (23:19):


Randy Wootton (23:19):

So I think super interesting. So just with that future of finance, it was 50 CFOs from public companies. So the most successful CFOs in our country, at least, you just released the finance report 3.0. I thought it was great. There were four areas in terms of insights around people needing to be tech-savvy, what the evolving role is, the shifting workplace hybrid model in ESG. We’ve talked a little bit about tech-savvy and we’ve just touched on this idea of the evolving role. Do you want to say a little bit more on the output of the future of finance or anything else you want to talk about the people that participated? And we’ll start in on the evolving role.

Tom Hood (24:03):

Yeah. All right. So there’s two parts of this, that what you’re talking about is our global research group researching this, and that was literally global CFOs interviewed for that research.

Randy Wootton (24:14):

Got it.

Tom Hood (24:15):

In addition, in the America’s market, what we put together is a future of finance leadership advisory group, which has 50 public company CFOs.

Randy Wootton (24:25):

Thanks for clarification. Yep.

Tom Hood (24:28):

So that group, we kind of validate that and talk about what’s it really mean and kind of talk about making it actionable. So it gives us that practical level of it. And we just had our summit back in December where this group, A, keeps its current or the current issues and talks about what this evolving role is. But effectively the evolving role is the movement to that chief future officer. It is the move from back office to front office and that expanded role of the CFO inside a business.


So we talk a lot about the notion of shifting to value partnering or value creating as opposed to just tracking the numbers and that’s the big shift. So we call it flipping the pyramid. It used to be 80% of our time was spent collecting and getting the data right, and 20% of our time was analyzing it. This new role is 80% of your time analyzing it, 20% of your time, making sure it’s right, because of automation. So we’re now literally on the threshold of what we’ve been talking about for 20 years was the beginning of automated financials. I think Gartner saying autonomous finance will be here in three to five years. Wow, that’s like a game… we’ve been talking about for 20 years, it’s finally on our doorstep.

Randy Wootton (25:56):

And I think that was one of the things when we were talking before, we’ve hit the inflection point and you’re talking a little bit about the Future of Finance Summit in December and Gartner joined. Now I have this note and I can’t read my writing, but it was something I wrote more than they, Gartner, ever expected. Say a little bit about that. So Gartner, who are the analysts starting the future? Was it because of the dialogue that was unfolding in December with the people that were participating that Gartner was like, “Oh gosh, we really are at this inflection point and they hadn’t fully realized it,” or what was playing out there?

Tom Hood (26:28):

I think it’s two things. I think Gartner got to validate what they said. Actually, I was at the Gartner CFO conference. That’s where we kind of got a really good connection with those guys in last May. And at that conference, Alex Band, who’s the guy that we’re working with, him and Marco Horvath, Alex made this comment that we’re now in the brink of the Fifth Industrial Revolution. So I’ve been doing a lot of work around the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which has already been crazy. He literally said, “As CFOs, you’re going to be in the driver’s seat of the Fifth Industrial Revolution, which we are now entering because of ChatGPT of course.” That just accelerated all of the automation. And here’s how it showed up at our Future of Finance Summit, we always poll the group on the top five or six issues, and for the last three years we’ve polled them and they stayed pretty consistent. This year it was fascinating. Digital transformation took the number one spot, which used to be finding and retaining talent. Number two out of nowhere was GenAI and AI. That’s what blew Gartner away in that sense.

Randy Wootton (27:44):

Got it.

Tom Hood (27:45):

And then number three is the need for new skills, which is exactly what we’ve been talking about. Four was finding and retaining talent, and five was maintaining culture in a hybrid work environment, obviously the hangover from COVID that everybody’s experiencing. But what fascinated me was that when Gartner presented on GenAI, they said that in most of the companies, and our group confirmed it, the CFO is leading GenAI, not just in the company use cases, but if they’re doing any kind of products like tech companies, often the CFO is involved in leading that along with a cohort of other key business owners.

Randy Wootton (28:30):

Why is that, do you think? What is it unique about the CFO skill or are they the ones that are playing cops to make sure that people are not sharing data and-

Tom Hood (28:39):

I think it’s a combination, Randy, that’s what we found out. So first of all, they know where all the data is and they’ve got the controls or arms around that.

Randy Wootton (28:49):

Right. Business systems and financial systems right?

Tom Hood (28:50):

Correct. So they figure that’s essential as you start moving GenAI through your organization. But I think the second one was how many of them have moved into that strategic level? So if they’re at that strategic level, they wanted them at the table and helping to direct that initiative.

Randy Wootton (29:09):

I just want to come back to the fifth generation or Fifth Industrial Revolution. I was familiar with steam, electric, electricity, I guess computers was in there. Fourth generation, I’m not totally clear. My assumption is the Fifth Industrial Revolution has something about our mind melding with technology. But what’s the distinction between fourth and Fifth Industrial Revolution?

Tom Hood (29:32):

So I’ve been spending a bunch of time on this, because theoretically I’m in Baltimore, which apparently was the epicenter of the Second Industrial Revolution, which is where accounting came from.

Randy Wootton (29:44):

Oh, interesting.

Tom Hood (29:46):

So we had the B&O Railroad, opened up a whole bunch of transportation and shipping goods. We had a seaport, so we had a big global shipping thing, and then we had major manufacturers here in the harbor. So Domino Sugar, I could see them across from where I’m sitting right now, that company is 120 years old. They’re still here cranking out sugar in a much more automated way. But because of electricity, that changed the game on basically what created that Second Industrial Revolution, which meant businesses became much bigger, faster in scale. In that scaling, they needed accounting to account for these more complex businesses.

Randy Wootton (30:34):

Interesting. Yeah.

Tom Hood (30:35):

That’s when the Maryland Association of CPAs was born 1901, right on the brink of that. Most of the whole profession in the United States came from that. Over in Europe, our sister CIMA grew up on an Industrial Revolution over there, which was sparked more by World War I and the massive manufacturing that happened as a result, which was mainly electricity, giving that flexibility for steel and everything to be moved around a lot better. So now you go to Fourth Industrial Revolution, what they say that was, was a convergence. Effectively it’s basically this device, the iPhone, when Steve Jobs introduced it, it was the combination of ubiquitous internet, unlimited storage and massive processing power.

Randy Wootton (31:26):

And data and just enormous terabytes of data being created all the time. And so some way of putting those things together to try to make sense of the data, right?

Tom Hood (31:36):

Correct. So that was the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Now what they’re saying is the Fifth Industrial Revolution really triggered by ChatGPT, this whole GenAI, artificial intelligence. We have no idea what it will mean all the way yet, but we’ll know it’s going to be moving at light speed.

Randy Wootton (31:56):

It’s interesting. So my first gig as a CEO, I had moved over from Salesforce to Rocket Fuel, which was a first generation AI company. We built out all of our own servers, $200 million on the servers. We were a public company when I joined, and we were doing predictive logistic regression analysis, cranking out like a billion bid transactions a day. So mind-boggling data. And at that time in AI, this would be 2015, it was inaccessible to most people, because you had to build your own servers. You didn’t have AWS, you basically storage it free, compute free, and you had to have real specialists, data scientists to build the models, monitor the models, audit the models. We 30 data scientists and we had 30 to 40 people who were focused on helping our clients understand how to leverage the models to optimize their media spend. At that time, AI was really, I think, perceived as I talk about Terminator versus Jetsons, right?


Terminator, the AI is going to take over the world. Jetsons is going to make our life better. Today I think people are using terms like doomer and boomer, what is the future going to be? And for media planners and buyers at that time, they were flipped out that their jobs are going to be taken away. And what we try to position it as was there’s going to be augmented intelligence. They were going to be better at what they were doing using and leveraging the tools. I think GenAI, sort of what made it powerful on many fronts was just anybody could interface and do prompt engineering in an application and you’re getting the power.


It’s sort of the same story of, hey, the power in your phone is more powerful than the computers that guided the first landing on the moon. Now you have access to this incredible algorithms at large language, also its generative versus predictive. But second gen, I think you’re right, this idea of a Fifth Industrial Revolution in terms of how we think about engaging with augmented intelligence across every function in my company, we’re talking about it. And I think for accounting in particular, it’s going to be radically changed and it’s going to bump up against that natural tendency of accountants to not want to embrace technology. So how is that playing out in terms of the shifting workplace and the hybrid model, one of the other components of the future of finance?

Tom Hood (34:14):

Well, so all of our CFOs from that meeting that we had in December, actually even a little bit before that, we’re all saying this is something major that they’re all dealing with. And so what we’re doing at the association is we’re trying to really ramp up the ability to educate members. So we’ve been working with a couple of futurists. We had an AI symposium, we brought in, kind of convened the regulators, the standard centers, the tech companies and members, and literally started to talk about what are these big issues and some of our future finance folks were there and it was game changing. So we’re trying to stay ahead of it as much as we possibly can, but bottom line, we’re trying to make sure we educate the members so they understand both the good and bad with this. We got a GenAI toolkit to say, “You need to start playing with it and approaching it so you understand it.” And so we’re trying to really ramp that up. And then inside the organization we’re trying to do the same thing, implementing it across all of our areas that we possibly can.

Randy Wootton (35:17):

Yeah, it’s been a C change. And obviously not the first one to say this, but if young people today are not starting from a place of, “Hey, can ChatGPT help me with this assignment, or I’m starting to code, I’m going to use ChatGPT or copilot to help generate code.” It will be as important as having a pen. I don’t even know they write anymore, but it will be a third arm. And if you don’t understand how to do that, you’re going to be left behind.

Tom Hood (35:45):

Yeah. There’s no question. And I think to your point, the augmented idea is spot on and the area is you plus ChatGPT or GenAI are going to be much better than you without it, and that’s how you’re going to compete. Those who have it are going to win. Those who don’t are going to ultimately lose over time.

Randy Wootton (36:06):

That’s great. So we’re talking about the changing skill set of modern CFOs. We’ve hit this inflection point. We’ve been talking a little bit about the need for tech savviness, the need to move from the back office to the front office, rearview to the windshield, adaptability. The one thing we haven’t talked about, which I think is so interesting, because you by your very nature, are obviously a networker. You like people, you build relationships, you connect folks. I mean, I’ve been very grateful for the connections you’ve made.


In general, I don’t think of CFOs and CPAs necessarily being those that spike high on emotional intelligence and extrovert. And I think of it more as like, “I’m cracking my Excel. I want to be the expert. Come to me when you have a question. I’m going to answer it.” But I think one of the things you talk about, and maybe we’ll just wrap up on this, is the importance of the relationship with the peers at the C level. And so for them to be valuable to your earlier point, how do they demonstrate value? How are you taking CPAs and accountants and training them to embrace their inner lover?

Tom Hood (37:14):

Yeah. So it’s funny that you say that. I think for me, most of that came from my experience in the association world. So joining the association, being active on committees. So that was outside of work, but it was a safe place to learn leadership skills, collaboration, communication. The Vision Project, which was a massive collaboration project, taught me massive collaboration. And pretty quickly I realized, Randy, that I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but the room is always really smart. And so to this day, I firmly believe if you get a bunch of CPAs in a room, give them the right context. Here are the major trends and issues that we see, what do you think? And then ask them to help create what do we do about it? It’ll always be a really good output, because I’m an introvert by-

Randy Wootton (38:15):

Really, I would never have guessed, oh my gosh.

Tom Hood (38:18):

I’m a big introvert, but I’ve learned that I’ve got to be able to communicate. So that’s a big part. But when we started to do the research on the skills, this goes back to the Vision Project and continued all through the other parts of it, we ended up with this T-shaped professional. So on top of our technical skills, we got to obviously have the technical accounting, we have to have some data literacy and understanding technology. So there are the deep technical skills that come with that accounting or finance degree. But across the top, we need what we call boundary crossing competencies. And those are leadership and sense-making, anticipating and serving evolving needs, synthesizing critical strategic thinking. The other one would be communication and storytelling, and then obviously integration and collaboration. And then you can add agility. That agility showed up in the last three years as one of the top five or six.


But those skills allow you to your point, work with your peers in a much more collaborative way. So once you understand collaboration and strategic thinking, then you can actually make those relationships really work to your benefit and to the benefit of your function.

Randy Wootton (39:42):

Wow. There’s so much we could go, we’re going to have to do a whole other episode on this. I remember when I was going to the Naval Academy back at 18, I had had some leadership experiences in sports and clubs, et cetera, and I thought very deliberately that going to the academy was going to be a leadership laboratory, and it’s where I was going to learn how to do it. And I joke since I graduated, I’ve been practicing and failing at leadership for 30 years or whatever it’s been.


But I do think there is these different inflection points. So when you move from an individual contributor to a manager, from a manager to director, and now you’re directing resources, strategy and people, you move from a director to a VP and you want to take the jump from VP to C-suite to being part of the first team, which Patrick Lencioni talks about, and there’s other great books. To be effective, it’s not what, it’s how. It’s how you interact with people, how you show up, how you think about problems, how you ask the right questions. And it sounds like this T-shape is really embracing this idea of you can move from VP of finance to CFO, but you’re going to be working on a completely different set of skills.

Tom Hood (40:48):

Yep. Correct. Well, I would argue that in addition to that, your perspective has to shift, but you have to have a longer view of the world. I call that the wide angle view. And you’ve got to understand the trends and issues that are coming at you from a business standpoint or even your remit.

Randy Wootton (41:08):

Yeah, just the last point on that is absolutely, I talked to my team about what is your altitude? And so a manager should be grinding out what needs to happen over the next month. If they’re in their people’s work every day, they’re probably micromanaging, but they need to be accountable for the month. I think of directors and the size companies that I work with are really helping you to execute on quarterly plans. What are the set of key results we need to deliver on the quarter? What are the metrics we’re going to be watching? Now they’re starting to do some systems thinking. When you get to a VP, it’s kind of like you need to be involved in the operating plan that’s articulating what are the strategy and tactics, priorities and trade-offs that we need to be thinking about for the next year. And then if you’re the C-suite, like 70% of your time should be, how are we transforming this business? What’s our next act? How are we thinking about where we’re going to be in two to three years?


If I’m spending times, “Hey, you need to send this email today, Mr. or Ms. Salesperson,” I’m totally over-functioning. And I think one of the challenges we see with early-stage companies is the inability of founder CEOs to recognize it’s a different altitude. And as they get bigger and the organization scales, and actually when you bring CFOs in, we see that usually happening, fractional CFOs or CFOs coming in around 30 employees. Well, then you look for a different skill set at 150, which is different than 500. But I do think, to your point, Tom, it really is about how do you lift your gaze, I think you said wide angle, see what’s happening, be able to connect dots. And the point you made in our interview, I thought it was great initially, was move from the realm of certainty to the realm of uncertainty. And this wide angle lens means it’s going to be less certain. There’s going to be lots of options, but how do you build a point of view using assumptions, sharing data, and then making a bet?

Tom Hood (42:56):

Well, and you made the point earlier that CFOs or accounting, we like to be certain, we like to be the expert, we like to know everything. And in this new world, and this is where I think ESG is doing us a favor, because it’s pushing us into the intangibles, things that aren’t certain, that don’t have a history that we’ve measured and know how to talk about. So we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, being ambiguous and figuring out what’s it all mean.

Randy Wootton (43:24):

And can you just tell people what ESG stands for?

Tom Hood (43:27):

So ESG is the whole movement, environmental, social, and governance, and it’s tied in into corporate social responsibility. Another acronym, if we want to. We could go down a whole layer of alphabet soup, but it’s being mandated theoretically by the SEC at some point. We have a whole bunch of standards coming out on it. This is a trend that really came over from the EU and is moving fast. Now you’ve got political issues in the United States about it, but nevertheless, all these big corporates are involved in ESG reporting through the accounting side.

Randy Wootton (44:04):

What do they call it? Like the triple bottom line or something like that?

Tom Hood (44:07):

Yes. Yep. Yep. People, plan, and profits.

Randy Wootton (44:10):

Yeah, yeah, people, plan, and profit. Yeah. No, it’s one of those areas where I’m kind of like, oh, yeah, one day I’ll worry about it. But at my size and stage, we’re just trying to close deals.

Tom Hood (44:20):

I hear you. I hear you.

Randy Wootton (44:21):

Get paid. Make sure our accounting statements are right. Well, Tom, look, it’s been great. I always enjoyed chatting with you. I think just today was awesome talking about your background and relevant experience, and then really this transformation that you’re seeing and helping to lead for not just CPAs or CGMAs, but CFOs writ large. Congratulations on the work you’ve done today. It’ll be a lot of fun to watch what you do going forward, and we’ll make sure that people have access to the reports we cited. For them to get in touch with you other than going to the AICPA website, what’s the LinkedIn… Aren’t you one of the top LinkedIn people followed and all that?

Tom Hood (45:01):

Yeah, one of the top 100 influencers, I think I have 700,000 followers, but they can hit me up on LinkedIn or they can shoot me an email. It’s tom.hood at aicpa-cima.com. So either one of those, and I’ll get in touch with them.

Randy Wootton (45:16):

Awesome. Well, again, thank you for your time. It’s been a great pleasure.

Tom Hood (45:19):

Randy, this has been a bunch of fun. Thank you very much.