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From a career development standpoint, one of the best things that William Acheson did to reach the CFO office was stepping away from corporate finance and accounting for 15 years. After coming up on the public accounting track, the GWG Holdings finance chief immersed himself in investment banking, the residential mortgage industry, capital markets, risk management, credit management, and more, while taking on a variety of operational roles. He also accepted long-term international assignments for Merrill Lynch and GMAC-RESCAP. Acheson credits his accounting training and skills for helping him to add value in his many operations positions: “As I got older and my career progressed, I found myself perfectly suited for the CFO job because I had gained that breadth of experience.” Now, as the 30-year veteran mentors rising finance and accounting talent at GWG Holdings, a leader in the fast-growing secondary life insurance market, he advises those interested in the CFO track to “leave accounting, but always keep in touch with it.”
Guest: William Acheson
Company: GWG Holdings
Headquarters: Minneapolis, MN
CFOTL: As a finance leader, what metrics are top-of-mind?
Acheson: We look at, on the life insurance side of it, three main kinds of metrics. One of them is our cashflow. Anybody who gets to a CFO role will be highly in tune with cashflow. We look at the internal rate of returns that we’re getting on our investments.
Those are our main two, really–we monitor those very closely. But we also are now getting into the operations a little bit, because it’s important for a CFO to understand the operations. On the life insurance side, we look at our pipeline, we keep track of what’s going on in terms of our products that we’re delivering out to the customers. What stage are they in? Are they taking too long? Is the pipeline growing or shrinking?
We are very focused to measure and track the dollars that we’re giving to insurance policy owners over and above what their other opportunities would have been with that policy. So it’s a little bit like a net promoter score.
But I’d say not really, other than that one on the life insurance side and whatever kind of minimally viable product we have in the market as it relates to the epigenetics. I would say no; in the epigenetic world I would expect more to evolve there as we start thinking about the different things that we can do for a customer based upon our research that may have zero to do with our gaining financially. And by that I can think of things like health and wellness and access to health and healthcare and understanding – kind of a health literacy. That’s not upon us here yet. I could see that as being an outcome that would be important for our team and our company to track. Right now we don’t; we’re not far enough along.
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