“Don’t sweat the small stuff … AFTER confirming that it’s small.” –CFO Charles Freund
When Charles Freund was named CFO of FLEETCOR in 2020 – his arrival in the c-suite became the latest chapter of a varied and lengthy career journey that paralleled the rise of the $2.6 billion fintech.
Accepting a position in FLEETCOR’s corporate development department, Freund joined the firm in the year 2000 when it was generating roughly only $30 million in annual sales and struggling to manage its cash flows.Read More
“On two separate occasions, the corporate controller called me and said, ‘Charles, I know we normally pay you on a Friday, but we’re not going to make it this week. Can you wait until next week?,’” recalls Freund.
In the years that followed, FLEETCOR found its strategic footing and Freund entered a succession of roles that would ultimately advance him into leadership positions overseeing FLEETCOR’s corporate strategy and global sales. What’s more, along the way FLEETCOR’s future CFO served as a general manager for the company’s developing markets.
“I know and understand what’s behind the scenes more than others who haven’t had these kinds of experience. This is no knock on anyone—it’s just because I’ve lived it,” reports Freund, when asked whether he had missed out from not having pursued a more traditional finance career path.
Asked to provide some insight into how his past experiences might influence his approach to the sales function, Freund explains: “I say ‘Look, I want your business to grow 10% next year.’ I then layer in my retention assumptions and other things to create a model that basically drives this performance, with what types of investments are required and so forth.”
Still, Freund’s most pressing challenges as CFO are likely tied to the more than 80 acquisitions that FLEETCOR has completed over the past two decades.
According to FLEETCOR’s finance chief, the fintech is embarking on a finance transformation designed to better integrate its operations around the world, beginning with the numbers.
“Over the next 12 months, we’ll be implementing a new global chart of accounts. What this means is that we’ll be cleaning up the chart of accounts around the world so that we speak kind of the same language,” remarks Freund, who adds that it’s also time to replace the company’s patchwork quilt of different ERP systems—another legacy of FLEETCOR’s acquisitive past. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about FLEETCOR. What does it do, and what sets its offerings apart in the market today?
Freund: First, FLEETCOR is a fintech, so we’re a technology-driven provider of financial services, but we’re not a bank. I want to make sure that people know this. We’re really in what we call the “spend management” space. What we provide to businesses is tools to control what gets purchased by employees and what gets paid by the A/P department, so you can control it on the front end by either allowing a purchase to happen or not. Or if someone has already made a purchase that’s outside of policy, you could control on the back end what gets paid. What we have found is that these smarter payment methods help our clients to spend less. They have greater insight and greater control over what’s happening. By spending less, they retain more profit. This is the real value proposition of all of our products around the world.Read More
For the coming 12 months, we will be continuing a multiyear transformational journey. One thing that we’re doing is implementing a new global chart of accounts. We’ve grown a lot through acquisitions. FLEETCOR has done some 80 to 90 acquisitions over our 20-year history. We’re now cleaning up the chart of accounts around the world, so that we all speak the same language, which should be helpful. We are going to implement this global planning tool this year.
We’re also transitioning off of a legacy ERP system this year and have plans over the next 3 years to reduce the number of ERPs, many of which we inherited through acquisitions. We’re sourcing new tax software for next year. And then we’ve got four or five different HR systems. We have a plan to reduce this footprint over time. We’ll move down to about three next year and then see where we go from there, so there are a lot of system-related things to standardize, simplify, and automate.
FLEETCOR | www.fleetcor.com | Atlanta GA