As we seek to highlight the milestones that mark the path to the CFO office, one of our favorite queries is to ask finance leaders to recall from their career-building years the first time they presented to their company’s board.
For Adriana Carpenter, memories of that board gathering will forever call to mind ASC 606, the mazelike revenue standard that only a few years ago upended the placid temperament of many an accounting organization.Read More
“Make no mistake—this was really my first time, and I was delivering bad news,” recalls Adriana, who perhaps not unlike many of her CFO peers received her first “invitation” to address the board regarding a sticky issue, rather than to highlight the anatomy of a strategic win.
“A majority of our revenue came from on-premises software subscriptions, and 606 dramatically changed the timing of revenue for these types of subscriptions,” continues Carpenter, who for 8 years served as chief accounting officer for Ping Identity, a developer of identity security software.
For Ping, the timing issue meant that the company would be required to take a big cash hit on the eve of realizing its goal of selling shares to the public.
“606 distorted our revenue and EBITDA numbers, which really forced us to figure out how to explain to investors what was really happening in the business,” comments Carpenter, who entered the boardroom that day with a portfolio of accounting experience that any board worth its salt would have savored.
Carpenter had arrived at Ping 5 years earlier, just as the company had begun the tricky journey from being a perpetual revenue model to evolving into the subscription revenue mode.
“Within that first year at Ping, I led the complete overhaul of our quote to cash process, which included everything from revamping how we were selling our software to helping to implement additional software modules to enable the business to scale,” remarks Carpenter, whose tenure as Ping’s CAO involved navigating not only the differences between revenue models but also the differences between owners as Ping went from VC to private equity ownership.
Then came 606’s timing issue and Carpenter’s invitation from the board. While milestones along the path to the CFO office frequently vary as far as time and place go, Carpenter’s arrival inside the CFO office at Emburse within 3 years of having received Ping’s boardroom invitation makes us think that perhaps timing is indeed everything. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Emburse … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Carpenter: Our mission at Emburse is to humanize work by optimizing the ways in which companies spend money, saving users time so that they can focus on what matters most, which is family, community, more rewarding work—you name it. We think about spend as really being in three broad categories. The first is your typical travel and reimbursement type. The second is invoice spend that’s processed through AP. The third is what we sometimes call unmanaged spend, but this is really like your department or P-card spend that’s typically purchased by an employee with a company or personal credit card. We use our Unified Spend Optimization platform to automate the end-to-end process for all of these spend modalities.Read More
We layer on an analytics tool to help to provide real-time visibility into the spend and identify opportunities for cost optimization—perhaps through vendor consolidation or taking advantage of discounts to realize hard dollar savings for the company. We also partner this with our audit platform, which will look at policies about fraudulent spend that can sometimes push real savings to the company.
Most recently, we’ve introduced our payment functions. These allow our customers to make payments in various ways, whether it’s through sending ACH payments to vendors or issuing virtual cards to employees for travel spend or, say, providing for an IT who needs to purchase a SaaS subscription. The really cool thing about our platform is that we’re leveraging the data feeds from our partners to capture the expense details at the point of transaction, thereby providing instant visibility into spend for the business. It’s also automating that reconciliation process for finance.
A few of the things that we do that differentiate us from our competitors are that, for example, while we do issue our own virtual cards, we also have heard from customers who have existing relationships with a bank whose corporate cards they want to continue to use, so we partner with those institutions to offer their cards on our platform—and we call this “banking-as-a-service.” We also realized that our SMB customers have different requirements from our more complex midmarket and enterprise ones, so we have separate offerings for those target markets to meet the customers where they’re at.
We believe that you can’t humanize work unless you’re also thinking about the employee who’s initiating the spend. We want to make it super simple for employees to spend money, while at the same time keeping controls in place for finance. For this we have our next-generation mobile app, which provides things like traveler support and the ability to request or obtain virtual cards for spend. It creates automation of expense reports. My most favorite feature is the ESG functionality, which include features that look after the employee’s well-being. It can provide employees with travel information, places to work out when they’re traveling, or places to go eat. It also will check in on the employee’s well-being when they’re away from home. It can even give employees carbon footprint data to help them to make more sustainable choices if they so choose.
“Lead with authenticity and integrity, even if that means your leadership style looks different than those around you.” – Adriana Carpenter, CFO, Emburse
Emburse | www.emburse.com | Los Angeles