CFO Snapshot: Hertz’s Elyse Douglas

The finance chief describes making the leap from treasurer to CFO.
Kate O'SullivanJuly 24, 2012

Name: Elyse Douglas
Title: CFO
Company: The Hertz Corp.

When did you know you wanted to be a CFO? When did you start to actively pursue that path?
Essentially, when I was approached by Hertz CEO Mark Frissora about being the company’s CFO is when I seriously began to consider the position and taking on the responsibility. My previous experience was specialized in treasury, and the possibility of taking on a larger, broader role in the overall finance arena was extremely appealing and exciting.

Looking back, what was the most important career decision you made?
Being offered and accepting a position with Hertz was pivotal for my career. The position was a bigger job with a more leveraged and complicated balance sheet, and treasury at Hertz is an integral part of the company’s operations. Hertz is as much a finance company as a service company, and being treasurer positioned me for the CFO role.

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What was the hardest part about getting the CFO title?
Treasury is a specialized field and essentially a “support” role with defined functions. As a CFO, it was new for me to take on a broader role, managing larger, more diverse groups within the financial arena. It took some time, but becoming accustomed to having a high-level focus and relinquishing the need to know all of the details proved to be the biggest adjustment for me.

What has been your best day on the job? What about your worst day on the job?
One of most rewarding aspects as CFO is being on the ground floor and playing an integral part in the various acquisitions we’ve completed throughout the years. There’s nothing more satisfying than submitting a bid and subsequently acquiring a new company. So those days when we formally announce a potential acquisition, straight through to the actual closing of a deal, are always very rewarding. Conversely, when an acquisition doesn’t pan out, those days can be dispiriting.

Who or what has been your best source of advice?
The guidance and leadership provided by our CEO, Mark Frissora, has been invaluable. In particular, Mark’s willingness to secure a coach for me (a seasoned CFO in the public arena) and that individual’s time, talent, and insights have been indispensable.

Of the many skills you need to be a good CFO, which one do you think is most critical?
A CFO oversees all of the functions within the financial area: treasury, tax, SOX compliance, internal controls, mergers and acquisitions, etc. It is critical to have the right person in each defined role to operate efficiently. This cannot be accomplished without having solid people-management skills. Sometimes that means making difficult decisions, but that’s essential to having a well-run organization.

What’s your best advice for aspiring CFOs?
It’s important for aspiring CFOs to take control of their careers, to take chances, and to go after their goals. It’s also critical that aspiring CFOs not become stale in their positions or in their knowledge base. They must stay current, they must continue to learn, and they must be diligent in keeping their skill sets aligned with the demands of the job.

What is your dream job?
While I love my position at Hertz, I’ve always wanted to work for an organization that gives back to society; specifically, an organization that provides education for urban, underprivileged children. I recently became aware of a New York City–based organization, Turnaround for Children, and am absolutely fascinated by the work they are doing and the positive impact they have upon so many children’s lives.