One hundred. Whatever I might be referring to when I cite that number, it’s a milestone of some sort. I’m not sure if it’s just because it is the first triple-digit that we become aware of in life, but it means something significant.
Perhaps it is the number of vintage baseball cards you have in your collection. Or the first time you can remember having $100 in your bank account as a child. Or maybe, for our more intense workout warriors, it’s the number of miles you ran this week. Or even over the weekend.
So, how old is the phrase “CFO?”
I’m sure some of you have done a deep dive into the origins and evolution of the job title most of you now have. It’s fun to think of the phrase “master of coin,” and even funnier that Elon Musk’s finance chief in 2021 gave himself that job title.
Maybe “chief financial officer” as a term didn’t show up in the early 1900s, over 100 years ago, but the idea was probably there, as banks, capital, and lending became strategically crucial to fueling the Industrial Revolution and the United States’ rapid ascent to global economic leadership. What started as bookkeeping and probably was defined as the “financial manager” of the company would eventually become strategic, especially as the regulatory environment became increasingly complex.
He asserts the CFO popped up in the 1960s and became monumentally important in the 1970s. You can probably guess why. But essentially, the role of the finance manager didn’t have a seat at the table for the first 50 years of its existence. But in the second 50 years, its impact on the growth of organizations was staggering. And perhaps exponentially so in the last 10.
But the real reason I’m fixated on 100 today is because, over the weekend, I drove to Maine, N.Y., to attend my great aunt’s 100th birthday. It’s an achievement that a select few in world history get to claim, and even today, based on a global population of over eight billion, there are maybe 500,000 or so centenarians, statistically zero percent.
And if you were 100 years old, what might you have observed since 1924? Well, for starters, your parents survived the Civil War and a World War. As noted above, “CFO” didn’t exist. There was a Roaring 20’s, a Great Depression, another World War, the rise of global conflicts, a civil rights movement, Wall Street as an idea as much as a place, and the birth of artificial intelligence. Oh, and my Aunt Betty was about seven when Warren Buffett was born.
The CFO’s role has, to borrow the memorable words of Loretta Lynn, come a long way, baby. But what my great aunt reminded us all during the party, which felt like practically the entire town of Maine, is it is necessary to take a selah moment to pause and reflect.
As I think about 1924 and undertake 2024, let’s remember to do that, as well.
“Work as if you were to live a hundred years. Pray as if you were to die tomorrow.” — Benjamin Franklin