The CFO Leadership Council’s (CFOLC) expansion westwards kicked off this week in Tempe, Arizona. For the majority of the nearly 300 people in attendance, the event was the first exposure they had to the CFOLC community and its events. Much like previous events held by the leadership council, there was a strong family-like sentiment. CFOs from all industries shared stories, ideas, strategies, and lots of hugs.
On top of an event that felt more like a reunion than a conference, artificial intelligence (AI) talk dominated discussions. Glenn Hopper, a director with Eventus Advisory Group, gave a demonstration on how ChatGPT can complete a week’s worth of work for a finance leader in minutes. CFOs and other leaders at the event were quick to ask questions about the technology’s immediate impact on their roles, the greater economy, labor, and the very essence of what it means to be a productive and impactful CFO.
Below are four takeaways from CFO Leadership Conference West:
1. CFOs are Most Comfortable Around Each Other
Outside of the content and attendees available for networking, the strongest element of this event is its ability to remove the veil many executives bring to events. Rather than representing their company among peers and other executives with a sense of artificial professionalism, CFOs from companies of all sizes seemed to have their guard down. The relaxed environment allowed leaders to relinquish their normal “executive guard.”
2. Authenticity Over Perception
Premier Claims’ CFO Melissa Hurrington, when asked about her LinkedIn community, said, “Authenticity is the most important thing an executive can portray.”
An embodiment of authenticity in the workplace, Hurrington was one of many in attendance who came in with an attitude of being themselves. This was evident in the attitude during interviews with event organizers, conversations at booths, and in the speaking panels attended by CFO.
3. AI’s Use Case is Evident
As was made clear in Hopper’s keynote, the use case of generative AI is real. From uploading financial statements to analyzing 10ks to writing code, generative AI’s benefit in the C-suite is potentially game-changing.
The technology, when used tactically, can do a week’s worth of work in five minutes. Many of the CFOs who were there for the first time, unfamiliar with Hopper’s recent talks on AI, had lots of questions about how to get started, stay competitive, and the future of their roles within an organization.
4. CFOs Want to Learn, Not Be Sold
A difficult line to walk, finance chiefs who spoke to CFO said they weren’t going to the event to be sold on products. While making connections may lead to future deals, the focus was on networking, learning, and widening the scope of their decision-making process.
Much like in previous events, vendor-driven breakout room sessions were prepared to be taken with a grain of salt by those who were aware of the intentions of some of the company speakers sharing their wisdom.