Hope Dmuchowski is a banking veteran, having spent 19 of her 20 years in finance within that industry.
Named CFO and a senior executive vice president of regional financial services company First Horizon in late 2021, Dmuchowski began her career on Wall Street at Deutsche Bank in the leadership development program. Seven years later, she joined BB&T (now Truist) as the financial reporting manager before moving through a range of positions that included group director, CFO for business and corporate divisions, and director of financial planning and analysis.
Throughout her career, she has been responsible for running integrated businesses and economic models, budgeting, forecasting, financial analysis, regulatory reporting, and operations.
CFO and senior executive vice president, First Horizon
- First CFO position: 2017
- Notable previous companies:
- Deutsche Bank
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
SANDRA BECKWITH: How did your background help lead you to the chief financial officer position at First Horizon?
Hope Dmuchowski: When I was hired here, First Horizon was just coming off a merger of equals and determining the best way to move forward. I’ve been through large mergers and seen a lot in my experience with investment banking and small and mid-cap-size banks and could help identify changes needed. In addition, I started my career in an extremely high-paced, competitive, and challenging environment where I had to continually adapt to new teams. They were looking for someone who could both envision the future as the combined organizations doubled in size, and thrive in that type of ever-changing environment.
How does your in-depth banking background, and perhaps your earlier group CFO role, affect how you do the job?
Dmuchowski: I’m a better leader when I can understand what my team is doing at a detailed level versus from an executive perspective. It’s difficult to lead a team when you haven’t done the work yourself in the past. I have experience in the various areas I lead, either from doing a rotation or having led them as a group CFO. Having that experience gives me a better appreciation for their end-to-end work and helps me add value.
What part of the CFO’s job is more difficult for you, given your background?
Dmuchowski: The biggest learning curve for me in this role has been dealing with the analyst and investor communities. It's not that it's harder than anything else, it’s just that unless you’ve worked in investor relations, you don't get this experience until you get into the CFO seat. I had been here less than two weeks before I met with analysts, so I expected them to take it a little easy on me at first. That lasted for one question. The next questions were the same as they would have asked a CFO who had been in the seat for 10 years.
It’s difficult to lead a team when you haven’t done the work yourself in the past.
Is there any part of the CFO role that comes more easily to you because of your background?
Dmuchowski: Nothing is necessarily easy in this role. That being said, as a highly competitive person, I enjoy forecasting and then seeing how we performed against it at month’s end. Budgeting and forecasting is an art form. It’s knowing your business's expense base, the economic environment, and how you think your company will perform through it.
Was becoming CFO always the goal?
Dmuchowski: Fifteen years ago, I would have told you my goal was to become a chief operating officer. Most of the back-office functions in small banks then reported to the COO — technology, corporate real estate, sourcing, sometimes human resources, and even treasury. Since then, a lot of banks have eliminated the COO role and moved parts of it over to the CFO. Until a CFO friend pointed out to me that new CFOs getting hired in banking were more well-rounded, many with a background in business, I never considered it as a possible career path.
I enjoy forecasting and then seeing how we performed against it at month’s end. Budgeting and forecasting is an art form.
Would you recommend the path you followed to others who’d like to become CFOs?
Dmuchowski: If your goal is to be a C-suite executive in the banking industry, I recommend getting as much experience as possible in different business lines. If you want to be a CFO, do a rotation in accounting and treasury to gain that essential core knowledge. I wouldn’t advise spending more than two to three years in any one role, though. There is no way to know how the position will evolve over the next five to 10 years. However, adaptability, knowledge, and experience will always be valuable assets in the CFO seat.
Sandra Beckwith is a freelance business writer.