Storied CFO Chris Liddell isn’t quite sure what his next career move is going to be. He does know what it’s not going to be.
“It’s very unlikely that you’ll see me in a traditional CFO role again,” Liddell, 53, told CFO on Tuesday. “Been there, done that. I’ve had three fantastic ones in a row, and I enjoyed each of them and they were enormously satisfying. But I’ve also been the CEO of a public company, and I’ve run an investment bank and done various other things. So I’m more interested in variety and new challenges than going back and doing the same thing again.”
His most recent CFO post was at General Motors, from December 2009 to March 2011. Before that he ran finance at Microsoft for four years and International Paper for two years. He was also finance chief at Carter Holt Harvey in the 1990s and later became chief executive of the forest-products firm, which at the time was the second-largest public company in New Zealand, according to Wikipedia.
Liddell’s predilection for variety goes way back. He earned an engineering degree from the University of Auckland and a master’s degree in philosophy from Oxford University before going into finance.
As to his next move, Liddell says he’s “toying around with two or three interesting things, none of which are ready for prime time yet.” He’s already broken out of the finance mold, though, having served throughout 2012 as executive director of transition planning for the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign and director and treasurer of the Romney for President fundraising campaign. That experience led him and two colleagues from the campaign to write a book, Romney Readiness Project: Retrospective and Lessons Learned (R2P Inc., May 2013). It’s designed to provide “valuable insight to future transition teams of both parties,” according to the book’s listing on Amazon.com.
Liddell, who spoke with us for an upcoming article about CFOs with liberal-arts degrees, volunteered that when interviewing job candidates he asks how they spend their time, what they like to read and “how they think about issues.” Those things, he said, “are just as important as what university they went to and what classes they took. Formal education is only one way of learning.”