Q&A

From CPA to CFO: Brian Fitzgerald

“I didn’t want to be a partner. Even though I enjoyed auditing, I wanted to look forward, rather than backward,” said the World Insurance CFO.
Sandra BeckwithOctober 6, 2022

CFO of World Insurance Associates, Brian Fitzgerald, credits his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting and his first post-college job as a PwC auditor for career experiences that led to the CFO’s office. When he became an assistant controller for a small, entrepreneurial company, he discovered how much he enjoyed helping smaller organizations build and grow.

After going on to establish accounting departments and practices in two more startups, Fitzgerald joined the insurance broker network AssuredPartners as corporate controller. There, Fitzgerald built and led an accounting department for an organization that grew from a startup to more than $1 billion in revenue in nine years. He was senior vice president of finance when he left in early 2021 to join private-equity-backed World Insurance as CFO.


Brian Fitzgerald

CFO, World Insurance Associates

  • First CFO position: 2021
  • Notable previous companies:
    • AssuredPartners
    • XOS Digital
    • Dynetech
    • PwC

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

SANDRA BECKWITH: How does your background affect how you do the job?

Brian Fitzgerald: While my perspective has grown over time, I am still very much rooted in the accounting mindset. When I’m learning something new, or I’m trying to assess a certain situation, I’m always thinking about how it gets recorded, or what process will ensure that I can continue to manage it, and most importantly, report it, going forward. It’s always just where my head goes, I think in terms of how it’s going to be reflected in financial or internal statements. That instinctive approach comes from my auditor experience, where I always looked at the end financial results and then worked backward into how it got booked. 

How did you determine who to hire to join your finance team?

Fitzgerald: When I joined the company, we were starting with a very small accounting department doing the basic debits and credits, payables and receivables processing. I knew from experience [at AssuredPartners] what growth was ahead because of the Charlesbank [PE firm] sponsorship and what was required to support that, so the first thing I did was bring in a technical accountant who could live and breathe GAAP reporting. From there, I built an FP&A department that has since done a great job of taking transactions and volumes of numbers and reporting the data in ways that can be easily absorbed by the board and management. 

You can have the smartest people in the room, but if you can’t give them an accurate depiction of what’s happening, they can’t make good decisions going forward.

What advantages does your professional background give you over other CFOs? 

Fitzgerald: It definitely helps, especially in startup companies, to be very familiar with how to build and manage basic accounting processes and workflows. If you can do that and do it well, you set yourself up for success. At the end of the day, you [could] have the smartest people in the room, but if you can’t give them an accurate depiction of what’s happening, they can’t make good decisions going forward.

Was becoming CFO always the goal?

Fitzgerald: Yes, although it’s not like I graduated college shouting, “CFO or bust!” I soon realized that when you go to the Big Four, you eventually have to make a choice. You either work to become a partner at one of those large auditing firms or you leave. I knew I didn’t want to be a partner because even though I enjoyed auditing, I wanted to look forward, rather than backward. When I left to go into accounting and finance, becoming a CFO was a natural progression if I wanted to reach the top of this profession. 

What advice would you offer others with experience similar to yours who would like to become CFOs?

Fitzgerald: Take on assignments or select a slightly different career path within accounting and finance that gets you away from the basic debits and credits. CFOs have to know more than accounting. They have to understand how finance people interpret things. You pick that up as you take on assignments in finance. Stick your neck out a bit and take on different roles.