Kari Patterson, CPA

Vice president of finance at PacificSource Health Plans in Springfield, Ore.

Kari Patterson, CPA, is vice president of finance at PacificSource Health Plans in Springfield, Ore.
Kari Patterson, CPA, is vice president of finance at PacificSource Health Plans in Springfield, Ore. (Image by Craig Mitchelldyer/AP Images)

'It's important to have an open mind ...'

Building and maintaining a strong finance staff: Working with a strong team is one of the things that motivates me the most. I'm a big believer in hiring people that are smarter than me — don't be intimidated by that. If you don't have a strong team, it reflects poorly on you. Hire people who are motivated and smart, and teach them to one day take over for you. We have a great team right now. It's a collaborative culture with open communication, and I believe people are driven to want to do well because of that. It's also not a hierarchical structure. Everyone is willing to help one another; it doesn't matter what level you're at.

The changing role of CFO/VP of finance: The rapid pace of change in technology is critical for accountants at all levels. As we continue to see an increase in automation and changes in processes, it is imperative to understand and hire others who do. In addition, being a good listener both internally and externally is key for finance leaders. I have discussions with people on a wide breadth of issues. Part of that comes from being a trusted adviser — you gain a trust that people can come to you. That's at the core of CFO/VP roles; we often know what's going on throughout the organization, so we can understand and relate to what people are going through. At the same time, my professional duties are changing, too. It's more about dealing with process improvement and strategy.

Gaining a seat at the table: It's important to understand industry trends and stay current on what's happening, as well as understand core operations. Without that, you don't have a voice while seated at the table. Ideas can't come to fruition if you can't operationalize them. It's my job to have an understanding of what is even a viable option. With the shift in technology and the disruption we're seeing there, I know I need to stay current. It's important to have an open mind and be willing to think differently when it comes to processes, how to do things better, and using the technology that's out there.

Working with a board and audit committee: Don't surprise people — I'm big on that, not just with a board or audit committee, but also with top executives. When it comes to the chair of the committee or the people who are going to understand a topic, I give them advance notice if there's going to be a new issue coming up. It's also important to keep the information at the appropriate level of detail — share enough but don't bury them with unnecessary details. Have your work reviewed before it goes to them, as a second set of eyes is going to see something differently than you do.

— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.

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