The invaluable sounding board: Learning from other CFOs

Hosted by Neil Amato

Denise Dettingmeijer, CFO of Randstad North America, is part of a panel discussion at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE in June in Las Vegas. In this podcast episode, she previews the theme of that session and explains why having fellow CFOs "along the same part of the journey" is helpful.

Dettingmeijer also shares advice on how professionals can get the most out of attending a conference.

Also, here are links to other JofA coverage mentioned in the episode:

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • How Dettingmeijer ended up joining the Future of Finance Leadership Advisory Group.
  • The reasons that idea sharing among members of the group has been "invaluable."
  • Why she says it can be both comforting and discomforting to hear other CFOs' concerns.
  • Some of the tips and tricks Dettingmeijer has picked up from the group.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:

— To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato at


Neil Amato: Welcome to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This is Neil Amato with the JofA. Thanks for coming back for another episode. Today is a conversation with a CFO on a variety of finance- and HR-related topics that are top of mind for many leaders out there. Plus we've got a summary of recent JofA news, and it's all coming up after this word from our sponsor.

Amato: Welcome back to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This is your host, Neil Amato. Joining me for this segment is a CFO leader that I had the opportunity to meet in December at the Future of Finance Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. It's Denise Dettingmeijer of Randstad.

Denise, thank you for being on the podcast. I really appreciate your time, and I want to go right into my first question. You're part of a session at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE in Las Vegas. It's a Future of Finance panel discussion. What would you say, to start off, with some of the key discussion points of that session?

Denise Dettingmeijer: Neil, great to be back and great to see you again. I think the summary I can say about that session is just the reimagination of the finance function. When I say finance, I mean finance, accounting, the whole scope of the CFO.

I was recently in a meeting where somebody said everything has to change in order to stay the same. I think that's really what this theme is. We need to stay engaging the business, growing the business, controlling the business. In order to do that, everything in how we do it is going to change, and this conference is going to give us that vision of where we're headed and what the possibilities are.

Amato: I mentioned the Nashville meeting earlier. How did it come about that you joined the Future of Finance Leadership Advisory Group? That was the group that got together in person in Nashville in December.

Dettingmeijer: Sometimes it's all about timing. My team here in Randstad was looking to the AICPA to look at the certifications for our world and how we can bring that into helping our teammates be certified, be engaged, have an education. At the same time, when I met [Tom Hood, executive vice president–Business Engagement & Growth for the Association of International Professional Certified Accountants, and Barry Payne, director, External Relations, Management Accounting], I was just put on a team called Finance Forward in Randstad, which is a global initiative for all finance to bring finance forward and how we would do that and started off in the pilot running the systems team, but then quickly moved over to the people and talent team.

Looking at what the talent is of the future, how we have to operate, how things are going at the same time, then meeting Tom and Barry from AICPA, looking at this finance forward, future of finance workstream, it was just so aligned to everything that we were doing and being able to have peers and thought leaders and ideas and lessons learned from other companies and other CFOs has just been invaluable.

We're all in the same journey despite being in different industries. For me that just aligned perfectly with the, I'll call it, the new assignment that I'm so proudly and happily doing. But now having the support system to bring that forward.

Amato: Obviously, you've touched some on the topic of my next question a little bit, but expand a little bit more on the benefits of having those people who are along the same part of the journey that you're on as a CFO.

Dettingmeijer: I think the biggest personal benefit is sanity. As I said, we're all in the same game, and very often you're the only CFO or the only one or it's challenging to find those sounding boards. Conferences, local CFO roundtables, those are all fantastic, but being specifically focused on the future of finance where we're headed, how it's going to look, the reimagination of it as a topic is unique.

It gives a comfort in a way to that sanity of, we're all in this together. It gives really good ideas and just such a great sounding board of thought, what people have tried, some tips and tricks, small things that make a big difference, and you don't have to rethink everything on your own. It's been really, I'd say, impactful but comforting and exciting to dream with people who are in the same position as you are.

Amato: You're in a unique spot because you're also in the HR realm where that whole talent management topic was already top of mind for you. What's that been these past two years and looking forward just on the whole talent management front?

Dettingmeijer: Yeah, so, it ebbs and flows, right? So, who imagined COVID? Who imagined the Great Resignation and now what they're calling the great regret? Who imagined all of that? We deal with that as a business, as you said, every single day, the talent scarcity, bringing great talent to our clients, finding that great talent. We worried about inflation and wage inflation and all of the things that every business worries about as a service of what we're providing.

Then we have the complexity of managing and working through that internally as well as running the business. So it's really a dual perspective that we get the perspective our clients because we're living it and then providing the service of what we are aiming to improve for the client and also internally. So that circle is continuous and pretty exciting.

Amato: I asked Tom Hood this a few weeks back about how it was interesting to me that this impressive group of finance leaders from an impressive group of companies was willing to admit that they don't have all the answers. They are struggling with some of these things. How is it been to you to hear that the problems you're trying to solve, as you've said, you're on the same journey, and they're perhaps not unique to you?

Dettingmeijer: Again, there's always this range. It's comforting because you're not behind, you're in the front thinking together with these great thought leaders and peers and sharing experiences as I said. It's a little discomforting because no one has the answers, so there's not a quick copy and paste into what's happening in the world. I think anybody who's led through COVID has a humbleness of inability to have foreseen it.

The scenarios that we're building, learning from every minute of every day and adjusting agilely, if that's the word, being really agile and flexible on how you're doing it. I think in the CFO world, being the glue of the company in dealing with that in so many aspects has further humbled the role, certainly us in it, and being able to openly admit we don't have all the answers and sharing everything we can to even bring forward the function. Not so much even the companies that we work for, but by doing so, bringing the companies we work for forward as well.

Amato: You used that phrase earlier, "tips and tricks." Are there two or three small things that maybe you've picked up from the group that you've thought about to be able to implement or any quotes that you're now living by that you've heard from the group?

Dettingmeijer: The fact that at CFO meetings we're having people come in and talk about how human brains work, how humans adapt to change, how they don't adapt to change, how you have to ensure that human aspect of your business and not just that we're in the HR world, but as a finance leader, you're often deemed a numbers person. But it's all about the people.

We've always said that, and people are our greatest asset, but to live and thrive through that, I think has been really interesting to see and hear CFOs talking about humans and how they think, talking about equity, diversity, and inclusion. That was a big tip as well. We had a luncheon at that meeting in Nashville you were talking about, and two of the gentlemen at our table said it was the best, ED&I discussion they've ever been in.

Then on the one hand again, I'm sad because it was an hour lunch, and if that was the best, we have a long way to go. But on the other hand, to have an equity, diversity, inclusion discussion in session at the CFO meeting probably wouldn't have happened 10 years ago. So those kinds of nuggets have been really important around people.

The one thing that I take away and do use is RONI. So I never heard of return on not investing. We've always called it opportunity cost. What if we don't do it? But just using a word that sounds more fancy and financial, in order to offset your ROI having your RONI, I thought that was a little tip that we bring forth and used to make sure that we're looking at everything holistically.

Amato: You mentioned that thought about bringing in the human element and Dr. Britt Andreatta was a guest on this podcast. She talked about that burnout thing. I thought the phrase she used was employees are crispy. That was very interesting to me, and I assume you remember her session and maybe have something to respond to it with.

Dettingmeijer: It was actually the one I was referring to when I said, we bring people and talk about how people handle change. People are crispy, and it's everywhere. It's for multiple reasons. If you don't peel back that onion definitely to the person, you don't really know what's going on.

So how do you get in touch with the person and understand what you can provide to each individual to ease their burden, engage them, make them happy, bring some joy into their work life is super critical, and we're seeing more and more acceptance of what we'd call burnout of mental health conditions of stress, of anxiety.

That again is forefront and not hidden any longer in your personal being at home at night. It's really part of what we're managing through the day as leaders, and I think that's here to stay.

Amato: As we're recording it's mid-April, about eight weeks from ENGAGE in Las Vegas. Anything you'd like to add, Denise, in closing?

Dettingmeijer: Yeah. I think the exciting thing about ENGAGE is just the interactions that you're going to have. They are at any other forum that you're able to join. They bring forth ideas, bring forth the small things. I was at another conference where a little bracelet fell out of my bag. It was one of those green rubber bracelets, and it was green because here in Randstad, we have green bracelets for those who will accept a handshake or a hug, yellow for those who want to do elbow bumps, and red for those who still want to keep social distance, and you just wear them so that people around you know how to react, and it's a small thing, but the gentleman I was sitting next to was like "genius," and he wrote it down and took a picture of the bracelet.

At any event like ENGAGE, any small thing matters, any experiment you went through that worked, share, anything that didn't work, tell, because then we don't have to keep trying it. We're in this new world of excitement and change while trying to still fulfill the right way of working as a CFO. I think that's what you can bring to ENGAGE and also get out of it.

Amato: Thanks again to Denise Dettingmeijer, CFO of Randstad North America. She's part of a panel discussion as mentioned at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE in June in Las Vegas. We will have a link to that event's information in the show notes for this episode.

In other news, Paul Bonner of the Journal of Accountancy has written about a Treasury progress report that focuses on making the federal tax system more equitable. We will link to that article in the show notes, and the article will have a link to that equity action plan report.

Also, CPA Brannon Poe is writing about accounting firm exit strategy. The article points out that firms using cloud technology sell for a higher revenue multiple and spend far less time on the market than firms that don't use cloud technology. That's definitely worth reading for those who are considering their firm's future, and we will link to that article in the show notes. That's our episode for Thursday, April 21st. Thanks for listening to the Journal Accountancy podcast.