From CFO to CEO, Twice: An Interview

By Giana Cho / February 19, 2013
From CFO to CEO, Twice: An Interview

Safeguard Scientifics Inc. CEO, Stephen Zarrilli

There is a lot of content on the internet concerning CFOs and their growing role in corporations. Many are becoming second-hand men (or women) to corporate CEOs. CFOs are taking on increasingly diverse challenges within their companies. They are often asked to provide important insight into corporate strategy and other issues facing corporations in the growing global economy.

There is likewise a lot of content about how CFOs have traditionally been groomed or prepared for eventually assuming the CEO role. These days, it all depends on the corporate culture and how the CFO is utilized. Some continue to grow horizontally, taking on more responsibility and being rewarded for it. Others grow vertically and traditionally, eventually filling in the CEOs shoes when they retire or leave. Both are valid roles, but as more CFOs take on more complicated roles due to the financial crisis and growing global economy, the promotion to CEO might become more frequent in the coming years.

Emily Chasan on the Wall Street Journal Blog conducted a great interview with Safeguard Scientifics Inc. CEO, Stephen Zarrilli. Zarrilli has had an interesting experience in corporate management. At a previous job he was hired on as the CFO and eventually took over the role of CEO. When he was hired at Safeguard Scientifics, he joined the team as a new CFO. Since he was hired he has worked his way into the CEO position in a matter of five years.

So Zarrilli has gone from CFO to CEO and back to CFO, only to work his way to CEO again. He has some interesting insight into the process and the value to corporations of having CFOs become CEOs. He states, “The last 10 years financially have been very rocky for a lot of companies, and CFOs in general have had to be on the front lines to manage cash and resources, think innovatively as to how they were going to get the company through it, and how to minimize losses.”

The last few years have given many CFOs the skills needed to make the biggest decisions once they make it to the position of CEO. Some of the benefits he has realized since shifting roles so many times are, “experience with the entrepreneurial mindset of CEOs…, and insight into the kind of team” a CEO needs for his support.

For more on the interview, be sure to check out the link in the text above [via WSJ Blog].

About the author

Giana Cho

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