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Finance Insights

CFO Connect Summit 2021: Recapping the Biggest Event in Finance

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Luc Hancock CFO Connect

In September 2021, CFO Connect launched the first-ever CFO Connect summit. Created by and for finance leaders, the event explored the most significant and pressing issues facing CFOs last year. 

Some major themes covered during the 3-day event were fundraising and financing, international expansion, the latest tools and tech, planning, budgeting, forecasting, accounting, and much more. Our audience left summit feeling inspired, empowered, and ready to tackle the biggest finance challenges headed toward them.

As we prepare for the CFO Connect Summit 2022 - in September once again - let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from these incredible three days. 

Summit 2021 in a nutshell

Before diving into key details from some of the most popular sessions, here’s a brief resumé of last year’s event. 

The CFO Connect Summit 2021 included:

  • 3 full days 

  • 23 sessions

  • 52 speakers 

  • 2,000+ registrants 

  • 1,645 total attendees

Attendees heard from and interacted with talented finance leaders from incredible companies. These included:

  • Major corporations like Vodafone, SAP, Intuit, and PwC

  • Hot scaleups including Remote, Glovo, Stuart, and Wefox

  • Well known SaaS brands like Zapier, Gainsight, and KPI Sense

  • Investors and VCs from Index Funds, Eight Roads, and The Family

Whether you need detailed insights and advice on fundraising and forecasting, or want thought leadership on the future of finance, the CFO Summit is for you.

While we wait for the 2022 edition, here were some of the biggest highlights from last year.

Why CFOs are the new startup heroes

The Summit got off to a flying start with a special keynote from Eight Roads partner Lucile Cornet. From her perspective as investor and startup steward, she explained just how important great financial leadership is for a company’s success. 

As Lucile herself put it, “the role of a CFO has been changing tremendously over the past few years. They’re becoming the true engine room for startups.” Investors and boards continually expect more from CFOs, and this changes the core capabilities that separate the good from the great. 

“A modern CFO needs to have a new skillset: communication, automation, adaptability, external vision, leadership, and networking.” If anyone still feels that the startup CFO is a numbers expert and nothing more, those days have passed.

And as Lucile says, that’s very exciting. “There has never been a better time to be in finance. The importance of the position is increasing.”

2021’s most popular sessions

With more than 20 panels and keynotes over three days, there was more than enough for every CFO Summit attendee. But a few sessions clearly struck a chord with audience members. 

Here’s a brief look at the three most popular sessions last year. 

Mastering Cash-flow Management in Hyper-growth Startups

For startups, cash is king & managing it a top priority. And with ongoing worries about pandemics and volatile markets, Summit attendees were eager to learn how to stay on top of this key focal point. 

Each of our speakers had recently moved from cash-rich tech giants — like Audible, Zalando, and Vodafone — to early-stage startups. They shared the cash management principles and processes they implemented as a result.

The session also included audience participation. During a live poll, attendees were asked  “What's your biggest challenge related to cash management?” 38.1% responded “allocating the funds we have optimally,” while 26.2% chose “balancing growth against profitability.”

Meet the speakers

Nailing Your First 100 Days as a Startup CFO

This topic is a perennial favorite for any CFO Connect event. New CFOs - whether first-time or just new to the company - need a clear path to get up and running smoothly. 

You shouldn’t expect to have the answers to almost anything on day one. As speaker Patrick Foster shared, "you can't know the three main priorities of the business the day before you join. You think you know after a month, but even then you don't. You only have the information that was pushed to you, and you have to make assumptions."

Even after a rigorous interview process and lots of due diligence, you arrive with only a broad, vague understanding of how the company works. New CFOs need to identify the right questions to ask, and the most pressing issues to solve.

But most importantly, you really just need to get to know the company. Inside out.

Meet the speakers 

Secrets of Rockstar CFOs & the C-Suite Survival Guide

During the Summit we were also lucky to hear from the President of the CFO Leadership Council, Jack McCullough. Jack has written several books based on interviews with top CFOs and his own experience. In this session with Pegafund founder Joyce Mackenzie Liu, the two shared the common traits and lesser-known strategies of the best CFOs. 

Similarly to our earlier session with Lucile Cornet, Jack and Joyce explored the crucial role CFOs fill in their companies. The position comes with an inherent trust and respect from other team members. Or, as Jack put it, "when most people hear something from the CFO, they assume it's true."

Meet the speakers

VC Panel: Investor Perspectives on Fundraising, Growth, & Leadership

Day three of the Summit included a closer look at what investors expect from CFOs and their portfolio companies. Partners from Eight Roads and Index Ventures talked in detail about what makes a successful CFO-VC relationship, and the kinds of insights and experience they look for. 

This was also the first all-women VC panel our speakers had ever been on. We’re proud to showcase diversity in finance and leadership, and look forward to featuring great women in this year’s Summit and in further events.

Recent research shows the persistence of the gender pay gap. All-women leadership panels are a small step, but there’s a long way to go before we see clear equality at the finance executive level. 

Meet the speakers

Change & Crisis Management: Leadership Lessons from an Unusual Year

The Summit took place in September 2021 - 18 months on from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Countries were still moving in and out of lockdowns, and new waves of illness and uncertainty had become routine. 

Naturally, a session focused on crisis management from the CFO’s perspective proved popular. And while there was (and still is) concern about the health situation moving forward, this discussion took a positive look at the lessons so far. 

When asked the question “is your finance team better prepared for change than before the pandemic?” 90% of the audience in attendance responded “yes.”

Meet the speakers

The CFO Connect Summit experience

Clearly, the Summit centers on an incredible speaker lineup and fascinating panel discussions. But there’s always plenty to explore between sessions. 

For networking, attendees were matched for virtual coffees with other finance leaders. They also had the chance to go deep into specific topics, with dedicated breakout rooms after every talk. 

Attendees could also get tailored advice and product demos from a wonderful group of partners, including: Spendesk, Remote, TravelPerk, Pigment, iwocaPay, Causal, Orbiss, Lisan Finance, 2C Finance, Fuse Capital, ACL, Equify, Smash, Personio, Acting, Futrli, AGK, and Grow by SAP.

This is a rare chance to talk to the people behind these hugely successful products and services.

With 2021 in the rearview, bring on Summit 2022!

That was the CFO Connect Summit in a snapshot. It was a wonderful event, influenced by global events and a very hot tech scene. Fundraising, growth, and scaling were at the front of everyone’s mind. 

A huge thank you to every speaker and partner, including the dozens not mentioned above. You can explore the complete collection of talks and resources from 2021 here.

This time around, some of the global events are the same, and we have an entirely different economic outlook. Which just means new topics to explore in even more detail. 

But one thing’s for sure: the central theme of “finance as a growth driver” is here to stay. Look forward to more insights and shared experiences from leaders in some of the world’s fastest-growing companies. 

We can’t wait to see you there!

Register for CFO Connect Summit 2022

Join us on September 27-28 for the biggest finance event of the year. It's 100% free and all online.

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