10 questions for Agencyport Software CFO Rick Gilbody

Name: Rick Gilbody

Age: 52

Time with company: 7 months

Education: Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in finance and an MBA from Boston College

Company headquarters: Boston

Countries of operation; U.S., U.K.

Number of employees total: 300-500

Number of employees the CFO oversees: About 20

CFO's areas of responsibility: Finance and administration, including accounting, legal, IT, HR

About the company: Agencyport Software provides Web-based distribution technologies, global policy administration software and business intelligence tools to the insurance industry.

1. Where did you start in finance and what experiences led you to the job you have today?

I started at General Electric in their financial management program, which is a corporate training program for college graduates. Since then, I've had a number of positions in and out of finance. I've always focused on the relationship between finance and operations.

Throughout my career, I've focused primarily on finance. Prior to Agencyport Software, I was at Cognos and eventually transitioned into managing the Americas operations. At IBM, I then spent three and a half years on the sales and operations side of the business.

In this most recent role at Agencyport, I've not only had a chance to really influence the finance function, but also to impact the administration and operations side of the business. I find being involved with both strategic direction and company growth very gratifying.

2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did he or she teach you about management and leadership?

Rob Ashe, the former CEO of Cognos, had an influence on me for a number of reasons. The first was that he also started out in finance and then made the transition to CEO. His trajectory proved the one that I eventually took. He taught me the importance of a company's culture to its success and how you can build a strong organization on trust and relationships, accountability, and employee recognition. You can have great products but if you don't have a strong organization, it's not going to be successful. Rob also taught me how important it is to build a company's culture and try to leverage it as a strategic tool.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing CFOs today?

We all face many challenges but today, and over the last several years, it's the economy and the new regulatory environment that present CFOs with the most obstacles. Every day, CFOs are challenged to stay in compliance with regulations. Since Sarbanes Oxley, however, it's a constant challenge to manage the cost of compliance. And when you layer in the economic environment, that challenge is that much more difficult.

4. What is a good day at work like for you?

I am very goal-oriented. A good day for me is when I make significant progress toward a specific set of goals and objectives that the management team has determined for Agencyport.

Also, we are a small, growing company so it's always a good day when we close a deal. Making progress on goals and acquiring new customers always make a great day.

5. How would you characterize your management style?

My management style is definitely team-oriented and collaborative. I try to focus on communications and delegation to my team.

I mentioned my belief in setting goals. As a result I have to be pretty clear on the direction we, as management, are trying to lead the company. I try to give my team the tools and support they need to go and execute those goals.

I think people would describe me as pretty steady. I tend not to overreact whether things seem really good or really bad.

6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?

Obviously, like many CFOs, I consider all the technical qualifications of a candidate. Also, I like to look at previous accomplishments and whether the candidates are intellectually curious, team-oriented, and have demonstrated leadership skills. Those are the key determinants.

I like to ask candidates why they've made certain decisions in the past and what their thought processes were for those decisions. The answers help me better understand how a person thinks which is helpful in identifying leaders, as well as followers I prefer a leader.

For example, Agencyport was recently hiring a new intern and I asked each of the candidates why he or she chose the school that they did. You would be surprised at the different answers. It was readily apparent who gave thought to their academic path and who didn't. It said a lot about how each person would likely perform here for us.

7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?

Again, I try to get candidates to explain the rationale behind a key decision they made in the past. I always ask a candidate whether they know where they are going. This helps me understand their aspirations -- whether in the context of their career path or a specific role here at the company.

I also ask them why they are interviewing for a specific position here at Agencyport. You'd be surprised how many people can't articulate their rationale. If a person can't explain why they want the job I'm offering, it's a red flag for me.

Additionally, I like to ask them a few questions to illustrate how much they know about our company; I like to see whether or not they've done any due diligence. If so, that tells me that they are really interested in coming aboard and furthering their career.

Finally, I always ask about their personal interests outside of work -- this is not to pry but to better understand how well-rounded they are. We find that having outside interests is beneficial; it shouldn't be about work all the time.

8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief finance positions?

I am the first formal CFO that the company has ever had so a lot of the F&O function framework my team and I are building is new to people. The genesis of the company is two divisions sold to a private equity firm. If you look at just the size of our company, it would be somewhat unusual that I'm the first CFO, so that makes it slightly unique. There wasn't much infrastructure built up in these two divisions.

9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?

Like most people, I try to keep my days less than hectic. I start out my mornings working out. At the end of the day, I catch up with my family, and I also like to go to the golf range to hit some balls. I'm kind of new to golf, but have definitely gotten bit by that bug.

10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?

I would probably play a lot more golf because I'd have more time. I also would consider taking on more board of director roles. I think I could bring a unique set of experiences to a board, so maybe a board position or two, and then attempting golf.

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Nancy Weil

IDG News Service

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