Controllers Council recently held a roundtable on the future of the Controllership or Controllership 2027: Predictions Panel, sponsored by BILL.

BILL is a leading financial operations platform for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). As a champion of SMBs, BILL automates the future of finance so businesses can thrive.

Our expert panelists were Gregg D’Eon, Corporate Controller at DraftKings and Brenna Albert, VP Global Controller at Medline Industries. The panel was moderated by Neil Brown, Executive Director at Controllers Council.

Brenna Albert is VP Global Controller of Medline Industries, a global medical supply company, manufacturer, and distributor with over 335,000 products, 38,000 employees, and operating in approximately 110 countries. Prior roles include EVP corporate controller, treasury, and tax at Cresco Labs, corporate accounting, technical accounting, and SEC reporting at Cushman and Wakefield, Lexmark and Eastman Chemical, an accounting instructor, and a high school math teacher. Brenna earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a master’s in accountancy from East Tennessee State University and a BA and BS mathematics from the University of Southern California. She is a CPA and was the Controllers Council 2021 National Controller of the Year.

Gregg D’Eon is Senior Director and Corporate Controller at DraftKings, based in Boston, with more than 4,000 employees. During his eight-year tenure at DraftKings, he served as Assistant Controller and Director of Accounting. Prior roles included accounting and audit at Mitsubishi Financial Group. Greg started in public accounting at Deloitte. Greg earned a Master of Science in accounting and a bachelor accounting from the University of Connecticut. He has a CPA and was the Controllers Council 2023 National Controller of the Year.

Following are key takeaways to this discussion. If you are interested in learning more, view the full webinar archive video here.

Topic 1: Recruiting and Retaining F&A Talent

Question 1) Is your company experiencing shortages of CPAs and/or F&A staff?

Gregg: Mostly not so much, but where we have some challenges is recruiting qualified individuals for larger roles within the organization. It’s been quite difficult to find good people.

Brenna: Based on my company’s place, it’s a super interesting time for us because we are private equity sponsored now after being family owned for decades and the department is growing, and the company is doing well. So, it does take quite a bit of time to recruit certain roles. I would say particularly senior accountants in certain departments.

Question 2) What can the AICPA and others do to build the CPA/Accounting profession pipeline?

Brenna: I really think the credit hour requirements and effectively making our field require a master’s degree amount of credit hours is really proving challenging because it’s making the profession less attractive. On the flip side of that, certainly we want rigor and quality, right? And that rigor and quality are absolutely needed in our profession. So, I think creative ways that we can address this would include allowing folks to give those credit hours over time.

Gregg: A lot of universities that are marketing accounting is a five-year program. So, when you just look at that alone, people are saying, well, hey, what, why would I spend an extra, you know, 30, 40 grand to stick around in school when I could just go into engineering or FP&A or something like that. So, I’m a clean card on the on the idea of trying to get creative with the credit hour requirement and the ability to get quality people into the profession but without having an arduous bar.

Question 3) Will supply & demand eventually increase compensation for CPAs and accountants to attract new talent?

Gregg: I’ve seen salaries increase steadily for entry level and really across the board. I think no matter what you’re seen as a finance professional, you’re always going to be thought of as like a cost efficiency leader. So, I think there might be a tipping point there or some sort of cap.

Brenna: Overall salaries have been increasing across fields, but certainly I’ve seen that. It’s changed quite a bit over the last several years. We’re a cost center, and those can be tough conversations with the executive leadership.

Question 4) Will outsourced or offshore accounting help address these shortages?

Brenna: Absolutely, I’ve seen different models over the years. In our case, we do have a captive shared services center in India, and the people in that organization are all employees of Medline. Everyone in my department is a chartered accountant, and we’re also seeking to recruit some CPAs as well. And I would say I’ve got kind of equal measure of individuals in my US team, handling US accounting and then just as many people in the India team handling US and global accounting processes as well. So, it’s really an extended team model, where the people in India organization are handling topics ranging from general accounting, but all the way to technical accounting, external reporting, BI data analytics, right, you know, very complex technical areas.

We’re a big company and we certainly try to leverage technology and automate where we can, but people are at the foundation of everything that we do. You know, so I would say that our offshore model is critical for our success as an organization.

Gregg: Yes, DraftKings has a shared service model, not only both within the finance team, but also across the order. The global team mentality is going to be one of probably the biggest areas of focus, I think, over the next few years as we try and expand the use of those kinds of teams. We’re going to need people above them to kind of focus more on analysis and kind of the output of that. So, I don’t see that going away anytime soon. If anything, I see more companies leveraging it.

Topic 2: Adapting to rapidly changing and challenging business, economic and political environments.

Question 1) How has your role and/or your staff roles adapted to rapidly changing and challenging business environments?

Gregg: From my standpoint, the biggest change I’ve seen over the last few years is and it is maybe just a gaming specific issue, but it’s increased regulation. Even if you’re thinking technology or new industries in general, there’s always going to be regulators that are going to come in and ask for information, want to understand the business. And that’s really kind of spawned in an entire work stream that goes on that’s underneath the accounting team that we’re focused on making sure our regulators understand our business, understand our technology can and get some comfort over the information that we’re reporting because ultimately, they’re looking to make sure that we’re calculating everything correctly and remaining to correct a lot of cases throughout the year.

Brenna: In a healthcare company, it is highly regulated industry, and our auditors are going to be required to do more digging, our compliance, outside of financial regulation and compliance. So, I think that all rings true. Then, the shortage of talent. We’ve got to have all these things go together. It can just create some unique challenges. Something else I would mention in a variety of industries is inflation.

Question 2) Has reporting and forecasting frequency changed due to business environments?

Gregg: The frequency is what I’m seeing the most. Certain states require us to report activity to them weekly. It’s essentially kicked off an entire process within the organization to just keep an eye on things and make sure that we have activity now rolling into the GL daily. We have a line of sight into how revenue is tracking, how our players are acting where we’re tracking for the period. In addition to just the typical month-end close, which is always a challenging project, has been much more continuous is what I’ve seen.

Brenna: I would say our reporting requirements have certainly been enhanced. That’s part of why we’re building out certain processes here. And what I’m thinking is becoming more critical for us is really that budget and forecasting process and being able to do several outlook cycles during the year, which is new muscle memory for us to build as an organization.

Question 3) Did record inflation or high interest rates require special treatments or processes?

Gregg: From a process standpoint, we had a concerted effort to monitor where we’re keeping our cash and making sure that we’re maximizing returns on that. And because of that, the interest income line is starting to become more and more material, so there’s a bit of thought around “well, are there any creative ways that we can refer to where this is it, where this is being reported from a geography perspective, maybe not an interest income, it’s like an offset to cost of sales or something like that, in order to help improve gross profit.”

Brenna: I alluded a little bit to inflation. We distribute many, many products, and just seeing some of the particular dynamics in our industry and how some of that inflation was starting to come down was super interesting. So, you would see certain more commoditized products. These prices have really spiked. And then we have very transparent relationships with our customers. We get audited by our customers. We’re not out there to take advantage. There’s a lot of transparency in what we do. So, we were just looking at, “well, we had a spike that’s really related to the pandemic. It’s really a wash to some degree. So, we had much higher revenue for X, Y, Z product categories, but much higher costs. Our revenue costs are aligning. We’re not going to benefit from this.” And when we’re looking at trends, we’re looking at forecasting too.

Topic 3: New Skills and Technologies for the Future

Question 1) Please identify future skills and technology requirements

  • Utilizing AI
  • Certain tools like Alteryx, where you can create data workflows
  • Working with your IT organizations to find opportunities to eliminate or simplify your automation processes

Question 2) Are you using AI or automation currently?

Brenna: We’re not using too much generative AI right now. We’re experimenting a little bit with generative AI, like drafting communications and job descriptions, because we have a lot of compliance and privacy with regulations that govern our industry. So, we’re not going on to chatGPT and putting in information that could put our customers at risk. It’s a limited use of the new generative AI, but we do have pilot programs going on in the organization to try to get some basic productivity gains with some tools like Microsoft Copilot, for example.

Gregg: I think that finance and accounting in general is probably one of the last from like an adoption, early adoption standpoint. Just mainly because we need to make sure the numbers are right. We can’t have auditors come back and second guessing the entire database on us. We’re looking into what we want to start selecting as like a proof of concept and see how things are going. But right now, it’s pretty light.

Question 3) Will AI and automation take over many manual repetitive tasks of F&A departments?

Brenna: I certainly hope it will, due to the shortage in the profession today. We need productivity gains, and we need to track more people to our field because there’s a lot of complexity, there are a lot of gray areas in the counting, and we need great people to come in and do value-added analysis.

Gregg: I believe in a few years, there’s going to be a pretty big division of people who know how to use AI and leverage it effectively and people who don’t. And you want to be in that roof’s bucket, for sure. Because in reality, the things that you’ve learned in order to manipulate data and get to your answer that can be done in a matter of seconds now instead of an hour. So being able to leverage that finding that efficiency is just going to be huge for your organization’s scale.

To view the complete webinar, download here.


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