Controllers Council recently held a panel discussion on Top Strategies to Attract and Retain Accounting and Finance Talent, 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 Joy Mbanugo and Brandt Kucharski. The panel was moderated by Lindy Antonelli, Partner at Top 17 Accounting firm, Armanino, where she leads the Technology Practice, and Board Chair of the Controllers Council.

Joy is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Service Rocket, a Palo Alto -based technology services firm. Her 20 -year career includes working in the controllership office at Google, where she managed $100 billion in cash, FP&A at BlackRock, and a 12 -year tenure at EY. Joy is also a private investor and limited partner in various funds, including women-led ventures. Joy holds a Juris Doctorate from Cleveland State, a Master of Accountancy from Case Western Reserve, and a double bachelor’s degree in accountancy and Black World Studies from Miami University of Ohio.

Brandt is Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) at Austin-based Ethos Life, a tech startup disrupting the life insurance industry. Brandt was a former chief accounting officer of Grubhub, where he helped raise five rounds of capital before a successful IPO and an 8 -year veteran of Crow as a CPA. Brandt is active on several boards, including Chairman Emeritus for the Holiday Heroes Foundation, a nonprofit for hospitalized children. Brandt earned a Master of Accountancy and Bachelor of Accounting from Northern Illinois University, where he’s a board member for the accounting department. Brandt won the Controllers Council 2020 National Controller of the Year and is on the Controllers Council Board of Advisors.

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

Tell us about your Finance & Accounting (F&A) organization structure.

Joy: My team is dispersed throughout the world. I have workforce planning, pay, workforce planning, payroll, controllership, FP&A, and people reporting to me. I know we’re only talking about finance and accounting, but that’s an interest that’ll become relevant later. I have folks in Malaysia, Philippines, Sydney, Australia which is where the company was originally founded; Palo Alto, Chile, and El Salvador. I have to travel around the world, so I don’t forget any of them. I literally have one employee here and I may be picking up the sales revenue team soon. Right now, we have 16 people purely finance and accounting, two revenue operations, sales ops, and then I think about six or seven from the “people” team.

Brandt: Well, our team is pretty lean. I think our total accounting team is probably eight or nine people. We raised $500 million, we’re on a path to potentially go public one day.

My team at Grubhub was about 50 people on the accounting side, probably 15 entities. It’s a public company. We had different roles there with SEC reporting and a little bit more cash as well as positions. But I generally like keeping things lean. I have a director of accounting, senior manager of accounting, a couple of senior accountants, a couple staff, a senior director of revenue, and then a senior accountant of revenue.

Is your F&A department Onsite, Remote, or a Hybrid combination?

Brandt: We are a remote first company. We have an office in San Francisco that people go into as an option once a week, but we’re all kind of around the country, but probably a little heavier San Francisco influence on that. From an accounting standpoint, I’m very strong on outsourcing anything that’s not a core competency.

Joy: My team is dispersed throughout the world, so we are remote. We outsource a lot of our tax function just because most of the tax team sits outside of the US and just because of our tax structure, it wouldn’t make sense for us to try to do it because we have entities all over the world.

What is your perspective on CPA and/or accounting shortages?

Joy: I have a couple of thoughts on this one.  In the near-term, we outsource some of the work just because we need help immediately. I’m one of the other people. So, we have someone leave on the FP&A team and somebody did leave on the AP team which is a huge hit to the team because they were the top AP person. You could say that’s the easy thing to do is outsource, but you also have to know our systems. We’ll likely outsource that while we try to look for a backfill. Just the way the company has been built with hiring staff outside of the US, these roles will likely sit outside of the US, so they won’t need to be the CPA, but will need an accounting background.

One way I think some companies are dealing with the shortages is hiring outside of the US and doing some automation. I don’t think you can outsource everything to AI, but it is a great tool.

Brandt: I think the real shortage, number one, is accounting graduates, and people going into the accounting profession. I was doing a podcast with a well-known accounting influencer, Blake Oliver, about a month ago. And the statistics are that 20% fewer students are going to accounting. I think there’s a couple of things. One, having five years to graduate is getting expensive for a lot of students, and two, there’s a perception that accounting is not exciting.

How have your F&A recruiting strategies changed as a result of shortages or other factors?

Joy: We have a couple of roles open. Like I just mentioned the two on my team, but we’re also expanding our marketing team. So if I had to think about priority, not that the accounting and finance roles are important, but we, from a company standpoint, if my CEO were on, would probably say that we’re focused on hiring a head of marketing because that’s one of the critical roles for some of the growth that we want. So not that we’re, I think we’re always actively recruiting and just trying to see talent that’s out in the market again globally. That way it reduces the time to onboarding and for looking for new talent.

Brandt: We haven’t had a lot of challenges in hiring. We had someone who left recently for a payroll scene, and within a day of posting the role, we had like 200 applications. So, it’s a little bit different. The fact that a lot of the tech companies have had layoffs, and real hiring being very stringent, heads are at it, but not the growth at all cost that it was in 2021 and 2022. I kind of feel at least in the technology sector, hiring has been scaled back and there’s been reductions in forces and companies are trying to stay lean given inflation and the risks in the market right now. So at least from that perspective, there seems to be a lot of applications for open positions.

How have your F&A retention strategies changed as a result of shortages or other factors?

Brandt: At Ethos, in the last couple of years, retention is everything. I do have wonderful, great people who work for me. Because my team, if we lose someone, we’re severely at a disadvantage. So, I take care of my people, I pay them well. I take care of them with stock. I mentor, I really get them excited about accounting and put a lot of personal attention into it.

Joy: Retention varies by region, country, and background, but the company culture is key. The growth of the company is exciting. When you’re at a company that is growing and you can see a path, I think for anyone in any group, that’s exciting to be at a company that’s growing.

Please share how your organization has automated manual and repetitive F&A processes, and what have been some of the positive impacts of automation?

To view answers to this question and the complete webcast panel, download here.


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