A Tech CFO’s Message For All Finance Chiefs

Lisa Mogensen, CFO at RiskOptics
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Lisa Mogensen, finance chief at RiskOptics, on what she’s learned at an emerging SaaS company, how the CFO role is changing and what she sees as the ‘undervalued partnership’ at most organizations.

What does it take to get an emerging company to profitability? Veteran finance executive Lisa Mogensen shares her insights about this critical task and other topics on the minds of many CFOs.

Mogensen was appointed CFO of RiskOptics, a Software as a Service company that provides governance, risk and compliance solutions, in March. She has more than two decades of CFO experience, working at technology companies across SaaS, data analytics, AI and crypto, in both the public and private sectors, including for 4C Insights, Valiant and Return Path.

Prior to making the switch to tech, Mogensen also held CFO roles at a number of media companies, including Forbes Digital and TheStreet. She started her career as an investment banker, and during her 20-plus-year career, has conducted more than $1.5 billion in M&A and fundraising transactions.

In your new role at RiskOptics, a high-growth SaaS company, can you touch on your goals and what you’re focused on?

The sheer speed of technology and innovation makes the fast-paced industry appealing. The SaaS model is gratifying not only because of the comfort of recurring revenue from a CFO’s perspective, but, particularly to RiskOptics, I also get a front-row seat to witness something growing from the ground up.

I joined RiskOptics at an exciting time for the company—in the midst of a rebrand and strengthened platform offering. Right now, my team’s biggest goal is to get us to profitability, which runs in-tandem with supporting the revenue and client success teams securing sales and renewal growth. This all comes down to having the right people, processes and technology in place.

For instance, you can have the greatest people, but if you don’t have the right technology or processes, your people lack the tools they need to really perform to their full potential. My goal is to make sure we’re firing on all three cylinders, equally, to ensure we’re the most productive and effective team we can be.

What can non-SaaS CFOs learn from a SaaS CFO?

While the SaaS space is notoriously quick, you have some level of stability in knowing you’ll generally bring in a certain amount of recurring revenue. It doesn’t mean you can take your eye off the revenue ball—you need to focus on generating new customers, renewing the core, reducing churn and upselling existing customers, all in addition to determining customer acquisition costs and lifetime value.

Finding the right balance between acquiring new customers and maximizing a customer’s lifetime value can be challenging in any industry. Data helps cut through the noise to optimize pricing strategies, identify cost-effective customer acquisition channels and ultimately make data-driven decisions that drive profitable growth. Additionally, the integration of an optimized tech stack, established cross-functional collaboration and a keen eye on cash runway provides the entire picture for the future of the business.

This kind of holistic approach is valuable for all CFOs, in particular, the SaaS CFO. SaaS CFOs tend to need to pivot more than the traditional CFO because of the ever-changing nature of the tech landscape and the fact that preparing for capital raising and/or transactions—either buy-side or sell-side—are more of a day-to-day occurrence in the SaaS world than the world of a traditional CFO. Thus, the rigor of data-driven decision making in a rapidly changing environment is a skill that is transferable to all.

We often hear about the “modern CFO.” What does this really mean? How can the CFO be a strategic asset—more than merely the “payroll person?”

A big barrier for CFOs is overcoming that moniker that we just manage the numbers, process bills and run payroll. Of course, that is only a portion of the role, but it is so much larger than that and continues to grow.

Today’s CFO has a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening in each business function and can therefore be a huge strategic asset to the business. They have a peripheral vision of the entire organization—and can help identify areas of opportunity and blockers.

But for that to happen, CFOs need strong emotional intelligence and communication skills, in addition to their analytical brain. They need the ability to listen with both ears—i.e., understand the others’ pain points and what they’re trying to achieve—to effectively problem solve, manage expectations regarding the future, answer the “what if?” for a variety of scenarios and prioritize initiatives based on impact and desired outcomes.

Why is the CFO/CISO partnership a gamechanger and one that’s under-rated today?

A security breach or cyberattack on a business has major implications and is felt across the entire organization—not just the IT department. These risks have a direct tie to business health. An attack could completely disrupt operations and erode trust internally and externally, both of which can impact revenue streams.

It’s no longer enough for the responsibility to solely fall on CISOs alone. Today, organizations must take a holistic approach to risk—one that is framed around business priorities. To do so, you need cooperation from all stakeholders, including the CFO. Together, the CISO and CFO make up an undervalued partnership.

When organizations take a risk-first approach, CISOs can provide insights into where there is risk within a business and how much financial impact it could potentially have. Armed with this knowledge and data, the CISO can work with the CFO to ensure that there are strategic initiatives in place to protect against that risk.

When there are hard numbers to back up requested spend—especially if it impacts revenue—it gives the CFO the justification needed to ensure the proper resources are allocated to protect the business. On the flip side, the CFO can use this knowledge to better communicate risk to other members of the C-Suite as well as the board so that all parties are on the same page when it comes to the risk within their business. When that happens, risk can start to lend itself to not only how everyone can all work together to better protect the business, but to truly propel it forward.

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