Anne Thompson shares how she feels about recently being named as CFO of Seiler LLP, an accounting firm based in Redwood City, California, and why she particularly enjoys working for professional service firms.
What most excites you about your new position?
I’m pleased to be part of this growing, dynamic firm. The people here are exceptional professionals, technically strong and good at caring for our client’s needs. I love my team in the finance department and feel honored to work with them every day.
What led you to a career as a financial officer at an accounting firm, over say, an airline or energy company? Is there anything that made accounting unique, or especially appealing to you?
I had worked for a range of industries including retail, hospitality and entertainment, before I was recruited by a former boss to work at a law firm. I found that, rather than being limited to a narrow range of finance functions as frequently found at larger corporations, working at a professional service firm allowed me to develop a wide range of skills—cash, payroll, AR, billing, planning and budgeting—over the course of my career.
On the technical side, I really enjoy partnership accounting. In addition, the partnership structure of professional services really engaged me—I was hooked. I liked directly supporting the partners, who are the business owners. While each partner runs things a little differently, they’re all highly engaged and focused on their clients and their business.
My customer service experience has really helped me be successful in navigating the roles and relationships at the professional service firms. The client service aspect of what we do as a firm carries over to my department. We serve both our internal and external clients and are always looking to improve the client experience.
How has the pandemic changed the way you approach your job?
Wow. Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who says this, but the pandemic changed almost everything, and yet many things remain the same. For example, as a team, we’ve evolved to be much more efficient. We had time to think about how we worked, how we communicated, how we coordinated ourselves. My team performed beautifully with minimal staff changes. We are looking forward to reconnecting in person but not in the office five days a week—and that’s okay. The efficiencies we’ve gained from remote work allow us to offer work flexibility as we head into the middle of 2022.
Our communication methods with our clients changed and even how our clients paid us has changed. Our clients expect this transformation as we all adapt to a new way of operating. What lies ahead for us is more change. We will continue to invest in technology to better serve our clients.
What are the most important skills you bring to your CFO role?
As the CFO, I bring excellent technical, communication and leadership skills, and I aim to be a true business partner. The technical skills are the ones involved in business performance management such as forecasting, dashboards, KPIs, data mining and analysis. Communication skills are essential when sharing real-time financial information and insight with both internal and external stakeholders. As I continue to grow in this new role, my partnerships across the organization are deepening as we foster closer alignment and collaboration. All are essential in Seiler’s continued growth and long-term success.
What has been most rewarding about your career at Seiler?
I mentioned the quality of my relationships with my team and my clients. To dig into that a little more, what brings me joy every day is watching how, as a team, we support and amplify each other. This has become even more apparent during the pandemic—how teams who really do care about the work and each other are the teams that have remained intact. The teams have grown and are ready to take on the next series of challenges the future holds for us. I take pride in the retention rate of my staff, how I’ve been able to promote them, how well they accept new challenges, and how we continue to grow. I want to keep that momentum going.
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow a similar career path?
I would suggest they follow their passion and don’t be afraid of new opportunities. It doesn’t hurt to get some great experience. While you are getting that great experience, focus on treating your teammates well and build good, healthy relationships. My focus in picking roles and positions has always been driven by people. I want to work with people I respect, trust and like. I have been very fortunate in working with and for incredible individuals.