Meet the Leadership Series: CFO Brian Walker
Q&A with Brian Walker
UMBFC’s new CFO talks about swimming with sharks, putting people first and what it takes to be a CFO.
What brought you to 2014?
I grew up in the Kansas City area, graduating from Olathe North and then Kansas State University (Go Cats!). The first 13 years of my career started in public accounting with a focus on banking.
I met my wife, Anne, in college, and even though she was a human ecology major, she eventually saw the appeal of the financial industry and is now a successful tax accountant.
We have two sons, Alex is 7 and Chase is 9. The latest craze in our house is Go Fish.
Given your line of work, do you think you emphasize allowance and budgeting more than the average parent?
My portion of the homework is the math, and my wife helps with English. Beyond just homework help, l want to teach my kids basic money skills while they’re still young. Lack of financial education could be the downfall of America. So passing along my passion and knowledge of finances is a parenting goal of mine.
What makes a CFO great?
Focusing on people first. I’m naturally inclined to think about process, controls and procedures and how to improve them. But I try to push against that inclination and focus on my team first. I can’t do anything without my team. So my job is to continue to look for strategic ways to improve processes while developing and supporting my teams.
And of course you have to have patience and a good sense of humor.
What is the greatest challenge facing CFOs in the financial industry in 2014?
Compliance. Our second full-time job is complying with regulations. Risk management has always been important for CFOs, but it is even more of a priority in 2014. We have to balance risk management while looking at today’s environment and figure out how to continually meet the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders. How do we strategically reconcile those needs all the while providing the Unparalleled Customer Experience and maintaining a competitive stance in this industry?
What advice do you have for others that aspire to become CFO?
There’s nothing different about me than a lot of people on my team. The only difference is years of experience. They can all accomplish the same things. My advice is to find good coaches and mentors. Be open to criticism. Be willing to fail and learn from it.
If you ever want to BE your boss, take work off of their plate. I strive to be grounded and understand that I’m not magical. I’m not any better than anyone else who has come or gone.
Where is your favorite place to travel?
The islands. Any of them. I am an avid SCUBA diver, and have dived everywhere from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Hawaii to the Caribbean. I learned to dive in the U.S. Virgin Islands while I was auditing a bank in St. Croix.
Mr. Walker is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer at UMB Financial Corporation. He joined UMB in 2007. He earned a Business Administration (Accounting) degree at Kansas State University and his Masters of Business Administration degree at Rockhurst University. In addition to his involvement with several community and charitable organizations, he is also the treasurer for the Big Bash Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation focused on providing financial assistance and increasing visibility for local not-for-profit organizations.