COO to CFO: transitioning roles during a pandemic

COO to CFO: transitioning roles during a pandemic | Insurance Business America

COO to CFO: transitioning roles during a pandemic

Sharon Edwards (pictured) transitioned from COO to CFO of Risk Strategies this January, helping the brokerage adapt to the rapid growth experienced over the last year.

“As a COO you really get into the nuts and bolts about how the company runs, the people the processes and the technology. You’re really able to use that knowledge and leverage it in terms of where you want to make investments and how to forecast benefits to your company when putting together a five-year projection.” Edwards told Insurance Business.

“We had a CFO who was playing a dual hatted role - both handling the role of CFO duties and the merger and acquisition duties. Given the size of our company we made the strategic decision to split those two roles to have both a CFO and a chief of merger and acquisitions officer.”

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Despite facing challenges throughout the pandemic, Risk Strategies was still able to acquire 18 companies over the past year. “As a company that’s very acquisitive, we wanted to make sure we could continue to do that,” said Edwards.

“The pandemic was really a great test for most companies’ business continuity programs,” she noted. “The first thing you worry about is preserving capital and making sure you have your structure set to weather the storm.”

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Edwards said that the company’s biggest asset is its employees, putting them at the forefront of all decision making. When the pandemic hit, protecting staff was a priority and the brokerage succeeded in doing so as there were no COVID-related layoffs or downsizing.  

“If you take care of your people and they feel like you listen and incorporate their feedback, that speaks volumes and helps retain your good talent,” said Edwards.

From a managerial standpoint, a challenge Edwards and her team is tackling is figuring out how to manage employees in a hybrid work environment.

“For a long time, people thought they had to see you to make sure you’re working, and that’s not the way it will be moving forward. It’s much more of a trust-oriented system,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to making many future contributions as we move into a new way of working.”