Rob Leff - CFO, Fandango

Scuba diving and risk mitigation: One CFO’s perspective

What do swimming with sharks and being a CFO in digital technology have in common? According to Rob Leff, CPA, CGMA, CFO of Fandango, both require risk management techniques. In this AICPA Insights Member Spotlight, we find out how Rob is using his management accounting skills to excel in a field that is changing everything.

Tell me about your day-to-day responsibilities
My role is multi-faceted: It includes the traditional finance and accounting that most CFOs have and also responsibilities that wouldn’t necessarily fall under the official CFO role, such as mergers and acquisitions and business intelligence. Business intelligence includes business analytics and business intelligence reporting, which is data warehousing, database management and more. Fandango is a digital business and the digital space is constantly evolving and changing with new technologies and partners. Strategically, I partner with our president and executive team on the decisions of the organization. We work together on deciding where we’re going to take the company.

How is your role different from the typical CFO?
One of my goals has been to go beyond the job description and add value to the organization. I’m always evaluating the buy, rent, or build scenarios. If there’s an area of business that we want to expand into, I’ll conduct an analysis with the executive team: What would it take to build it ourselves? Or, are there companies we can acquire to accelerate the time to market? Or, could we “rent” [by building] a commercial relationship instead of buying it? I’m constantly evaluating opportunities to grow Fandango. With all of those functions, I'm able to leverage my experience and partner with the executive management team to drive the business forward.

What skill is critical for you in order to forecast and effectively grow the company?
A critical skill for success is possessing a deep understanding of details, while never losing sight of the big picture. A CFO must know the business, the financials and the models inside out, while also understanding what’s going on in the industry and where opportunities can be found. My goal is to avoid just crunching numbers and reporting where we’ve been, it’s to help navigate our future.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? What are you passionate about?
One of my passions is scuba diving. Once I took that first breath underwater, I fell in love with the sport. At age 18, I became a Divemaster and I have been diving ever since. My family also shares my interest. My wife is certified and my older son just earned his certification. It’s fun to watch him have the same types of experiences I had when I first started to dive.

Are there parallels between scuba diving and being a CFO?
In the role of CFO, one of your main roles is risk management and mitigating risk for your organization. In scuba diving, you need to manage risk as well. Under the water, you’ve got to assess the risks that may threaten your safety—or that of your fellow divers—and consider the opportunities that might allow you to experience a rewarding dive.

What advice do you have for CGMA designation holders who are starting their careers?
The ability to effectively manage teams is critical. In today’s digital space, it's all about human capital. The digital media and entertainment space is all about the people.

As a CGMA designation holder, Rob manages and mitigates risk so that his company can continue to grow and innovate. See how taking the first step to becoming a CGMA designation holder starts you on a path to elevating your technical, business, leadership and people skills to advance your career goals.