The New Back Office: A Conversation with Megan Murray of eMoney & Fidelity

By Tien Tzuo July 27, 2020

Our ongoing CFO series continues with an interview with Megan Murray, Head of Finance at eMoney, a financial planning platform for financial advisors and firms. Prior to joining eMoney, Megan spent fourteen years at Fidelity, thriving in multiple financial roles across the organization. Megan earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Villanova University and an MBA from Boston College.  

 

Thanks for your time, Megan. How are you managing these strange times?   

Oh, we’re holding up fine. I’ve got four kids, so we’re all keeping busy. I just downloaded DoorDash for the first time. We went the conservative route and stocked all the freezers, and so being a CFO, I’m trying to ensure we use everything in the freezer.

 

Of course! You’re keeping an eye on the bottom line. So you’ve had an amazing career so far. You were with Fidelity for 14 years before you became head of finance for one of their fastest growing divisions, eMoney, a subscription-based platform for financial advisors. Outside of job titles, how did your career change over the years? What brought you to this point?  

Early on in my career, it was all about your financial reports. I call it old school financial reporting: travel and expenses, compensation, the basic general ledger account views. Very traditional profit and loss reporting. The number one goal of a finance team was to get your financials out on time, and make sure they’re accurate. Your variance explanations were always there, but they were pretty vanilla.

But over time the expectations of the organization definitely evolved, and the “Why” became a louder voice: Why exactly did my revenue grow so much last quarter? Particularly with a subscription model, it’s so incredibly important to understand how your customers are purchasing. What’s their financial relationship with you and why? And that’s your top line. But then, how are they consuming your resources as a business? And then exploring why behind that.

 

So things shifted from the “What” to the “Why”? That’s the new imperative for finance leaders?

Exactly. Let’s say you’re seeing a spike in customer service calls. Your first instinct might be to start hiring more customer service reps. But maybe your user interface is so terrible that customers have to resort to phone calls. If that’s the case, hiring more reps isn’t going to help that customer experience. So it’s about identifying behavior, then clicking into the user experience.

 

User experience doesn’t sound like a typical CFO priority, but when you think about it, of course it is! All these financial signals are coming from somebody, right? I’m assuming you work pretty closely with your operations team. 

All the time. Between finance and operations, when both teams are coordinating around optimal customer experience and optimal profitability, you’ve got the Holy Grail. It’s all the same data, it’s just that different functions of your organization are looking at it through different lenses. The back office data around efficiency and profitability is the same data that our product organization needs to build a great service that resonates with our users. So it’s absolutely all converging.

 

The lines between the back office and the front office are coming down. 

Oh, totally. What we’re realizing the more we do this is that we’re using different words to describe the same outcome. So we’re trying to align our language now a little bit more. We don’t want to have multiple people using the same data set to ultimately get the same answer, if that makes sense.

 

Completely. How does automation play into this effort?

Well, with automation you spend less time doing the basics and more time absorbing, understanding and analyzing. And that’s exactly the same experience we’re trying to provide for the financial advisors who use our solutions. The goal is to make the basic stuff available and ready and consistent and timely, so the advisor can sit back and translate to their end investors the why, the overall narrative, and how to help them achieve better outcomes.

 

So how do you see the CFO role evolving over the next ten or twenty years?

I think it’s going to be a heck of a lot more forward-looking and predictive and more strategic. I think the strategic lens of it is going to continue to expand because as we get more powerful tools and analytic capabilities, the role is just going to broaden. Today, there’s an expectation that you’re forward-thinking, but I think that expectation is going to get deeper and stronger.

 

How should folks starting out in finance prepare themselves for this shift?

When I talk to students in school and they’re thinking about what they should major in, I do truly think a strong accounting background is incredibly important. You need to learn a language first in order to become fluent. But I also think a strong knowledge and appreciation of data and relational data models is absolutely essential. And then you absolutely need to be a strong strategic thinker, collaborator, a listener.

 

Going back to that front office/back office collaboration. 

Exactly. Because as I mentioned, a lot of times the spirit of what people are trying to do is very similar and aligned, but the words they use to describe it can imply that you’re not on the same page, and it can create a lot of waste and inefficiency and friction. And I think if you can become an active listener, and really truly appreciate what your business partners are trying to accomplish, you can help guide the organization down the right path.

 

It’s obviously a pretty stressful and uncertain time for lots of people right now when it comes to personal finances. Given that eMoney is about providing services that help people talk about money, how have you responded to the COVID-19 crisis?

That’s right. A lot of our advisors are navigating clients through the effects of a bear market right now. It’s the same with personal finance as well as business: you need to have a plan to fall back on when things like this happen. Fortunately, the eMoney platform offers an online and mobile experience providing 24/7 access to financial information. And with functionality like screen sharing, our clients have been able to continue supporting their clients in a remote environment pretty seamlessly. In addition, we’ve supplied many educational resources to help them adjust. We’ve also launched several campaigns that provided new and current clients with free access to our planning and marketing solutions to help them enhance not only their planning experience but also their communication with clients, which is so important right now.

 

Thanks so much, Megan! 

You’re welcome. Any time.

 

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