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69 Start With a Commercial Story, Then Solve for Accounting with Chris Stefani, CFO at DWF

This episode of the CFO Playbook features an interview with Chris Stefani, CFO at DWF, a leading global provider of integrated legal and business services. He oversees all of DWF's financial operations in the UK and internationally, with a focus on enhancing revenue, improving profitability and driving working capital management to support the firm's growth. In this episode, Chris talks about pioneering clean data, how a CFO can prioritize the finance team for success with the right investments, and how that team utilizes new tech to expand their horizon in a novel market. Chris also discusses how to achieve balance during stress and lead courageously through challenging times.


Chris’ Playbook: Successful communication in financial leadership

This episode of the CFO Playbook features an interview with Chris Stefani, CFO at DWF, a  leading global provider of integrated legal and business services.

In this episode, Chris talks about why the legal sector provides variety for someone working in the finance function. He explains what it’s like to lead an organization through an IPO during covid, the war in Ukraine, and worldwide financial struggles. Chris also discusses the importance of delegation, coaching, and providing leeway and time for teams to process, progress, and be productive.

You have to be adaptable

Many look up to the CFO as a leader in a complex space. It’s crucial to be able to step up and perform, regardless of how one feels in the moment. You have to be able to adapt and provide opportunities for yourself and your time to lead and thrive.

“Delegation, coaching, and thinking time I think are three of the things that I really try and invest in. You don't always get it. You get busy and you end up executing yourself and things like that. So, it's not a sort of permanent state of being and doesn't need to be, I don't think business works like that. But, if you always snap back to that as a default, then I think you're doing pretty well.”

Step back and squint at it

Oftentimes, people associate good communication with length of speech. The more a person has to say, the more knowledgeable they appear on the subject. However, this isn’t necessarily true. As a leader, it is important to recognize when you need to be brief and when more explanation is needed. Sometimes, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ response works, allowing the individual to inquire further at their own pace. At other times, it is an under invested skill for accountants to be able to present and articulate non-technical analysis of what's going on in the business. It is important to be able to tell a story and support it with the numbers. 

"You get such a higher quality narrative and an actionable insight if you start with the story and then check whether the numbers back it up. It is a leap of faith for people who are used to double underlining on an answer. But, if you can get people into that way of thinking, you're far more commercial and provide far more value add for your people. So I think everybody needs to sort of set aside that inner introvert, but also set aside the inner auditor as well."

Leading through challenging times

In unprecedented times, as seen in the past few years, leaders across the globe have had to step up their game. Strong leadership in times of crisis is immensely important. This can be achieved through something as simple as over communicating within the workplace, in order to distinctively get a point across.

“I liken my job to being an air hostess on a plane full of people who are quite easily spooked by turbulence. They look to me to be calm, even when the plane's rattling around because, I mean, I'm a nervous flyer and if I look and the air hostess is panicking, I worry. So however much there might be going on in the background, I've got to present a calm face to the business, take questions, understand sentiment and also be fixing stuff in the background without making too much noise about it.”

Financial leaders need support too

The finance team is directly linked to the CFO. They act as a support base for the financial leader just as much as they look up to the leader for direction. Surrounding oneself with an incredibly competent team is important for growth as a whole and can only benefit the CFO even if there seems to be worry of internal competition.

“Make sure you hire people who occasionally or even regularly make you feel uncomfortable, because they're that good. And that is, again, great advice. Work yourself out of a job. You'll always find the next one if you're good enough. Meanwhile, you've got a team that will make you look good. Like it's a complete falsehood to think I'll protect myself by hiring okay people.”


Timestamp Topics:

01:35 Chris’ career path

05:33 CFO experiences at different companies

08:55 Pioneering in a novel market

13:10 Leadership through challenging times

18:53 Achieving balance during stressful times

25:56 Investing in the finance team as a CFO

33:24 How Chris’ team uses technology

37:22 Advice for aspiring CFOs



This show is brought to you by Soldo, the brighter way to manage business spending and expenses. With Soldo, you can control every expense, track spend in real time, automate financial reporting, and then use those insights to fuel growth. Learn more at



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