The Strategic Dilemma CFOs Face ~ Critical Leadership Advice from CFOs at Blue Shield & Citizens Financial

“Be Strategic” is the mantra CFOs’ hear.  Being strategic requires making hard choices and placing bets on how to win.  In today’s disruptive world, winning strategies require innovation which is inherently risky.  In contrast, CFOs can be seen as risk averse or “NO CFOS”.  Today’s reality is CFOs have a challenging essential role to play in the strategy process. One where CFOs embrace innovation.  Successful CFOs recognize to “Be Strategic” they must be involved throughout their company’s innovation process.  This role includes guiding the executive team in balancing the potential benefits of innovation with the inherent risks faced, allocating capital, and overseeing the cost-effective delivery of innovation and how innovation risk is being managed.

During this session Peter Hirst, MIT Professor, will facilitate an engaging discussion with John Woods, CFO Citizen’s Financial Group and Sandra Clarke, CFO Blue Shield California.  Both John and Sandra have and continue to play critical leadership roles in their organizations’ strategy and innovation processes. During this discussion John and Sandy will share their lessons learned and insights which conference attendees can apply to shape into a personal roadmap for playing a leadership role in their company’s strategy and innovation processes.

Come collaborate in this live discussion  “The Strategic Dilemma CFOs Face at our 9th annual CFO Leadership Conference “Seven Pillars Of The Modern CFO” May 13-14th (Pillar #7  “Strategy, Innovation, Risk” ~ Tuesday, May 14th @ 1:00pm).

About Our Speakers

Sandra Clarke, Senior Vice President & CFO, Blue Shield California

Sandra Clarke, Senior Vice President and CFO, ​Blue Shield of California​
Sandra Clarke is Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Blue Shield of California, a 4-million-plus-member nonprofit health plan with more than $20 billion in annual revenue that serves the state’s commercial, individual, and government markets.  Clarke oversees the company’s financial strategy and operations.  She is responsible for a diverse range of financial and operational activities including corporate development, real estate, internal audit, procurement, capital planning, budgeting, forecasting, financial accounting and reporting. She also oversees the actuarial functions within the company as well as End to End Process Transformation. Before joining Blue Shield in 2018, she served as senior vice president and chief financial officer of Daiichi Sankyo Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo Ltd., which develops and markets a range of pharmaceuticals. Clarke also held senior finance roles at Philips Healthcare, where she served as chief financial officer of its North & South America Commercial Group and at Siemens Water Technologies Group, where she was vice president of finance and controller.  Clarke has a Bachelor of Science in finance from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Science in accounting from Bentley University.





John Woods, Vice Chairman & CFO, Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

John F. Woods, Vice Chairman and CFO, ​Citizens Financial Group, Inc. 
John joined Citizens as Chief Financial Officer in 2017 and was named a Vice Chairman of the bank in 2019. As Chief Financial Officer he has responsibility for the bank’s Financial Planning and Analysis, Controller, Investor Relations, Strategy, Treasury, Tax and Capital Management functions as well as for the business line finance groups. 
Woods joined Citizens from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG), where he served as Chief Financial Officer of the MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation, which operates MUFG Union Bank, since 2013. He previously served as Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer for the predecessor company of MUFG Union Bank since December 2009. Prior to that, Woods was Chief Financial Officer of the Home Lending business at JPMorgan Chase and at Washington Mutual, a predecessor entity. Before that, he held senior financial positions at the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), including Chief Financial Officer of the Funding & Investment Division and Corporate Controller. Woods began his career in 1986 with Arthur Andersen where he rose to partner in the financial and risk consulting group during his 16 years with the firm.
Woods holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.





Peter Hirst, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Executive Education, ​MIT Sloan School of Management

Peter Hirst, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Executive Education, ​MIT Sloan School of Management
Dr. Peter Hirst leads the team of professionals who partner with clients and faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management to develop, design, and deliver innovative executive education programs for individuals and companies.  Formerly CEO of the commercialization, consulting, and executive education business of the London School of Economics, he has over fifteen years of experience in international strategy, technology consulting and organizational development. He has also served as a director and board adviser to businesses and non-profit organizations on three continents. He is a past president of the British American Business Council of New England, for which he currently serves as a board director and a founding member of its Energy and Environment Committee, and is a trustee of the American Foundation of the University of St Andrews in Scotland.  Peter earned a PhD from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, for research in plasma physics and microwave engineering. After a period of academic entrepreneurship in a variety of related fields, including optoelectronics, neural network computing, and the interfaces between technology and terrorism, he was appointed Westminster Fellow in the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, where he advised MPs and Peers of all parties on policy issues in the physical sciences, defense and IT.  In 2012, Peter was named a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his service to British and American business and academia interests.




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2019 CFO Leadership Conference- CFO Week in Boston, MAAbout The CFO Leadership Conference “Seven Pillars Of The Modern CFO”
The CFO Leadership Council’s 9th annual national conference “Seven Pillars Of The Modern CFO” is being held May 13-14, 2019 in Boston’s Seaport District.  Dedicated to empowering CFOs, it will offer relevant and tangible tools for CFOs and senior financial executives to hone your leadership skills. Sessions include inspiring keynotes, and expert-led interactive workshops crafted to dig deep into key leadership areas within the Seven Pillars of the Modern CFO – (Pillars – Strategy & Innovation, Performance Measurement, Economics & Globalization, Data-Drive Decision Making, Technology, Disruption & Change, Executive Presence & Communication, and Leadership). Network and learn alongside 400+ of your peers across North America. NASBA Certified CPE Offered.  Reserve your seat today.


About The CFO Leadership Council
The CFO Leadership Council offers both live & online programs that feature expert panels and interactive sessions that drive meaningful conversation and leadership development among our membership. Our collection of leadership development resources similar to this article contain pragmatic insights and advice sourced directly from our members and industry experts.  Recordings of CFOLC webcasts are made available to our current CFOLC Premium & Virtual members. To learn about our three-tiered membership options and CFO Week in May 2019, visit


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