Finance Insight

Bryan Reasons discusses striking a balance between business strategy and following the rules in a highly regulated industry

Bryan Reasons, CFO, Impax Laboratories

What do you consider the most important role of a chief financial officer?

Bryan Reasons: I divide the CFO role at Impax into two distinct areas, both of which must be kept in mind at all times. On the compliance side, you have to understand the rules—proper accounting, disclosure, and the like. On the business side, you have to understand the industry so you can come up with the best solutions.

So would you say that you subscribe to the idea of the “strategic CFO”?

Reasons: The term comes in and out of vogue, but fundamentally, I agree with it. We have to understand the business, so that when decisions are being made, we can explain the broad impact, both in the short term and long term.

What’s the key to being a strategic CFO?

Reasons: The key is understanding the business, but also becoming a trusted partner. I try to embed my financial people within the business function so they can come to understand the nuances, making them more valuable contributors on the team.

Is there such a thing as a “financial mind”?

Reasons: Financial people tend to look at issues in a more analytical and less emotional way. We’re well-suited to looking at all aspects of an issue—not just how it will affect one business unit, but also at the corporate level so we can determine what the impact will be to the shareholder. Because ultimately we have a fiduciary responsibility to our investors.

What has been your strategy for  assembling and developing your team at Impax?

Reasons: The baseline is that a team member has to be technically competent. Beyond that, I look for people who are problem solvers and work well collaboratively. I find that a lot of financial people are good at identifying issues. But it’s rare to find someone who can say, “Here’s a problem, and I thought about it, and here are three potential solutions.” I never want someone on my team to be a roadblock to the business.

How do you balance the company’s short-term and long-term financial needs?

Reasons: It’s very different between a private and a public company. With a private company, you can do what’s best in the long term as long as you have the resources. With a public company, you have to understand your shareholders. What type of company are they investing in?

If you’re going to shift your strategy—say, from short-term cash generation to long-term growth—you’ll have to shift your shareholder base as well. I work closely with my investor relations vice president, who is close to our shareholder base and has a good understanding of where they are focused and the shareholders we should be targeting based on any shifts in our strategy.

What are some of the major challenges that you face?

Reasons: We have to stay on top of the shifting regulatory landscape—not just the regulations that affect us directly, such as Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure and accounting rules, but also more industry specific things, such as Food and Drug Administration regulations and the Affordable Care Act. All that takes time and resources, and resources are also a challenge. It’s hard to recruit and retain the best talent.

What takes up the majority of your time?

Reasons: One thing that’s fun about being a CFO is that my day never, ever, even remotely ends up looking like my calendar says it will look. During the quarter close, I spend a lot of time on technical accounting issues. Other times I look at mergers and acquisitions, analyzing potential deals and how we model them. And there are weeks that I spend the bulk of my time on investor relations. It’s never dull.

How are you hoping to develop your role as you look forward? What does this mean for Impax?

Reasons: Any role is always going to evolve. Since I’ve been a CFO, I’ve learned that I need to push a lot of the technical work down to my other financial team. I’m looking to get more involved in business decisions, acting as a sounding board to the CEO on things like potential deals.