With more than two decades of experience working for medium and large public companies within the technology sector, the opportunity to join Zeta Global as CFO in March 2020 was a no-brainer for Christopher Greiner.
“For me, Zeta Global was at the intersection of what I’ve been doing for the past ten years, being focused on both artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics,” Greiner says. “While I was at IBM around 2012, the last role I had there was as CFO and COO of the analytics division, and this was when Watson was being born.”
Greiner joined Zeta Global with the mission of transforming the finance organization through big data and AI, similarly to how the company does through its leading marketing platform for enterprise brands.
“For me, AI is not just a predictor of intent; it can automate things in the back end,” he explains. “As a financial professional, the more I begin to look deeper into what the teams are doing in the office of finance and accounting, the more I realize a lot of work is highly transactional. I think about what we can do to bring AI into the back office of an organization. That’s an incredibly exciting thing.”
Greiner has had exposure to the power of AI since his IBM Watson days. Prior to Zeta Global, Greiner helped take healthcare-tech company Inovalon public in February 2015. During his five-year tenure at the company, he served as chief product and operating officer, held leadership roles in sales and customer success, and ultimately served as Inovalon’s chief financial officer from 2017 to 2018.
He continued down the path of finance while serving as chief financial officer of LivePerson, a publicly held technology company that is a leader in AI messaging for Enterprise brands. During his two-year tenure, he played a crucial role in significantly expanding the company’s valuation—between March 2018 and February 2020, the market cap increased from $900 million to $2.8 billion.
“I challenge my team to ‘repaint the lines’ to see if there’s a new or better way of doing something. Are we obsessing over our customer and their needs? How can we best serve them?”
In living out his mission at Zeta Global, Greiner also encourages his team to think beyond the traditional guise of finance and lean into innovation. “I believe it’s not as simple as just writing code,” he says, “It’s about a philosophical and cultural pivot in the mission of finance. I challenge my team to ‘repaint the lines’ to see if there’s a new or better way of doing something. Are we obsessing over our customer and their needs? How can we best serve them?” By leaning on automation for transactional work, his team can focus on being a true strategic partner to the business.
Greiner joined Zeta Global at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated his other mandate: to rapidly evolve the company’s financial capabilities and business model.
“Sometimes, the badge of honor of CFOs is how quickly they can take costs out, and you can imagine how many medals are being awarded at times like this,” Greiner says. However, Greiner believes that the goal of cost take-out should be approached from an entirely different angle. This unique vantage point comes from multiple years outside of finance, being responsible for building product, and selling to customers. “Lasting organizational efficiency comes from the pursuit of quality and speed, not at the sacrifice of it,” Greiner says.
By leaning on automation, his team can pursue this quality by running real-time metrics and simulations on business outcomes, such as stress-testing the profit and loss, managing cash, and measuring sales velocity.
There’s no doubt Greiner is up to the challenge of transforming Zeta Global’s finance organization, especially during times of crisis. “For me,” he says, “it’s all about making Zeta Global emerge stronger from this pandemic.”