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Getting to know the 2022 CFO of the Year honorees

Rachel Kats, MNCPA communications coordinator | December 2022/January 2023 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated November 29, 2022

There are many great events that mark the end of the year, one of which is the annual CFOs of the Year list put out by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. The award honors financial executives and specialists for their contributions to their companies and the broader community.
 
This year, the MNCPA is proud to share that three members were honored. Honorees include Kevin Rymanowski, CFO and senior vice president of Benedictine; Judy Wright, vice president of finance at BTM Global; and Warren Zaccaro, executive vice president and CFO at Securian Financial, who was recognized as a Career Achievement recipient.
 
We recently caught up with all three to reflect on the recognition and their careers.

Kevin Rymanowski, CFO and senior vice president, Benedictine

How long have you been a CPA?
I started working in public accounting fall 1987, so I’m guessing I officially became a CPA in fall 1989. If my math is right, it has been about 33 years.
 
What was your initial response to finding out you were selected as an honoree?
This has got to be a mistake; the Business Journal just wants me to subscribe.
 
What are your thoughts now, after you’ve had time to reflect on the award?
It has been an incredibly humbling experience. I have so much gratitude for my colleagues who nominated me and my family for supporting me in my career.
 
Tell us a little bit about your role. What do you like best about it? 
I’ve been at Benedictine for 22 years and in this role for nearly 15 years. There’s never been a dull moment. Every day is different with different challenges. The one thing that has been constant is the awesome associates I work with and our unwavering commitment to our mission. 
 
What is some of the best advice you’ve received in your career?
Keep everything in perspective and maintain balance.
 
What did you want to do for a living when you were a kid? What about that choice resonated with you? 
I wanted to be a tree trimmer — that’s what my dad did when I was little, and doesn’t every little boy want to be like their father? Or maybe that’s just because I had the best dad in the world.
 
What ultimately led you to pursue a CPA instead of that?
In college, I was going to major in either computer science or accounting. I figured computers were just a fad, so I went the accounting route.
 
What’s the best way for a CFO at any stage in their career to establish credibility? 
Be honest, respectful and, above all, humble. Live your values at all times.
 
What’s the secret to being a successful CFO?
First, keep yourself from being the CF-No. Always focus on how things can work instead of always pointing out why they can’t. Second, find a place that aligns with your personal values and goals; then it doesn’t even feel like work (most days).

Judy Wright, vice president of finance, BTM Global

How long have you been a CPA? 7.5 years.
 
What was your initial response to finding out you were selected as an honoree?
I felt honored and grateful to be on the list of honorees. As a female executive, as a minority and as an immigrant, this honor means a lot to me and the people I represent.  
 
What are your thoughts now, after you’ve had time to reflect on the award?
This award gives me a great opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank all the people who helped me and supported me to this point. I will also use the award to encourage young BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) professionals to hopefully see themselves in me, and that one day they can achieve the same and even more! This award gives me a platform for helping and inspiring others.
 
Tell us a little bit about your role. What do you like best about it?
I oversee all of BTM Global’s financial operations, along with supporting its growth initiatives. What I like best is that I work with an amazingly talented team. We work together to do the best for the business while taking care of our employees.
 
What is some of the best advice you’ve received in your career?
Keep learning, listen to others, be kind and get involved in the community.
 
What did you want to do for a living when you were a kid? What about that choice resonated with you?
I always wanted to work in the business world — that’s been a steady goal ever since I was a teenager. I just kept working toward that goal and never stopped.
 
What ultimately led you to pursue a CPA?
I wanted to be a finance and accounting professional, and getting my CPA is a must-have professional designation if I wanted to do that. It prepared me well to work toward the highest achievement in my career. 
 
What’s the best way for a CFO at any stage in their career to establish credibility?
Any CFO has to truly care about what they do. I care about our employees, our clients and our partners, and I understand that what I do and what I say can have a big impact on the business. CFOs should be aware of the outcomes of their work and always act with the highest integrity.
 
What’s the secret to being a successful CFO?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, be resourceful and be a good listener. Never, ever stop learning.

Warren Zaccaro, executive vice president and CFO, Securian Financial

How long have you been a CPA?
Unofficially, my entire life. Technically, 39 years. I was born with all the CPA genes I needed. I just needed to get through college (at first avoiding the humanities courses but then realizing how critical they were to successful business leadership), the CPA exam (“The Quiz,” as we affectionately called it), and 25 years in public accounting (surviving the endless busy season). I obtained my CPA license in 1983, which seems like yesterday. I still have my handwritten application for my first license.
 
What was your initial response to finding out you were selected as an honoree?
What a great recognition for Securian Financial. My career has greatly benefited from my association with the company. It has been great to see the growth of Securian Financial, what we have been able to provide during the pandemic for our policyholders in their time of need, to the communities we operate in, and to our employees and business partners. This recognition is as much about the company as it is about me.
 
What are your thoughts now, after you’ve had time to reflect on the award?
It really is about the company, our heritage, our employees, our customers and our business partners. It is often said, “Success is determined by how we serve and care for others,” and this company has given me the opportunity to do just that.
 
Tell us a little bit about your role. What do you like best about it?
I like the variety of my role and the challenges to stay sharp, up to date, and active mentally and physically. I greatly enjoy the people I work with — their different responsibilities, backgrounds, disciplines and points of view. I love being exposed to different mindsets, and seeing people develop, grow and succeed. I learn so much from others, especially my direct reports, who are all super smart, dedicated and care deeply about their staff and the success of this company. 
 
What is some of the best advice you’ve received in your career?
From leadership I have worked with:
  • Prepare, don’t predict.
  • Once you made the sale, stop selling.
From peers, who keep me real and focused:
  • Win or tie, I’m behind you 100%.
  • I don’t think you want your audit client saying, “Warren was great, he always agreed with us no matter what we thought.”
From a college business professor:
  • Managers seek autonomy. Give the good ones that and they will succeed.
From my brother (also a CPA and CFO) when I was 10-years old, after I bought some newspaper route customers:
  • How long before you earn back what you paid for the customers?
What did you want to do for a living when you were a kid? What about that choice resonated with you?
I wanted, of course, to be a professional athlete. It looked fun and exciting, and just about every other kid I knew talked about being the same thing.
 
What ultimately led you to pursue a CPA instead of that?
A lack of anywhere near the required athletic talent and, at that time, most professional athletes weren’t highly compensated (times have changed). Eventually, I looked up to the successful business career that my father had, my mother’s focus on lifetime learning and my brother’s career as a CPA. It all came together.
 
What’s the best way for a CFO at any stage in their career to establish credibility?
Being reliable, having integrity and absolutely enjoying what you are doing. Ultimately, it is all about a relentless positive attitude toward your career.
 
What’s the secret to being a successful CFO?
Support from your family and co-workers.