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Bruce Klein of CrossCountry Consulting On 5 Things You Need To Succeed In The Modern World Of Finance & Fintech

An Interview With Jason Hartman

As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bruce Klein.

Bruce Klein is a Partner in CrossCountry’s New York office where he leads the firm’s Financial Services practice and ESG offerings. He has significant experience assisting companies with strategic project delivery, large scale transformation activity, regulatory compliance, and ESG reporting.

Bruce’s consulting trajectory began with KPMG Consulting/BearingPoint where he worked in the eCommerce and Real Estate practices before ultimately serving as a Senior Manager in the Lending and Leasing team. Following BearingPoint, Bruce led the New York Financial Services Practice for Navigant Consulting and then the Commercial Banking practice for Capco before reuniting with former colleagues at CrossCountry.

Bruce began his career in the IT area of AT&T Bell Laboratories and Merrill Lynch. He has a BS in Computer Science from Queens College and an MS in Computer Science from Columbia University.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started out in IT and worked on Wall Street at Merrill Lynch, now part of Bank of America. What I noticed at Merrill was that the employees were working on ‘business as usual’ activities while consulting firms were hired to work on more strategic and exciting projects. I decided that was a better fit for me so went to KPMG’s Advisory practice where I had a great experience and stayed for nine years before deciding to do the same type of work in a smaller, more people-oriented environment like CrossCountry Consulting.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am the lead on CrossCountry’s ESG offering which has been tremendously fulfilling. ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance which encapsulates weighty topics such as climate change, employee diversity, ethical labor, etc. ESG in the corporate world involves developing a strategy to meet sustainability goals and translating those into specific reportable metrics that hold a company accountable. Much like financial metrics, these ESG metrics will be reported on by Finance teams bringing finance professionals into this exciting world of sustainability. While corporate jobs have their own sense of satisfaction, it’s rare and exciting for finance professionals to now be involved in ‘save the planet’ type activities that will play a part in combating climate change and other worthwhile goals.

Let’s now shift to the central focus of our discussion. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started what was its WHY, its purpose?

Consulting is a great profession, but firms sometimes view their consultants as a ‘billable hour’ on a spreadsheet rather than as a person. Our WHY was to be a consulting firm that gave equal priority to the consultant’s experience as we did to the client’s experience. We know our consultants as individuals, we know who can travel, who can’t travel, what projects they like to work on, what their career aspirations are and we utilize this intimate knowledge in making day-to-day decisions.

What measure do you use to determine the value of a company? What advice would you give to other leaders about how to get an optimal evaluation of their business?

Metrics are important but not the first place to start. We start with employee engagement — how engaged are a company’s employees in the business, how likely they are to stay and how passionate they are about making a contribution. If employee engagement is high, the metrics will follow. We measure our own employee engagement using a third-party tool called Glint. We find that the Engagement Index it produces based on surveys, has the highest correlation with outcomes we are looking for such as productivity and retention.

What are the most common finance mistakes you have seen other businesses make? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

A common mistake is waiting too long to invest in technology. Thinking I can keep getting by with just another Excel macro even when the current Excel process is already unsustainable. Make the investments in technology and automation before you sink under the weight of an Excel workbook that takes 30 seconds to load.

We were once hired to assess the wire room process at a large investment bank that had grown rapidly. Imagine our surprise when we got to the wire room in the barely finished basement of a fancy office tower and saw the employees typing in multi-million dollar wire transfers by hand. And that was for outgoing wires. For incoming wires, every few minutes someone would shout “Hey — I just got a $5.3M (or whatever amount) wire — anyone looking for that amount?” Clearly, this was a firm that waited too long to invest in technology, although I am happy to report we did put a wire system in place for them to mitigate the ‘fat finger’ risk.

Based on your experience and success, what are the three most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.

Volunteer for the next big thing: The next big thing in Finance is ESG Reporting. Finance teams are quickly becoming responsible for producing accurate metrics for things like carbon emissions and employee diversity and there is a unique opportunity for finance professionals to really differentiate themselves. Get familiar with the emerging standards such as SASB, TCFD and the formation of a common standard under ISSB. Understand the upcoming SEC Climate Disclosure rules and volunteer to spearhead this effort at your firm.

Don’t let ‘the close’ close off your opportunities: Individuals who work on the monthly/quarterly close, especially where those processes are not efficient, can get pigeonholed into that task and struggle to see the big picture and to elevate themselves into more strategic initiatives. Once you have mastered the close, let your manager know you would like to spend some time with a Change team or Projects team, working on making the close more efficient or on selecting and implementing a new tool for the Finance team. This will allow you to gain a broader perspective of the end-to-end finance function and position you for future leadership opportunities.

Be technical but don’t become Tech support: Learn the technical tools such as Alteryx, Tableau that will allow you to become an exemplary performer but don’t allow yourself to become the Finance team’s tech support guy who is called on to fix everyone else’s spreadsheet and build their reports. Being technical will allow you to exceed expectations and elevate yourself but being tech support will drag you down and have you viewed as the techie rather than as a visionary.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I write on the topic of ESG both on my Linked In page as well as the CrossCountry Insights page.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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