Although male CFOs outnumber female CFOs 6.5 to 1 in the Russell 3000, companies looking for higher financial returns should consider putting more women in the role.
A study by S&P Global Market Intelligence found that within the first 24 months of appointing female CFOs, companies averaged a 6 percent increase in profits and an 8 percent better stock return. Not only that, but women were bringing in $1.8 trillion in additional profits — well outpacing men.
As part of our ongoing Female Forces series to celebrate women leaders in the consumer brand universe, we’re highlighting Ingrid Gentry who joined Bardstown Bourbon Company (BBCo) in January as the company’s CFO. In her role, the Brown-Forman alum has a comprehensive high-level overview of the business, overseeing strategy, managing risks, and maintaining systems and processes.
We caught up with the seasoned finance leader to learn more about her role and how it’s evolved since COVID-19.
ForceBrands: Tell us about your background and how you became involved in finance?
Ingrid Gentry: I come from a liberal arts background and have always been drawn to analytical topics. My first job out of college was corporate lending at a regional bank. It combined my affinity for financial analysis with the ability to interact with clients and solve problems. I was hooked.
FB: What excites you most about stepping into the role of CFO at BBCo?
IG: BBCo is producing some of the best whiskey on the market in one of the most striking landmarks on the bourbon trail. I’m thrilled to be part of an entrepreneurial team that can deliver those significant assets from Bardstown to the rest of the world.
FB: You previously worked in the beverage alcohol world at Brown-Forman for nearly two decades. What inspired you to return to the industry?
IG: When I left Brown-Forman, I couldn’t envision a more positive growth and team-oriented environment. Then I met Mark Erwin, John Hargrove, and Herb Heneman, and they reminded me how much fun growing a business in the spirits industry can be.
FB: How has your past international experience influenced the work you’re doing now?
IG: Every stretch or “heat” assignment forces you to learn, generate insights, plan, and execute. I’ve taken those lessons with me in every subsequent position. At BBCo, that experience is especially useful in considering the many exciting paths we can take so that we drive growth in the direction that best suits our company.
FB: When it comes to leadership, how do motivate and inspire your team to succeed? Are there any top qualities you look for in great hires?
IG: My management style is primarily coaching: drawing the field, describing the rules, then cheering and consulting from the sidelines during the game. I like working with people who take ownership in their work and enjoy working as part of a team. For finance and accounting people specifically, I look for professionals who have an eye for detail and also an understanding of how the details influence the larger picture.
FB: The bev alc industry remains largely male-dominated, as does the role of the CFO. What’s it like being a female leader in the space?
IG: Being an effective CFO means charting an effective strategic path, finding ways to say yes to all the great ideas, managing risk responsibly, and maintaining systems and processes with integrity. I’ve known people of all types who are great at these things and more.
FB: Are there any female mentors in the industry you most admire for their leadership?
IG: I had the great luck to work for Phoebe Wood and Jane Morreau, former and current CFOs of Brown-Forman. Each has her own respective strengths to share but both are values-driven leaders. They’ve inspired me to do the work, be fiercely competitive, and always take the high road.
FB: CFO roles have rapidly evolved with the rise of automation, technology, as well as the complexity of the global markets. How has the scope of your work changed over the years as you’ve led multiple disciplines across finance?
IG: Every finance organization I’ve been a part of has been on the journey to perfect the blocking and tackling of recording transactions and reporting so more time can be spent on higher-level analytical activities. The rise of automation and technology helps a lot and increased complexity and larger data sets present opportunities for greater learning and insights. Independent of these trends, however, is the fact that the finance leaders are typically the only people who see the whole of the business so it is not surprising that CFOs are asked to expand their scope beyond analysis and reporting to strategy setting, operating decisions, enterprise risk management and more.
FB: How has your work been affected by COVID-19?
IG: BBCo’s business has largely been insulated from COVID-19 pressures; we were able to configure our distilling team to be sufficiently far apart and were able to continue operating. To keep the distilling and warehouse teams safe, our staff positions have been working from home since mid-March. I miss working with the team in-person but we haven’t missed a beat and we’ve learned a few things about virtual collaboration.
FB: And lastly, any great books you recommend for those in the field?
IG: “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath — a great instruction manual for making your ideas more memorable.
Interested in working in the dynamic beverage industry? Explore our BevForce division.