Oracle’s new CFO, Jeff Epstein, talks about his goals for Oracle’s finance organization.
by Patricia Waddington, August 2009
Imagine this. Just two weeks after you become Oracle’s new executive vice president and chief financial officer, Wall Street suffers its biggest meltdown since the Great Depression. That was Jeff Epstein’s introduction to Oracle when he joined the company in September 2008. Profit recently talked to Epstein about his first year at the helm of Oracle’s finance organization and the strategies he’s putting in place now to support the next phase of Oracle’s growth.
Profit: What were the first few months like for you at Oracle, after the financial crisis hit?
Epstein: I was fortunate to step into a finance organization known to be one of the best in the business, as measured by operating efficiency, profit margins, and quality of results. Having a world-class finance team supporting me during those first few months was a tremendous help. [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison, [Oracle President] Safra Catz, and [Oracle President] Charles Phillips had also seen the signs of instability in the markets well before the meltdown and had begun preparing the company by scaling back expenses and establishing a strong balance sheet, so we were better positioned than many other companies when the crisis hit.
Profit: What are your goals for Oracle’s finance organization?
Epstein: I inherited an incredible organization from Safra Catz and [Oracle Chairman and former CFO] Jeff Henley, so I’m focused now on fine-tuning the foundation they put in place. Jeff Henley did most of the heavy lifting in the earlier part of this decade, moving to simplify, standardize, centralize, and automate our processes, in part by establishing a shared services model to support our worldwide operations. Safra continued that effort, rolling out new performance management and business intelligence programs like the company’s global enterprise reporting initiative to help our finance team partner more effectively with the business through better access to the right information.
My goal is to help my teams manage administrative functions at peak efficiency, so we can free up resources to invest further in R&D, acquisitions, sales and service, and world-class customer support. That means continuing to invest in the latest Oracle tools and technologies to lower our operating costs, lower our risks, and deliver higher value to customers. That also means continuing to invest in our people, giving them the resources they need to grow professionally. In addition to that, in fiscal 2010, integrating the Sun acquisition, when it closes, will be a major priority, and automating the Oracle and Sun finance processes will be an important part of that effort. As we continue to make acquisitions and develop new products, business requirements are growing at an accelerating pace. We need to continue to automate processes wherever we can, deploying products such as Oracle’s Hyperion strategic finance applications; Oracle’s governance, risk, and compliance products; and Oracle’s Primavera project portfolio management applications to free up the finance team to concentrate more on in-depth analysis and decision support.
Profit: Right now many companies are curtailing their investments in IT. Have your deployment plans changed?
Epstein: Continued IT investment is a proven way to lower your operating costs and improve your competitive capabilities. It all goes back to Oracle’s strategy of providing solutions that are complete, open, and integrated. Oracle uses this strategy to help our customers save money and operate effectively. I think it’s very important that we continue to “drink our own champagne” by deploying Oracle products internally to demonstrate to customers how they can achieve significant returns on their IT investments by following our best practices. When I sign Oracle’s quarterly financial statements as the CFO, knowing that we’re using Oracle technology for our reporting gives me confidence and assures me we’re doing what’s right when we recommend the same strategy to our customers.