Balance of power

As the role of general counsel expands, the GC-CFO relationship grows more symbiotic

Xerox CFO Kathryn Mikells and Xerox GC Don Liu

As recently as 10 years ago, it wasn't a likely scenario to have the general counsel sitting at the same table as the CEO and the company's C-level executives; if the GC did have a seat at the table, their presence was considered transitory. In the wake of the economic recession and an increasingly challenging compliance landscape, GCs are now critical members of the senior executive team.

Within that inner sanctum, one relationship in particular has developed into a critical force for businesses—that of the GC and the chief financial officer (CFO). How genially this duo works together can make or break a company's success. As an organization's senior legal adviser and the ranking decision maker on finances respectively, the GC and CFO need to be a dynamic team that not only mitigates risk, but does so in a way that allows businesses, such as Xerox Corporation, to thrive in this era of heightened accountability and stakeholder expectations.

Risk management

The biggest areas the two work on together is mergers and acquisitions and coming to an agreement on risk management.“For acquisitions, we have to have confidence that they can create benefits for us,” Mikells explains. “We look to get alignment when we are doing big transactions with customers. Almost 100 percent of the time, it's not that we are going to take no risk, it's about how to mitigate the risk.”

The right combination

In their cross-functional roles as GC and CFO, it is also critical to have good board relations in order to meet business objectives.

Editor in Chief

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Erin E. Harrison

Erin E. Harrison is the Editor in Chief of InsideCounsel magazine. Harrison’s professional background includes extensive expertise in both print and online media, highlighted by...

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