CFO has been a leader in many key transactions

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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“René has created a world-class finance
and accounting function for us,” says
Ric Edelman, CEO.

2016 Virginia CFO Award winner

René Chaze, CPA
Edelman Financial Services, Fairfax

René Chaze, a CPA, believes he does his best work when he is building a team to solve problems. “I try to listen, guide and coach,” he says. “I try to be a good leader and bring humor when needed. I want to make sure the team feels rewarded and appreciated.”

He joined Fairfax-based Edelman Financial Services in 2011 in part because of the investment advisory firm’s mission. “I like this type of business because it helps people achieve their financial goals,” he says.

Chaze’s relationship with the Edelman organization actually began many years before his hiring. His wife, Kristine, has been a financial planner at the firm for 22 years. “That is a tremendous side benefit for us,” says company CEO Ric Edelman. “René has had decades of experience and familiarity with our firm because of his wife’s important role in our firm.”

Edelman Financial Services, founded in the late 1980s, has 42 offices throughout the country. It has nearly 500 employees, including more than 280 in Virginia.

Edelman sees Chaze as a fixer. “He is equally talented at recognizing deep, intrinsic problems and identifying and implementing solutions in an efficient, effective and timely way,” he says. “René has created a world-class finance and accounting function for us.”

A native of Louisiana, Chaze had a long career in public accounting before joining Edelman. “His 20-plus years of experience at Ernst & Young, where he worked with some of the largest companies in the world, enabled him to bring organizational structure and highly talented people to help us manage our rapid growth,” Edelman says.

Chaze revamped the investment firm’s financial reporting and analytics systems and built strong relationships with lenders and its private-equity sponsor. Last year, he helped the company achieve record revenues and profits. Its three-year compound annual revenue growth rate from 2012 through 2015 was 33 percent.

Last September, Chaze was instrumental in spinning off nine businesses that no longer fit the company’s strategic plans. In December, he co-led a deal that resulted in a new private equity firm, Hellman & Friedman, acquiring majority control of the company in December. At the same time, he arranged a $230 million syndicated debt offering to finance the transaction. “To do all that in one year was very overwhelming,” Chaze says.

Chaze has reframed “the role of CFO as one who is much more than a bean-counter but is instead a strategic member of a company’s management team, able to anticipate relevant issues from a high level while also seeing the operational details that will need to be addressed,” Edelman says.

No two days are the same for Chaze because of his varied responsibilities. He wears two hats in the organization. As CFO, he is responsible for accounting, finance, budgeting, forecasting, investor relations, treasury, cash management, and risk and financial analysis. “I also have a chief operating officer role where I manage a lot of other functions as well,” he says. “I am constantly looking for ways we can improve what we do to be better, smarter and faster.”

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