Mark Liao, CFO at OpenX, wanted to manage money since he was old enough to develop a positive work ethic at age 12.
“I really didn’t fully understand money management,” he said. “I thought it was stock picking.”
Now he defines money management as “risk and reward.” Liao became fascinated with the ups and downs of the Dow Jones and S&P 500, as well as the ringing of the opening and closing bells on Wall Street.
Performance also has been a top priority. “I did institutional money management at Barclays early in my career before business school,” he said. “I learned money management in that role and realized it was index investing, managing risk, and how much risk, and longer-term returns for the risk you’re willing to take.”
At OpenX, Liao leads the company’s financial strategy, accounting, business intelligence and revenue performance teams.
This isn’t Liao’s first CFO position. He has served as CFO at Amobee for more than three years, and held CFO positions at Turn and iSocket. He also had several senior roles at Yahoo, including vice president of business operations and vice president of operations of finance for the Yahoo Americas business.
“You have to love numbers, and rational and logical thinking,” he said. “The decisions are supported by data, not just the financial numbers.”
When asked to cite the best piece of career advice anyone ever gave him, Liao pointed to “insights to action,” meaning of all the analysis that someone does, the type of actions taken against the analysis are greater than the data itself.
“You’re doing a lot of analysis, but what are the actions taken?” he said. The advice came from a previous boss at Overture, before the company was acquired by Yahoo in 2002.
What does Liao do when he’s not crunching numbers? He spends time with his 10-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. Since he likes to keep up on what his kids read, he spent time with the latest book from "The Hunger Games" series before his son got to it.
Liao enjoys the series -- but he’s always thinking about the margins on the book distribution, what they cost to print and then what the publisher charges for the book and how profitable could it be.
“Many times my kids are interested in profitability and the financial aspect, too,” he said.
The CFO role never seems to leave Liao. Overall, it’s the finances of the business, such as what the company spends and what it gets back, along with planning for future finances and what is required to get there. It’s about reporting properly and passing audits.
Forecasting the business has become the biggest challenge this year, because there’s no telling whether there will be a second or third wave that will impact operations and revenue.