Thinking five steps ahead with Xerxes K. Cooper, CPA, CMA

Learn about the defining path of CPA Canada member Xerxes K. Cooper, vice-president and chief financial officer at IBM Canada.

Xerxes K. Cooper, vice-president and chief financial officer at IBM Canada, is based in Toronto, and is an active member of the FEI Canada Toronto Chapter. Read about his experiences working in industry.

How did you get into the profession?

My dad worked at IBM for 35 years in finance. I was exposed to it and loved it: Finance and accounting, and a love of rigor, professionalism, and leadership intrigued me at an early age.

What is the best part of your job?

I love client interaction. It is really exciting helping them understand what IBM does. We describe ourselves as a cloud and cognitive solutions company: How you manage your data, where you store it, how you process it, and how to do it in the most efficient way. And cognitive solutions — leveraging new analytic capabilities to help companies derive insights from data. IBM is a large, complex company and my role can help bring the best of IBM together quickly for clients. I love the role of the CFO today, expanding into strategy, execution, sales, leadership development and engagement of our employees.

Is there anything you wished you knew before you started your current role?

I wish I had done more client interaction through my career. You have to develop your confidence. Once you do it, you get out there and realize how much you love it and the impact you can make.

What is your biggest business accomplishment?

Helping transform IBM Canada — restoring it to consistent and profitable revenue growth and to realign ourselves to new markets, and also improve overall engagement and morale.

What publications do you read?

I am a voracious reader, both print and online. There’s an application, Flipboard, which gives you blogs from different areas: Wired, Harvard Business Review and so on. So you get insights not just in finance and technology, but also news, entertainment and social, which keeps you fresh.

Has there been a defining moment in your career?

When I relocated to New York, I was able to take on a global role, travelling the world. The opportunity for personal development was tremendous, to take on this assignment for five years, for the subsequent roles and experiences it fostered.

What is an important concept or rule that has helped you?

If somebody gives you a task, think five steps ahead: Why are they asking? Try to understand the broader picture: What outcome is the individual after, and deliver on that.

Describe yourself in three words:

Passionate, energetic, dedicated.

Personal philosophy in one sentence:

Fail fast and fail small. We learn from our failures, but if we fail, it means we at least tried to change. Disruption is upon us everywhere, as such we must embrace bold ideas to rethink the status quo.

How has being a member of both CPA Canada and FEI Canada benefitted you, personally or professionally?

I got my accounting designation because I wanted professional expertise. It was an intensive program. I saw my job might take me beyond Canada and I wanted my skills viewed as transferable. CPA Canada has been helpful for personal expertise and development. FEI Canada has been helpful in terms of broadening my network as a more senior financial leader. FEI Canada is just tremendous for networking and building new relationships.