Rare Career Path: CPA, JD, CFO

How an accountant's detour through law school led him to a dream job in finance.

While Ramos didn’t like practicing law, he says his legal experience informs his CFO duties every day in tremendously valuable ways. “It’s about knowing the inter-relationships between the financial decisions you make and what the legal consequences are, and being aware enough to raise legal issues earlier in a decision-making process,” he says.

The legal mindset is different from the financial one, Ramos notes. “To a large extent law is about risk aversion,” he says. “A lawyer tends to advise you toward the decision that is most risk-averse. As a finance chief, you’re looking at opportunities and trying to maximize the value of the company in everything you do. With my background, I can see both sides and balance the risk with the opportunity, see when a risk is worth taking or not taking. And I can decipher better and faster what I’m being told by counsel.”

His legal experience is especially helpful in negotiations. “You know all the implications of the terms and representations you’re making, both legally and financially. It’s more of a ‘one throat to choke’ situation,” he says.

In a recent example, when evaluating a potential acquisition, Ramos noticed that terms of the proposed deal “did not appear to square with inventory turns and receivables days. That became a focus of our acquisition negotiations, versus waiting until due diligence found the matter.”

Two years after becoming Maritz’s CFO, Ramos says that what motivates him day to day is winning. “I like to win,” he says. “It can be a small win, like winning a project bid, or a big one, like having a record-breaking earnings year.”

After planning and executing such an ambitious and unusual career path, Ramos says he’s content to stay where he is. He has no desire to test the public-company waters. “We’ve done a lot of good things here, but there is a lot more we can do.”


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