A Closer Look: Jill Klindt
Chief financial officer, Workiva Inc.
SARAH BOGAARDS May 25, 2022 | 2:56 pm
7 min read time1,584 wordsBanking & Finance, Business Record Insider, Tech & Innovation
After discovering her love for animals would not translate into a career in veterinary or animal science, Jill Klindt embraced her natural skill in math and left Iowa State University with an accounting degree in hand. Klindt said what draws her to the field is the logical review and assessment of finances and “looking at how we got to the numbers that we got to.”
Her steps to Workiva started by commuting to Des Moines for roles in the area, including at Principal and Wells Fargo. But the birth of her first child prompted her to look back to Ames and talk more with a friend who was working with the founder of Workiva, which was an early-stage startup at the time.
Thirteen years into her time with the software-as-a-service company – whose platform automates the manual work of financial, statutory and other reports – Klindt has risen through financial leadership roles to the C-suite, starting as chief financial officer in February 2021. She said leading the financial side of a financial technology company is unique because she advocates for the company’s solution like all CFOs do, but also uses the platform daily, so she and her team spend a lot of time behaving like clients as well.
Workiva has turned its attention to environmental, social and governance issues with the introduction of ESG reporting for clients, creating an internal task force focused on sustainability and hiring a senior director of ESG, who introduced Workiva to the United Nations Global Compact CFO Taskforce. Klindt joining the task force made Workiva the first software-as-a-service company to participate.
After finding what you liked about the finance field in corporate finance, how was it different transitioning to a startup like Workiva?
At some of those larger companies, you have a very small niche within the very large entity and you’re doing a very narrow set of things so you don’t always get exposure to the holistic company and how things are intertwined, how the numbers are moving, how the people are moving, how the data moves. But when you’re with a very small company in the startup and there’s only a few people, really, you’re building out everything, and we’ve done that. If we opened a new office, we’re starting from scratch in that state. If we open business in a new country, we’re setting up an entity, we’re working with the banks, you’re doing everything from scratch. Even more interesting is the fact that our initial product and a lot of our solutions today are really providing services to the office of a CFO. I was able to participate as a subject matter expert in some ways to help drive what that software looks like because it was being marketed to people like myself in the finance field. Along the way, as we’ve grown the software, me and my team have been able to give feedback to say these are things that we really want. These are things that would make our solution better.
What is the United Nations Global Compact CFO Taskforce?
The U.N. CFO Taskforce is a group that formed in support of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the U.N. The idea is that companies and CFOs as representatives of those companies and their funding and the investments that they’re making, that it’s better to come together as a group and put a line in the sand, put some numbers and goals out there as a group to show that there really is more support for those sustainable development goals in the world. It’s hard to see how you can make progress against some of these things because they’re very big issues. How can an individual, how can a certain family, how can an individual city or town support what needs to be done globally to fight hunger, to bring quality education to everybody around the world, reduce inequality, have clean water and sanitation for everybody throughout the world?
The idea is that this group comes together and the companies that each of these CFOs represent are putting out goals, and those goals take funding. There is investment, whether it’s people investment, whether it’s time investment, investment of funds. Over time, we can make a difference together and it looks like a bigger difference. It feels like a bigger difference and it can show companies how important it is that companies do that. I think that what we’re trying to do this year is to get even more companies to join the task force so that we can help everybody align behind the sustainable development goals with their own goals, and aligning within that structure and format. Forming a common thought process around the approach we think can be helpful, especially for those companies that maybe don’t know how they want to proceed. It really is a network of CFOs that you can go to and say, “This is where I’m at. This is the problem. How do I do some of this? How did you solve this?” You’re talking to companies that are around the world that bring a lot of really different, great ideas, a lot of different sizes of companies too.
Briefly describe Workiva’s ESG strategy.
We’re in a little bit of a different position than some because we do have a solution that also helps companies do better with their own ESG reporting. We think that it’s a nice bit to be able to also provide resources that are from within our own company to help others. So it’s not only that we can say, “Oh, this is what we’re doing internally, related to our own ESG goals,” but solutions that can help others do better as well. For us, as we think about our ESG business strategy and what we want to do, we want to make sure that we are supporting employee belonging, engagement and attracting new employees because they are a big part of our company and one of the main stakeholders.
There’s a lot of stakeholders that are going to use your ESG information. A lot of times investors want to invest in companies that have a good overall ESG strategy, that are making improvements, that are achieving their goals. And also for working with companies and investing in companies that stand for what they stand for. The same holds true for employees. Employees want to work for companies that believe as they do and that are doing better in the world. So it’s really important that we put out this information for our employees to understand as well.
We do have an ESG task force internally, which I’m pleased to be the executive chair of. What we’re doing is setting goals around reducing carbon emissions, goals around diversity within our workforce, and all of these things take us working with our vendors, and with our employees, with a lot of our different data providers just like every other company is doing, and doing energy audits at some of our offices and thinking about how can we make sure that we are doing what we need to to be good corporate citizens, good world citizens.
Can you reflect on your experience as a female leader in finance?
For myself, luckily, within this company and any companies that I’ve been with, I’ve had great female leaders all along the way. Hopefully there’s those within our company and other companies that can look at me and see the same. I was lucky to have that because it never felt like it [was] something I couldn’t do. Moving into the CFO role is a little different because there are fewer females in the room, there’s fewer females when I’m going to investor conferences. It’s very rare that you see another woman in the room there, and I think that’s more of an investment banking area. It’s starting to change, and I think it’s just a matter of making sure that we’re not limiting those who are going into college. I think about my college experience and I never felt limited. But maybe even driving young women towards [a finance] major even earlier, even in high school. … Think about the movement towards STEM, and making sure that there’s not any kind of a gender preference placed on where you direct students of any age. I think it just takes that overall shift in the environment, which you can see happening. I see it with my own kids and I think it continues to get better and better.
How do you spend your free time?
This time of year, it’s all soccer all the time, although my one daughter is on the improv team, so I get to go watch some of those too, which are fun. But I have three kids and they’re all active in lots of different things. Even during the winter, we tend to go to a lot of kids’ sports, a lot of running to practice. We like to watch movies as a family or just my husband. We like to give our time and our money locally just because we feel like Ames is a really great town, Central Iowa is a really great area. We know we’ve benefited from it. Our kids are benefiting from it, whether they know it or not, and so we just want to make sure and support the community and try to make it better for our kids and everybody else who continues to live here too.