Up close and personal with 10 of South Jersey’s leading financial minds
Behind every successful business is a solid CFO, someone with the financial wherewithal to help a company grow—and keep growing. Here we present 10 such men and women; folks who show willingness to take calculated risks while understanding that every dollar counts. In addition to finding out more about their careers, we also offer a glimpse into what these esteemed professionals are like away from the office.
THOMAS J. BURKE
Having worked previously for the likes of Merrill Lynch and Trefoil Properties, Burke joined Bancroft in 2010 and made an immediate impact thanks to his now three decades worth of experience in finance, real estate and strategic planning. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in accounting from King’s College and his master’s in business administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Biggest career accomplishment: Executing the sale of a mortgage bank to a major Wall Street firm in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis.
The most difficult part of your job is: Finding the appropriate balance between margin and mission.
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: Spending time with my wife, five children and granddaughter.
Best advice you’ve ever been given: There are only three possible outcomes of any decision; equal, better or worse than the status quo.
Best advice you could give someone else: Ask a lot of questions and never stop learning.
Best thing about working in South Jersey: Being able to ‘give back’ to the community where I grew up.
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band.
Secret to your success: No real secret; just hard work and a lot of perseverance.
If you weren’t a CFO, how would we know you: As a finance professor at a college or university.
TV show you never miss: Sorry, but—other than sporting events—I don’t watch TV!
MARY JANE GRIFFITH
South Jersey Federal Credit Union
Since joining the South Jersey Federal Credit Union in 1984, Griffith has held several different positions with the company. Being exposed to those different facets of the business has only aided her in her current role as executive vice president and CFO where she uses her extensive financial services expertise to tackle a variety of industry-related topics.
Biggest career accomplishment: I really enjoy the credit union industry. I’ve been really fortunate to work for a credit union that embraces growth and change. Through the years, I’ve been a part of many construction projects, introducing new products and technology, mergers and so forth. I’m most proud of how much we’ve accomplished as a team, and how we ultimately have had a positive influence on our employees’ and members’ lives.
The most difficult part of your job is: Regulation. It’s a necessary evil.
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: I really enjoy Zumba. It’s more fun than a traditional workout and is really satisfying.
Best advice you’ve ever been given: I’m sure the best advice I’ve received was from my parents. They believed in honesty, decency and hard work. They were also the most generous and gracious hosts. I hope I have some of those qualities too.
Best advice you could give someone else: Respect privacy and confidentiality. Don’t put it in writing if it shouldn’t be shared. It’s more important today because we live in an over-sharing world.
Best thing about working in South Jersey: I really enjoy the cultural diversity in South Jersey. I grew up in North Dakota where there wasn’t much diversity. This area has so much to offer.
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: Music is my thing. There is very little I don’t like. My last purchase was OneRepublic’s Love Runs Out.
Secret to your success: The old cliché is that the secret to success is to work half days, and it doesn’t matter which 12 hours you work. I might not work 12 hour days, but I do believe in putting in the time.
If you weren’t a CFO, how would we know you: I really love the arts; music and theater of any kind. I sang for many years in local church choirs and a wonderful chamber chorale. It was really rewarding. I’ve been involved in local theater for many years too, although not as an actor. I use my financial skills as the treasurer for Spotliters. I love live theater and orchestra. I’ve played piano since childhood too, but I’m pretty rusty now.
TV show you never miss: The Voice, of course.
Tabula Rasa Healthcare (f/k/a CareKinesis)
Adams spent nearly a decade working in financial planning and analysis, helping companies like KPMG witness rapid growth, before becoming the CFO of CareKinesis back in 2011. Since then, he has led the finance, accounting, treasury and risk management functions of the company, including managing the acquisition of three companies in 2014, while also helping the company grow its core business by 70 percent.
The most difficult part of your job is: Saying no. Sometimes I have to make decisions that are not the most popular, but they are the right choice for the business in the long run.
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: Spending time with my wife and two kids (ages 3 and 1). It’s perhaps not always relaxing, but lots of fun.
Best advice you’ve ever been given: Speak up. If you’ve been given a seat at the table, it’s for a reason, so speak up.
Best advice you could give someone else: Take risks in your career, don’t play it safe. If you find something you are passionate about and work hard, success will follow.
Best thing about working in South Jersey: The community. Organizations like the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and New Jersey Tech Council have been hugely supportive of our work and have done a great job of fostering a strong business community in this area.
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: “Black Widow” by Iggy Azalea. It’s a great song to work out to.
Secret to your success: The people in my life. Growing up my parents were and still are today the best role models and cheerleaders a person could have. I also have had the great fortune to be involved with some fantastic companies, where I have been surrounded not only by visionary leadership but also great colleagues who challenge me to bring my A-game every day. Additionally, at Tabula Rasa, the stakes aren’t just about making a business profitable, but improving health by advancing safety in medicine. It’s easy to be passionate about work when the end game is improving quality of life.
If you weren’t a CFO, how would we know you: A a Chef—I love to cook. It’s a hugely satisfying creative outlet.
TV show you never miss: Newsroom
New Jersey Manufacturers and Insurance Company
Prall started his career with New Jersey Manufacturers in 1983 as a staff accountant and before being appointed as CFO in 2012 also served as accounting manager, internal auditor, controller and treasurer. As if that wasn’t enough responsibility, Prall also currently serves as senior vice president and director of the company.
Biggest career accomplishment: Developing and enhancing our company’s Enterprise Risk Management program.
The most difficult part of your job is: The challenge of operating in a low interest-rate investment environment.
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: I am the longtime commissioner of my Fantasy Baseball League and a huge fan of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Best advice you’ve ever been given: You should always treat everybody the way you would like to be treated.
Best advice you could give someone else: Always take the time to be a good listener.
Best thing about working in South Jersey: New Jersey is in the middle of everything –sports, culture and a diverse business environment. It’s a short distance to whatever you would like to do. South Jersey in particular is perhaps the biggest growth region in the state.
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: Kenny Chesney’s “Beer in Mexico”
Secret to your success: Assembling and developing a talented staff.
If you weren’t a CFO, how would we know you: Being the biggest fan of one of my daughter’s accomplishments as a college field hockey player.
TV show you never miss: Last Man Standing
Cestare has more than 20 years of experience in managing the financial risk of major companies and as Beneficial’s CFO (a role he’s held since 2010) he directs the overall financial operation of the bank while directing several key departments responsible for the overall growth and profitability of the company.
Biggest career accomplishment: Joining Beneficial Bank as CFO
The most difficult part of your job is: Balancing demands of my job with my personal life
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: Travel, sports and exercise
Best advice you’ve ever been given: Trust = truth + time
Best advice you could give someone else: Find what you are good at and what you like and success will follow.
Best thing about working in South Jersey: The Jersey Shore
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: Foo Fighters’ “Congregation”
Secret to your success: A number of mentors over the years who helped in my development and supported me to reach my goals.
TV show you never miss: Game of Thrones
Twin Oaks Community Services
Working with the organization since 1991, Shi made her way through the ranks to become CFO seven years later. Currently she manages a team of 30 employees while spearheading initiatives that spur growth for the nonprofit group. Perhaps the most notable of her achievements is the advancement of the agency’s budget from $4.4 million in 1991 to now more than $75 million.
Biggest career accomplishment: Building a strong financial base for the agency including growing our net assets; which sets us apart as an outstanding nonprofit.
The most difficult part of your job is: The pressure of knowing that my decisions impact the lives of the adults, children and families that we serve.
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: I enjoy walking—the fresh air helps to re-energize me and clear my mind.
Secret to your success: Hard work
Working for a family business can be tricky, but Bellia was fortunate enough to learn a lot from his father and mentor Tom. Bellia worked as an external auditor before making his way into the family business in 2010 and with the help of his brother Andrew and his cousins Sal and Anthony, helped transition his father and uncle from the management side after 40 years.
Biggest career accomplishment: With the help of my brother, Andrew, and two cousins, Sal and Anthony, we successfully transitioned 40 year veterans Tom and Anthony Bellia from the management of Bellia Enterprises. The process was not an easy one.
The most difficult part of your job is: Filling the BIG shoes of my predecessor, my father and mentor, Tom Bellia.
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: Unwinding for me is spending time with friends and family. In the summer time it is golf and beach time, and in the winter it is spending time on the slopes skiing.
Best advice you’ve ever been given: Work hard to be successful, but don’t forget to take time to enjoy/celebrate success.
Best advice you could give someone else: Same as the above
Best thing about working in South Jersey: It has to be both the people and the location of South Jersey. The people are down to earth and friendly and there is no better location. Within two hours we have the cities of Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New York, and Baltimore. Not to mention my favorite places, the beach and mountains.
Secret to your success: Long hours, hard work, and determination. There are no shortcuts.
After obtaining his accounting degree from Temple, McCadden joined Arthur Andersen as a staff accountant and eventually progressed to become a partner in the audit practice before leaving to become a partner at KPMG. He joined PREIT as their CFO in 2004 helping to oversee operations at the group’s many South Jersey properties like the Cherry Hill and Moorestown malls, as well as the Voorhees Town Center.
Biggest career accomplishment: Watching people I mentored achieve their own goals
The most difficult part of your job is: Finding enough time in the day to get everything done
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: Listening to music, preferably at a live concert
Best advice you’ve ever been given: Think straight; talk straight
Best advice you could give someone else: Network, network and network
Best thing about working in South Jersey: I can still be an Eagles fan
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: Anything from Pitbull
Secret to your success: Working harder than the next guy
If you weren’t a CFO, how would we know you: As a contestant on Shark Tank
TV show you never miss: Curb Your Enthusiasm—on demand, anytime I need a fix
Kistler Tiffany Benefits
After graduating from Ursinus College, Daggett began working at Kistler Tiffany Benefits, one of the region’s top employee benefit firms, where he has served in varying capacities over the last 28 years, most recently as the CFO, a position he assumed 10 years ago.
Biggest career accomplishment: I am most proud of forming our wholesale division, which today is comprised of 1,800 downstream brokers and accounts for 60 percent of our sales.
The most difficult part of your job is: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) turned the health insurance industry upside down. It completely changed the way that we do business. I am proud of the way our company has navigated those changes and continues to adapt.
Favorite way to unwind to get away from work: My different passions, which include art, animals and activism, have afforded me the opportunity to be involved with many different organizations at various levels.
Best advice you’ve ever been given: The late Irvin Borowsky, founder of the National Liberty Museum, strongly encouraged me to get involved in as many charitable organizations as possible, emphasizing that “time is as important as money.”
Best advice you could give someone else: Your work and business is only a small portion of what defines you as an individual. It is so important to balance that side of your persona with something that fulfills you creatively. Jump at the chance to get involved with a non-profit and use your skill set in a new way.
Best thing about working in South Jersey: I am a fan of the robust restaurant scene and of course – the proximity to the beach!
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: Overall, I have a very eclectic taste in music but I think some people might be surprised to hear Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop the Party” is a favorite.
Secret to your success: Our business is all about relationships—we truly want to be a partner for our clients. We want to see them succeed. Most of our clients that start with us stay with us. We take the time to listen to our clients’ challenges and needs as a company and then collaborate on affordable, creative benefit plans for their employees. Customer service is what we do best.
If you weren’t a CFO, how would we know you: Hopefully, through the various philanthropic organizations in which I am involved.
TV show you never miss: Modern Family
National Freight Inc.
A former real estate attorney, Grabell switched gears in 1992 when he became the CEO of Shapes/Arch Holdings, overseeing the $400 million manufacturing and distribution company. Since 2008 he’s worked as the CFO of NFI, a $1.2 billion logistics company.
Biggest career accomplishment: My biggest career accomplishment is developing my direct reports to create strong teams. I have lead efforts to acquire and sell businesses, and to craft some creative financing arrangements along the way. Surrounding myself with smart and talented people has enabled us to accomplish far more together than I could have achieved on my own.
The most difficult part of your job is: Influencing others to effect and adapt to necessary change. Fear of the unknown can cause even the best employees to be uncomfortable with change.
Favorite way to unwind or get away from work: Whenever I am on the beach, I seem to forget about work. I also enjoy outdoor recreation including biking or exercising outdoors. Walking the golf course also has a way of really clearing my mind.
Best advice you’ve been given: A Navy SEAL once described to me how you must always be prepared in combat, your personal and professional life. Being prepared means a) surveilling the environment to know all of the facts and circumstances; b) being trained and equipped with all of the skills to enable you to act successfully; and c) being ready and willing to act decisively. I’ve been able to apply this strategy to my career for countless business decision.
Best advice you could give someone else: Pursue what you are passionate about whether it’s your education, hobby, or job. All require hard work, and it will be a lot more fun if you are interested!
Best thing about working in South Jersey: I enjoy the access to vibrant, well-educated and interesting coworkers from the South Jersey suburbs and the Philadelphia major metropolitan area.
One song on your iPod people wouldn’t expect to hear: “Around the World” and a bunch of other songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Secret to your success: Being adaptable and pragmatic. Applying sound business judgment to new situations has helped me adapt to new careers and industries.
If you weren’t a CFO, how would we know you: I would probably just be Alexa, Jared and Chloe’s Dad.
TV Show you never miss: SportsCenter—I like to watch sports, news and anything else my whole family can watch together.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 5, Issue 1 (January, 2015).
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