Episode #15

What the future holds: Power BI Modeller edition

What does the future look like? With a wealth of financial modelling experience having worked at two of the Big 4 accounting firms in Down Under, Lance joins the CFO Trends podcast to give us the scoop. Learn from a power BI modeller and certified trainer for the Financial Modeling Institute (FMI).

"You know what? "I just want to do month end. I want to come in, I want to do my balance sheet recs, and my P and L recs, and prepare the management PAC and I want to go home. And that's it. I don't want to do anything else." And I'm sorry, that's not a person. I know that's what you do. But everything that you've just said can be automated. So a robot is going to do that. A robot is going to do all the reconciliations. It is going to generate all my management PACS. IT is going to potentially even generate commentary for me. Now what I need the human to do is to read and understand the context and go have a conversation with people and influence. That's what I want humans to do. I don't want humans to be doing what they're doing now, and that's the journey that I'm going to take them on. And I've done it with my team. I've built a SaaS company and I know how it's done."

Please note that the transcript is AI-generated and may contain errors. Podcast is not intended as advice and is meant for informational and entertainment purposes only.

Chris Ortega (00:16):

Welcome to another CFO TRENDS. Really excited for this conversation. Today we’re talking with Lance Rubin, who’s the founder of Model Citizn, as he shares his thoughts on the fresh CFO and how data and financial modeling can really help level up the baseline value of the Office of the CFO. Welcome Lance Rubin.

Lance Rubin (00:39):

Thanks Chris. And a pleasure to be here even though it’s late at night. It’s worth for late nights. Thanks, mate.

Chris Ortega (00:43):

About this topic today. I think it’s coming off of a summit. I was just at here in LA about a week ago. The title for this podcast is going to be, “The Fresh Future for CFOs.” And when I was thinking about this topic, I’m like, “Man, there’s no better person to talk about this topic with than you.” You’ve been in the finance modeling space, CFO space for so long. I know we’ve done a lot of podcasts together and this Fresh Future. I think CFOs now really have a tremendous opportunity to transition from the value we used to provide with the numbers.

Lance Rubin (01:19):

And risk as well. I think there’s opportunity, but there’s huge risk if they don’t.

Chris Ortega (01:24):

Yeah. And I think that’s where it comes down to the business as well too. So jumping right into it, one of the questions I just want to have and get your insights on is what do you see is the biggest challenge that is holding back courage CFOs to adapt a lot of these future mindsets, these skills, and this value proposition in the business? What do you think is that biggest challenge?

Lance Rubin (01:46):

So there’s a couple of parts to it, but if I have to say the single most challenges that don’t have a clear strategy for leading change. So I think that they all understand the why of, “Why they need to change?” They’ve read the rhetoric. Rhetoric’s been around for a long time. I don’t think that they’re very data literate either themselves or the team. So I think you can’t build a strategy and know where you’re going and have a vision for finance if you don’t understand the fundamentals of data.


And then it’s navigating that constant change. They all know they’ve got to do it, they just don’t know how. I’m a great believer in Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and how, why, and what. They all know the why. They know they need to add more value. They know need to get rid of manual projects. That’s obvious. And often that’s the thing that holds people bought. They don’t know their why. They don’t know the purpose. So they understand the why. They can understand conceptually the what.


In terms of, “Okay, we need to have rolling dashboards, we need to have rolling forecasts.” They can understand that. It’s that middle circle that many of them don’t know how to do it. “How do I execute and deliver when I’ve got…” I might have Xero, I might have SAP, I might have NetSuite, I might have any number of different ERP or accounting systems and I only know how to use one of those. So that’s the first charge.


I’ve got all these tools. I’ve got Excel, I’ve got Google Sheets, I’ve got Power BI, I’ve got so much tech coming at me. I’m like, “Okay, where do I start?” So the how becomes very difficult because they just don’t understand, “How to assess technology? How to pick the right technology?” And technology is one thing. There’s three things. There’s people, process, and systems. So how do they pick the right systems, how do they pick the right people, and how do they get clarity on the right process?


And I just think that’s holding them back, so they don’t have a vision of, “How to do it?” They may have a vision of, “We need to, we should.” Or they go and pay expensive consultants to try and do it, but every time we’ve come in to build models and build things, we’ve seen this problem, we’ve seen this challenge. And whilst we only building one element of that, which is the financial models or the data analytics, there’s a much bigger data culture that needs to be embedded in the organization. And that’s for the CFO to lead and they’re not.

Chris Ortega (04:06):

Facts. Yeah, man, I think you’re totally right and I love how you broke it down. The first point that you mentioned was not having that clear strategy around change. That has been probably I think one of the biggest changes that the Office of the CFO has had. I get the opportunity to not only with fresh that P and A work with a lot of different clients, but I get to meet so many different CFOs across the globe and you hit the nail right on the head. They know why this change is here, they know what it’s related to, but it’s like that first step of getting that train off the track is, “Okay, so how do I start this train? How do I start thinking about this stuff?” And I love how you broke it down to where that middle gap of, “How to execute it?”


‘Cause there’s a lot of great CFOs that I think just have this paralysis. There’s technology everywhere, there’s generative AI, there’s this talent development change, there’s this changing value proposition in the business, and they’re just stuck. They’re like, “I know all this stuff I need to do. I know why we need to do it.” But I’m just like, “I don’t know where to go.” If you were to give that first step for a CFO that says, “I’m with you Lance, I know the why. I know the what.” What’s that first step to get them down the road of understanding the, “How?” How would you advise or coach or lead organization that says, “We need to take that step.” What would be your insight?

Lance Rubin (05:32):

I’m about to do it actually. I’m about to go back into an organization and actually become an interim CFO for six months on a contract and I’m going in not to become a CFO full time, but to go in and basically revamp, I’m calling it my revamp project. And the first thing I’m going to do is start simple with Excel because everyone’s got it and use Power Query. That’s it.

Chris Ortega (05:56):


Lance Rubin (05:57):

It is so simple. It’s one of the most powerful automation tools and you are extracting data from anywhere. It doesn’t even matter what system it is. You can just even get an Excel dump from a system, do some basic transformation and I just get the basics of automating a monthly process, a daily process or any annual process just with that tool. That’s no external money. I’m not going to spend anything. I’m going to upskill the team, so I’m going to invest my own skills. I’m going to train them. I’ve been training people on how to use Excel for a very long time.


Now I know how to do it really well. If I was a CFO and I didn’t have those skills as in it wasn’t me, it was someone else, then what I’d say to them is, “Go get someone to teach your team how to use Power Query.” It’s the biggest investment. It’s a half a day, one day training session. The ROI on that would be not only infinite, but it’s going to be a very big percentage because the training I did just recently this week in Melbourne and I was showing people Power Query of a group of 25 people, four people had used it. And every other financial modeling trainer I speak to and every other Excel trainer I speak to says the same thing. Most people are not using it. They’re jumping into Google Sheets ’cause Google Sheets is more innovative and it’s cool and the business loves Google Sheets, but Google Sheets is not a powerful data tool. It’s not.

Chris Ortega (07:22):

Not. Definitely. I agree.

Lance Rubin (07:22):

It’s not. It’s anti. I’m actually going to call it, “Anti-innovation.” For finance.

Chris Ortega (07:27):


Lance Rubin (07:28):

I’m going to call it out. I’m going to say it on Twitter, “Well, you hear it, you’ve heard it first here?”

Chris Ortega (07:31):

We heard it first from Lance. Google Sheets is anti-innovative.

Lance Rubin (07:35):

Anti-innovation. Now, yes, it’s great for connecting other data sources in the cloud and other stuff, but the first thing’s first, let’s just get the data prepared. Let’s extract it properly, let’s transform it, and let’s load it. ETL, that word or that acronym is seldom understood and known by CFOs. And that’s where it’d start. I’d start at the data process, start small, start at the monthly process and just grow from there because you’re going to save so much time.


You can then reinvest that in modeling, in dashboarding, in automation and you can then invest to investigate further. So every organization is going to be slightly different and that’s also the thing that’s quite challenging. CFO will go from one organization to another and be either have a great team around them, have people that have got great skills, that’s an easy role for them to do ’cause they just can point and shoot, and stuff gets done. Or they can go to another organization and the team’s incompetent, or they haven’t invested in skills and training, or they don’t have the right systems, or they ban Excel, which I’ve heard before.


A very large company in Australia, a major company banned Excel and moved everything onto Google and the finance team kicked up a stink and pushed back. And they eventually reversed it because it made it so difficult for people to work with each other because finance wanted to use Excel. No. Have you had an Excel spreadsheet that was running a month end with VBA? How do you move onto Google Sheets?

Chris Ortega (09:11):

Yeah, how does that even happen?

Lance Rubin (09:12):

How does that even happen? It doesn’t. And the innovation, I get rid of automation. If I’m doing Power Query and I’m getting something locally and I have a local file, “Do you want everything on the cloud? Do you really want to put everything on the cloud? What about private information with Google?” You’re handing the keys to them. That’s what people don’t realize with Microsoft it’s not done like that. And that’s a long-winded answer, but-

Chris Ortega (09:38):

No, I love it, man.

Lance Rubin (09:39):

… I’d hit Power Query hard and broad. And I’d look at it in all aspects of finance ’cause finance is just moving data. They’re moving data from a system; they’re adding some numbers and calculations. You can do calculated columns in Power Query; you can do all sorts of wonderful things and then I’m reporting it to the business or I’m using it for conversations.

Chris Ortega (10:01):

Yeah, dude, to share a story I remember, and I would agree, I think when you think coming in and getting those quick wins, so as ACFO, if you’re a finance leader, you’re like, “Man, I’m really trying to understand the how.” Getting to using prescriptive or predictive analytics inside your business, that’s like an elephant that’s going to be a-

Lance Rubin (10:22):


Chris Ortega (10:23):

… long-term win.

Lance Rubin (10:23):


Chris Ortega (10:25):

But you just said the first thing you’re going to come into your new organization is finding a quick win that we can make some instant value. It doesn’t have incremental costs and it’s a system that everybody’s aware of. I think that’s great advice. And I remember the first time I came across back then it was Power Query, and it was an add-on to Excel. I think it was like 27 or something. And I remember Lance, the power of it. I was at a software company.


I was leading the FP and A function and I remember how I stumbled across Power Pivot and it was like I was trying to put a pivot table in a PowerPoint slide and this is the 11th hour of a board meeting and my mind is just scramble and I just mistakenly went into Google and I typed in Power Pivot and it changed my life. I’m telling everybody. As a FTNA person, as a finance person, my team uses it and now Power Query is inside of Excel. It’s a data model inside of it. And when I show people this and I’m like, “Back then it was like you had to enable the COMAD and for it to come in.”

Lance Rubin (11:35):


Chris Ortega (11:37):

And it was like, “The Wizard of Oz.” Is like you were behind the scenes of Excel and I remember producing literally software. I was having relational databases with Salesforce, and I had it with our ERP system and we were using Zendesk, and we had that connected. I remember creating entire data models on the visual map of it inside a Power Query along with Power Pivot, and I was having software inside of software. It was doing everything for me, and people were just like, “How did you even do this?” And I’m just like, it-

Lance Rubin (12:08):

Just Google. It just [inaudible 00:12:11].

Chris Ortega (12:11):

… becomes a superpower at that point.

Lance Rubin (12:13):

Man, you just took my word away. It is a superpower. I hate that written in some my notes, but yeah, absolutely. It’s game changing and yet it’s not well known. It’s crazy.

Chris Ortega (12:25):

Yeah, it blows my mind, man. And I think that leads to my next question I want to ask you about, and we talked about Power Query, we talked about Excel. I’m the same. I agree with you 1,000% on Google Sheets. Let’s just be honest. Let’s just be really bold. Finance people are always going to use Excel. They’re not going to one day wake up and be like, “Oh my God, Excel, Google Sheets…” This is me, Lance, and I’m just being honest. Anytime I get a Google sheet, I’m like, “Download to Excel.”

Lance Rubin (12:52):

[inaudible 00:12:54].

Chris Ortega (12:54):

I’m like, “I’m not working in this.” I’m like, “Hey man, just-

Lance Rubin (12:57):

To perform [inaudible 00:12:59].

Chris Ortega (12:59):

… download to Excel. Let me go back to what I know.” Getting to this other topic where we’re talking about technology. We talked about it, what are some other, I would say, technology stacks or technology strategies that you will recommend for CFOs to… Again, tie it back to that, “How.” You gave that first really great example. What are some other tools and technology out there that you think can increase the value of the CFO?

Lance Rubin (13:22):

So great question Chris. If I look at my own business, so I started Model Citizn as a financial modeling consulting business and we were all about Excel, but we were also using other technologies and add-ins inside Excel. I’m a co-founder of Excel Cloud. It’s an add-in that allows me to integrate to Xero and pull data straight out of Xero directly into Excel. There’s technology inside Excel, but then there’s technology outside Excel as well. ‘Cause we can’t just also always use the same tool for every problem.


So I’d probably go down the path of there’s grateful small data, medium-sized data, Excel is perfect. But when you really get into the bigger side of data, then you need to look at a BI tool and be a Tableau, Domo click or my favorite and honestly my recommendation, Power BI, then don’t go anywhere else. And the beautiful thing about starting where I just said Power Query is you’ve already learned one of the pillars of Power BI, because Power Query sits in Power BI as well. In fact, I learned, believe it or not, I learned Power Query first in Power BI before I learned it in Excel.

Chris Ortega (14:31):


Lance Rubin (14:31):

Because when we were building models, I never used Power Query. I wasn’t dealing with data and rolling, I was just building forecast models mainly. Yes, we’d have some data, but generally it was just the tool that we had already had a mapping tool that really had an assumption mapping capability, just doing a little bit of, “What Power Query does anyway.” So we didn’t really need to do that ETL process. But as data became more complex and we needed to get into the model, we started using more Power Query. But Power BI for sure, power apps is massive.


So I think for me, the Microsoft Stack is huge. We built some really big systems with my technology partner Potenza. So we build full stack data warehouse, Azure SQL with Power BI, we connect Excel with ODBC, and we push and pull information between Excel and the data warehouse, and we visualize that in Power BI. We custom-build software to solve solutions, to solve problems that most software does 80% of what people need it to do. We do 100. So we actually, we scope, we understand, we do all of that and then we absolutely give them what they want and what it says on the tin is what they’re going to get. And it’s not-

Chris Ortega (15:46):


Lance Rubin (15:47):

… “Oh, it’s going to get this, it’s going to…” “Now I’m going to have to go back to Excel because it doesn’t do this part properly or I’m going to have to use another tool.” But we build it end-to-end. So Microsoft Azure, in terms of cloud, you want stuff in the cloud I think generally in terms of processing and particularly when you’re sharing information, obviously with proper security, we’ve just been building a power apps for replied an end-to-end process for tracking agriculture stock and stuff. Again, these tools are phenomenal. And then yeah, start to dabble a little bit on ChatGPT has become my next best friend like I use [inaudible 00:16:27].

Chris Ortega (16:28):

For sure.

Lance Rubin (16:28):

And it’s generative AI and mid-journey for some images and even Bing Chat I use a bit. I haven’t quite got that comfortable with Bard yet, but Bing’s been great. Yeah, so I think there’s never an end. That’s the point. So the problem is that there’s too many shiny things that we don’t know where to start. And so you start big, as you said, you start with the elephant, you start going at this generative AI stuff and hang on, you can’t use generative AI or any of those fancier tools if you don’t understand the fundamentals of basic data.

Chris Ortega (17:00):


Lance Rubin (17:01):

And it’s crazy ’cause you’re actually missing the point.

Chris Ortega (17:07):

Yeah. And I love that too, Lance, because I think you talk about something that I think is a traditional CFOs, “This is a myth.” This is one of the things a lot of traditional CFOs are like, “Oh, I’ll just get the shiny new technology and it’ll solve all of my problems.”

Lance Rubin (17:26):

Oh God.

Chris Ortega (17:26):

I’ll go invest in the six-figure software tool that this salesperson promised me.

Lance Rubin (17:33):


Chris Ortega (17:35):

I think that adage of that adage is lets saying, “Hey, get technology to solve all of our problems.” That doesn’t necessarily work ’cause now-

Lance Rubin (17:43):


Chris Ortega (17:44):

… and this is where I think diving in a little bit deeper, and I loved your analogy of saying, “Find where technology compliments you and bring value to the business.” That’s really the awesome point. If it makes your job less about data aggregation, data mining, all of this stuff that honestly talented people don’t want to do, and now you freed up your capacity ’cause you leveraged the technology to, “Now provide more value, now to be a better business partner, now to be more forward-looking, now to be more collaborative.”


That’s what really where it compliments and really shines your power in the finance organization and just, “I see it time and time again with just…” At least software vendors do a great job. They do a great job of saying, “Hey, we’re going to solve all your problems.” And then you get into it and you’re like, “Man, this isn’t what I thought it was going to be.” When to your point, you already have things at your disposal. Microsoft’s entire suite, and I just read that Microsoft, I think in Q one, they’ve already starting to pilot their own FP and A tool. And I’m looking at it where you got Excel, which is the number one FP and A tool of all time, you can’t do anything with that. It’s always default going to be the number one-

Lance Rubin (18:52):


Chris Ortega (18:53):

… FP and A tool. And then you got power, you got the data model, you got Power Pivot, you got the Azure marketplace, you got power apps, you got the entire suite of Office 365 that now can be leveraged and now you throw a FP and A tool on top of that, which gives you your traditional budgeting planning scenario and all the other studies-

Lance Rubin (19:12):

And copilot. [inaudible 00:19:13].

Chris Ortega (19:12):

A copilot.

Lance Rubin (19:15):

A part of [inaudible 00:19:16] just like-

Chris Ortega (19:16):

You got all of that in there. You got generative AI built into your Office, built into Teams, built into… I use it for emails all the time. I get emails and I’ll just like, “Hey, summarize this email or give me the three key points of it.” And we’re trying to respond. So I think that’s where that technology helps really compliment the value for CFOs that are bringing.


So another area I want to go dive into outside of the technology piece is more about the people aspect of the Office and the CFO. And I know you’re coming into that six-month contract and you’re going to be making it. You talked about your first step when you’re coming into the technology side, when you look at the people aspect of that, how, ’cause talent is another element of-

Lance Rubin (19:59):

[inaudible 00:20:00].

Chris Ortega (20:00):

… challenge that a lot of CFOs are facing. What would be your quick insight around… Okay, coming into your new role that you’re going to come into as an interim CFO, how are you going to look at that talent and how are you going to look at that people aspect of it inside of this next engagement that you have?

Lance Rubin (20:16):

So Chris, I think there’s two elements. The first element is absolutely skills assessment.

Chris Ortega (20:23):

Oh, nice.

Lance Rubin (20:23):

So one of the great things that I’ve done having started my business, I recognized good people and not so good people having led people before in large organizations and those that are good are worth their weight in gold.

Chris Ortega (20:37):


Lance Rubin (20:37):

And those that are not are like… It’s like cancer, it’s really toxic, it’s not great. They start to infect other people and they have to go. There’s no other buts or maybe, so one of the first things I’m doing is a data literacy test. So I give them some data in Excel, and I ask them to do stuff with the data. I recently ran an intermediate Excel training workshop; ask them some basic questions and I worked through each of these different formulas. Formulas like INDEX MATCH, VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, XLOOKUP, if statements, sub-product, Power Query of course, and dynamic arrays and these tools. And so that’s the first thing I need to understand where people are at. It’s funny, I don’t look at CVs anymore when I hire people.

Chris Ortega (21:27):


Lance Rubin (21:27):

I don’t believe them anymore. Even when someone says to me, they’ve got advanced Excel skill, they’ve graded Excel, what does that actually mean? When someone says to you, “I’m graded Excel.” What does that actually mean? No one can-

Chris Ortega (21:41):

That’s true.

Lance Rubin (21:43):

… actually, defines each work. So what I do is I say, “I don’t want you to tell me what you think.”

Chris Ortega (21:47):

Show me.

Lance Rubin (21:50):

Show me the money. Here’s a spreadsheet-

Chris Ortega (21:52):


Lance Rubin (21:52):

You’ve got an hour, give it back to me and then I’ll see. And I took this from some of the stuff that I was doing with Modeloff back in the day, which is now transformed as the Financial Modeling World Cup.


And that’s what they do. They have an Esports for financial modeling and they’re doing wonderful things. And its that same mentality of I want people to learn, I want to have the best team, I want to spend my time. Now once I’ve got those that are on the bus… And even if someone doesn’t do that well in the test, but that they show innovation and they show keenness and they want to learn, then we can fix that.


But I need to then train them, and I need them to have a growth mindset. So a lot of it is actually, “How do they take feedback?” I’ll assess, I’ll look at all their results, I’ll have a conversation with them. And then after that I’ve got to communicate my vision, I’ve got to tell them, I’ve got to give them the comfort, I’ve got to give them empathy and understand where they’re at. And a lot of people will check out and that’s okay.


Older people say, you know what? “I just want to do month end. I want to come in, I want to do my balance sheet recs, and my P and L recs, and prepare the management PAC and I want to go home. And that’s it. I don’t want to do anything else.” And I’m sorry, that’s not a person. I know that’s what you do. But everything that you’ve just said can be automated. So a robot is going to do that. A robot is going to do all the reconciliations. It is going to generate all my management PACS. IT is going to potentially even generate commentary for me.


Now what I need the human to do is to read and understand the context and go have a conversation with people and influence. That’s what I want humans to do. I don’t want humans to be doing what they’re doing now, and that’s the journey that I’m going to take them on. And I’ve done it with my team. I’ve built a SaaS company and I know how it’s done. And I just can’t wait to go back into the finance team and look, if I was in finance and a leader like this came along-

Chris Ortega (23:50):

You are worth your way and go.

Lance Rubin (23:51):

… I would be excited as an employee-

Chris Ortega (23:53):

Oh, yeah.

Lance Rubin (23:53):

… I would be excited. Anyway, it’s going to be great, and I think it’s going to be a huge opportunity for people, for the organization, and let’s make it happen. They have a couple of weeks away and maybe we have a follow-up session on the podcast, but I can’t wait. Like I said before, “People, process, systems.” People are arguably the biggest component of that.


Not knowing you can have the best process, but if the people aren’t on the bus, forget the process and that will circumvent the process. If you’ve got the best systems in the place, if people aren’t on board to adopt new skills and use those systems, complete waste. So people are actually the most important out of the three and you have to focus on them first. That’s why I said the biggest challenge is that vision, because the vision talks to the people, doesn’t talk to anything else.


It might involve technology, it might involve process engineering, but it talks to the people. And the people need to get their hands around, understand it, feel like they’re being heard and really come on the bus and come on the journey. ‘Cause I think there’s exciting places we can go. And God [inaudible 00:25:02] wrote a post this past week about he was in an accounting firm and people wouldn’t go home to their families ’cause they had year-end and the people-

Chris Ortega (25:12):

I’ve been there, man.

Lance Rubin (25:13):

… I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had those. You just said it earlier. You had a board pack to get rid of it middle of the night, and you suddenly put Power Pivot and Google and found this thing. We’ve all been there because we didn’t have the leaders, we also didn’t have the tools.

Chris Ortega (25:29):

That’s true.

Lance Rubin (25:30):

And won the leaders, yes. But also, the tools weren’t around that we’ve got now. When I started there was Lotus 1-2-3 and there was Excel 95. Excel was just starting. And as we say, Power Query’s been around for a decade. So I’ve got a number of excuses to give to the leaders of finance. If you haven’t-

Chris Ortega (25:46):

It’s been around [inaudible 00:25:48].

Lance Rubin (25:49):

Yeah, it’s been quite a bit. But some of these other tools, yes, not so much so dynamic arrays hasn’t been around that long. Lambda has been about 18 months, which is the new formulas within Excel that spill formula automatically. So it’s really important that they do get on that journey and join the ride because it is a fresh start. It’s a great new way and a great place to work and it will be. And lots of people are leaving it because leaders are not embracing it.

Chris Ortega (26:17):

Yeah, I love that piece of it, man. I think in summary, what you said is establishing the baselines. Me, when we work with clients, when we come in and work on the same thought, it’s always about, “Where are we at?” I think you got to answer that question is, “Where are we at?” ‘Cause that’s going to inform you where we want to go. And it’s a hard reality. It is having a hard conversation with yourself to say, “Hey, maybe I’m not the technology CFO that I need to be.” Or, “Maybe I’m not the advocate of a training and development of the leader I need to be.”


And I think one of the takeaways that I think every finance professional… Whether you’re a CFO, whether you’re an FP and A, whether you’re an accountant, no matter what profession you are at finance, taking away from you that you got to establish those realistic baselines of where you’re at, “Where am I at now? Where do I want to go?” And then the most important piece of it is what you’re going to implement is, “How do I get there?” That is that fundamental piece.


“I know where I’m at, I know where I need to go, how do I need to get there?” Well, we talked about it. And being able to baseline and have that skill assessment and have the people on the train that are like, “Hey, I’m committed. I know this is something fresh and different. I know it’s going to be a journey. I know at the end of the day I’m going to level up my skillset and value to the organization. And I think you as a leader, bringing that to the organization and bringing that to the people.”


Man, I’m hearing you talk about it. I’m excited for you. I’m like, “Dude, this Liz, is about to do some amazing stuff. He’s about to make a tremendous impact and he is about to be a tremendous leader to help some finance professionals.” So appreciate that, man. Hey, one last question I have and we closing it up. I always ask every finance guest these curious to know this from you is what is your number one hot finance trend and why?

Lance Rubin (28:03):

Data literacy. I think data literacy is so critical. Look, I think data has been important for a while, but I think it’s becoming an even bigger importance because of AI. So firstly, many people don’t actually understand how AI works. I think it’s just like this magic robot or something that does stuff. The reality is AI works because of data. Nothing else, but data.

Chris Ortega (28:35):


Lance Rubin (28:35):

It doesn’t work because it’s just software. It works because of data. ChatGPT has got the entire internet in a large language model, and it’s got algorithms and it’s got tokens, and it understands how sentences join together and how relationships work. And it can convert that, and it can process that very quickly. Now if I didn’t know that data is actually at the core of AI, then I’m just going to believe the AI all the time.


If I give the AI rubbish, it’s going to give me roche, just like the lawyer in the US who stood in front of the judge and started quoting all these cases and the judge said, “Hang on, I’ve never heard of these cases. Where did you find them?” And he said, “Oh, I got them from ChatGPT.” He said, “Well, what do you mean they don’t exist?” “Oh, but isn’t just ChatGPT, the internet. And I just Googled. Then I thought it was the same thing as Googling, find these cases.” “No, you numb nut. It’s not.”

Chris Ortega (29:29):


Lance Rubin (29:29):

And that’s a lawyer.

Chris Ortega (29:30):

[inaudible 00:29:31].

Lance Rubin (29:31):

And that was all over me. There’s going to be some people that are going to really not get what AI does and misuse it and abuse it like that lawyer. Hopefully in accounting and a finance, we’re a bit more savvy. But I think there’s also a risk here that we are almost too scared. So we’re like, “We don’t want to… No.” I was on a podcast recently for a meetup where we were talking about AI in the future of financial modeling with some other leaders in the financial modeling sector, and I think we had almost 100 people on and we-

Chris Ortega (30:02):


Lance Rubin (30:03):

… did a poll and there was literally 10% or less had tried ChatGPT. And this is only going back two months ago when it was the rate. Now it’s gold down a bit, but it then it-

Chris Ortega (30:16):

Yes, [inaudible 00:30:16].

Lance Rubin (30:17):

So it’s hung up. People are too scared in finance to even try these tools ’cause maybe they’re scared about, “Is the data going to go out? What’s going to happen?” So I think there’s that other side of understanding data where there’s security issues and how to use these tools smart thinking about data. So data is at the center of all of this, but understanding data and data literacy is critical. So when I say data literacy, I don’t just throw it out as a word. Data literacy needs understanding the contents and the artifacts on data, understanding the process of data. It’s not just, “Okay, I understand data. It’s a bunch of spreadsheets or it’s tables or it’s a database.” No, it’s not. It’s much more than that.


It’s the data culture, its data visualization, its data processing, its data cleaning, it’s advanced data analytics. And AI and predictive analytics, which you were talking about earlier, it’s all of that. It’s not just one element. Data dictionary. “How many organizations have a data dictionary? Do they actually understand what does a word mean in a system and what does that word mean in another system?” And all they say the same thing. “Or we had a client where they had conversion?” If I tell you what does conversion mean?

Chris Ortega (31:27):

I immediately go to sales and I’m like [inaudible 00:31:29]-

Lance Rubin (31:29):

That’s where everyone goes.

Chris Ortega (31:30):

… an opportunity.

Lance Rubin (31:31):

Absolutely. That’s where everyone goes. What happens if they’re a coffee manufacturer and they’re converting raw beans to processed coffee?

Chris Ortega (31:39):

That’s true.

Lance Rubin (31:39):


Chris Ortega (31:39):

It can be completely different.

Lance Rubin (31:41):

Very different. Thought conversion, but now it’s a conversion in a production process. So you have to understand the context of the data. So you’re bringing it in, “I’m getting this date from the system.” Okay, what is it delivery date? Is it order date? Is it invoice date? Is it payment date? There’s four different dates and it’s just dates. So actually, understanding date, these things are important. If I’m looking-

Chris Ortega (32:03):

So important.

Lance Rubin (32:04):

… at cashflow… “Oh, so the date we invoice is the date we get paid?” No, it’s not. I wish it was, but it’s not the date that they ordered. Hang on. That’s not even the date that anything got sold yet. That’s just the date that there was an order put in once they’ve signed the invoice or they’ve paid or something else. I think that these are the things which are important. Data literacy is such a critical skill and Power Query is a very powerful data tool. And so that’s why I’d say for me, that’s where I’d start because it’s, “Are you data literate? Yes, or no? Do you understand what a data diction is?” A basic conversation that you can have with anyone. “Do you know what an ETL is?” Most people will say that, “Do you know what an API is?” Blank face.


So I think these questions are actually quite easy to work out whether someone’s data literal or not, just by asking those core questions. “What is the governance around data? Is there a data steward? Who’s their data ownership? Is there… What about all the different hierarchies of data, gold, silver, bronze, and all of the elements of data. Where do I fix data? Do I fix data source? Do I fix data in the report?” These are things that are critical in terms of data literacy. So it’s a very big topic, but I think it’s one that’s not invested enough in finance. I think the IT people are very familiar with it, but in finance, we got data illiterate. We think-

Chris Ortega (33:25):


Lance Rubin (33:25):

… data’s a spreadsheet. We just think, “Okay, data’s a spreadsheet. It’s just information out of a system. That’s data. That’s it. I know data. I know P and L. I know balance sheet; I know data.” No, you don’t. You don’t understand the full ecosystem of data into it. And that’s the hot trend I’d say. I think anyone who’s wanting to get a role in finance today or in FP and A in particular, ’cause FP and A is very heavy on data, particularly for modeling and forecasting, and budgeting, and analysis, then absolutely need to understand data literacy.

Chris Ortega (33:59):

1000%. Man, I agree with you. And you hit it on the head. We’re so comfortable in our P and Ls, our balance sheets, our GLs and all that stuff that we think we have a command of it, but as you just identified, there’s so much more layers of that onion around data. And the thing about it is it’s not to highlight to say, “Your data literacy is okay, that’s okay.” ‘Cause now you have the opportunity to say, “Hey, I’m data illiterate, but now I know Lance, now I know Model Citizn, now I know these great organizations that can help my entire finance or not just myself. It can help my entire finance organization level up our IQ when it comes around to data literacy.


Yeah, man, highly recommend. That’s an awesome approach and a challenge that I think a lot of people has, and it’s great to have resources like you and Model Citizn and other people to help support that. Hey, man, Lance, I can’t tell you enough, man. First off, man, congratulations. I wish you nothing, but the best, and from our conversation, I’m super pumped for you and the finance team that you’re about to take over. You’re about to make such an impact not only in people’s careers, but I think in this businesses’ organization.


I think you’re going to come in and bring such a fresh perspective, fresh set of tools, fresh set of mindset, fresh set of vision, and you’re going to be a tremendous leader across that organization and with that team. But hey, if other people want to learn more about you, learn more about how they can be data literacy, learn more about Power Query and financial modeling, how you guys use it, where can people follow you? Where can they learn more about Model Citizn? How can people connect with you?

Lance Rubin (35:35):

Chris, great question. Probably the first place I’d say is LinkedIn. We have a LinkedIn group, sorry, I’ve got a LinkedIn page, but also, I’ve got about a hit 22,000 followers.

Chris Ortega (35:45):

Oh, nice.

Lance Rubin (35:47):

All organic. I didn’t pay anyone to go get those followers.

Chris Ortega (35:51):

Dude stop paying for followers. People don’t do that.

Lance Rubin (35:54):

When I see other people with 8,000. Okay, that’s just Simon Sinek. That’s different. Fuck [inaudible 00:35:59].

Chris Ortega (35:58):

I see some people sometimes Lance, with 150,000 people and I’m just like, “What?”

Lance Rubin (36:04):

Yeah, LinkedIn for sure. Our website Model Citizn, it’s M-O-D-E-L-C-I-T-I-Z-N, no, E in citizen .com. I dabble on Twitter or X. I’m there a little bit just watching the world unfold in front of us with all the craziness. But otherwise, I have a Facebook page, but just you can email me lance@modelcitizn.com. But yeah, the key thing is just social media is to stay connected and I’m prolific on LinkedIn, as you’ve seen, I’m posting almost two or three times a week. It just depends on how busy I am. But I will post on Google is anti-innovation and we’ll see how that one goes down.

Chris Ortega (36:45):

Let’s see, it’ll go. I think if you did a poll Lance and say Google or Excel, which one is anti-innovation, that’ll be very prerogative. But yeah, man. Hey, thanks for your time and to everybody listening to all those accounting finance, FP and a CFO professionals, Lance, I’ve been a follower and a fan of yours for over a decade now. I remember conversations going back since we talked, man, highly check out Model Citizns, make sure you connect, follow with Lance.


If you want to increase that data literacy, if you want to get that Power Query knowledge up, if you want to increase your skillset around financial modeling, highly recommend Model Citizns and checking out links and the team. Hey man, thank you so much for being a part of CFO TRENDS, man. I really appreciate the insights. I’ll sitting here taking notes and got some great insights. So Lance, thank you so much for being a part of CFO TRENDS.

Lance Rubin (37:30):

Pleasure, Chris, and thanks for the opportunity to come talk to you [inaudible 00:37:33].

Chris Ortega (37:34):

Awesome. Thank you for listening me. Join us for our next episode where I’ll be talking with Steve Robertson, the CFO at HDMI licensing administrator, as we talk about the first 90 days as a new CFO, A Playbook for Success.

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