Walter Glover, CFO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, built his career on a foundation of accounting principles.
Unlike the world-class athletes he helps support, Walter Glover never imagined he would contribute to the success of America’s Olympic teams. But today, as chief financial officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), the 63-year-old stands at the pinnacle of his profession. Indeed, if gold medals were awarded for accounting, Glover would be a podium fixture, thanks to his skillful management of the organization’s complex financial operations.
Glover joined the USOC in 2000 just in time for the Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. He was recruited to serve as director of budgets and analysis based on his vast experience fine-tuning budget departments in corporate America, including a 20-year-stint with Altria Group (the parent company of Philip Morris USA).
Much has changed since his earliest days in the financial field, when Glover honed his number-crunching skills as an auditor and certified public accountant with Arthur Andersen & Co. in New York City during the 1970s. Back then, routine ruled his workdays. Now, however, the dynamic nature of his high-profile position means he must be ready for anything.
“I always have to ask myself: What did I do yesterday?” Glover says with a laugh. “With this job, things are constantly popping up.”
The Daily Schedule
On any given day, Glover might be reviewing the performance of the USOC’s retirement plan for its 400-plus employees and retirees, or combing through the details of an expanded health-care strategy that meets the needs of high-performance athletes.
Today, when we catch him in his office at the USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, he’s busy overseeing the financials relating to the upcoming 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Specifically, he’s working with his staff to minimize the USOC’s import tax exposure for the shipment of thousands of boxes of Olympic apparel from a processing facility in Munich, Germany to the site of the Games on Russia’s Black Sea coast.
To the nonprofit USOC, every dollar matters. Savings on taxes, for example, means more money that the organization can direct to the training and support of 1,000-plus U.S. athletes. “The lion’s share of [our funds] goes to the governing bodies of the various Olympic sports,” Glover explains. “Unlike a for-profit company that’s focused on its bottom line, we are mission-driven. And our needs always exceed our resources.”
What might be surprising to some is the fact that on a day-to-day basis, Glover doesn’t actually spend much time studying figures and decimal points. “My controller and others really dig into the numbers,” he says. “I’m usually dealing with strategy and looking at operational issues.”
However, he adds, “I get involved if something pops up that’s out of the norm. If a financial issue has to go up the line to the CEO, I’m the guy who has to engage with that.”
Because the buck literally stops with Glover, he needs to keep his accounting skills sharp. “Accounting is always evolving, and you have to stay current,” he explains. “It’s a profession driven by specific rules. My job is to make sure that the USOC stays within those rules—that we’re transparent, and that the integrity of the organization is protected. Luckily, I’ve always had a philosophy of doing things the right way. It helps me sleep much easier.
Along with a commitment to integrity and a proficiency for numbers, Glover notes that a successful accountant must also carry strong communication skills to convey his or her rationale for financial decisions—whether to an individual client or to other departments within a company.
Accounting Career Path to Success
Glover’s ability to break down complicated financial matters, coupled with his natural leadership ability, helped him move up in the ranks throughout his career. But he attributes his success to his foundation as an accountant—even though, while attending North Carolina A&T State University, he wasn’t sure that he wanted to pursue the accounting career path. (Glover also holds a master’s degree in business administration from Virginia Commonwealth University and is a former Air Force officer.) During college, a friend of his older brother suggested Glover choose accounting as his major because of the multitude of opportunities it offers in the business world—sound advice indeed, as Glover’s nearly 40 years in the field attest.
“I’ve seen people go from accounting into purchasing, human resources and operations—and even become CEOs,” Glover says. “It really provides you a way to understand the operations of the business. If you have the ability to lead and manage, accounting makes you very versatile. And when you talk about career opportunities, whether we’re in a recession or not, companies always need accountants. The field is always in demand.”
Or, if you’re lucky, your degree may lead down an accounting career path where reviewing balance sheets is given equal weight with traveling the world to watch the world’s best athletes achieve gold medal glory.
“That’s the highlight of the job, to go to the Games and spend time with the athletes,” Glover says. “I love being part of the mission of what we’re trying to achieve as an organization. But I probably won’t realize how fortunate I’ve been until I retire from this job and say ‘Wow, what a ride I’ve had!’”
Launch Your Career
As Glover says, companies always need accountants. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that 190,700 more jobs will be created in accounting and auditing between 2010 and 2020. A strong accounting foundation can help launch your career and position you well for the fast-changing job market of tomorrow.Accounting Career Paths, accounting jobs, DeVry, USOC