Corporate Financial Operations

Course Number 1416

Professor C. Fritz Foley
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 Sessions

Career Focus

This course takes a general management perspective on corporate finance, focusing on the activities chief financial officers perform. It intends to expose you to what these activities are, to engage you in rich discussions about the key considerations behind fundamental choices CFOs face, to teach you financial decision making processes that firms often use, and to hone your financial judgement abilities.

The course aims to train students to work as finance professionals within organizations or as service providers to people in such roles. The issues we will cover are highly relevant to private equity investors who help set financial policies at portfolio firms, investment managers who assess the performance of CFOs, and consultants who serve clients facing decisions with a financial component.

The course is also suitable for students who are interested in a general management career and want to have a deeper understanding of the finance function of organizations.

Educational Objectives

The goal of the course is to provide students with the knowledge and skills required to create and capture value as financial managers. The course emphasizes the development of practical insights rather than theoretical frameworks. We will augment and refine the analytical tools covered in first-year finance and learn how to apply value-based management techniques to a broad set of business decisions.

Course Content and Organization

Nearly all the class sessions are centered on cases. In addition, we will have some interactive discussions with guests. During the first few weeks of the semester, there will be some optional afternoon sessions that will review topics from first year finance.

There are five modules in the course that each relate to a particular set of activities that CFOs perform. They are:

  • Measuring and Driving Performance
  • Managing Cash and Sources of Funding
  • Managing Risk and Regulation
  • Communicating with Boards and Capital Providers
  • Managing Investment, Divestitures, and Portfolios of Businesses

The cases consider a particular decision a financial manager faces and provide an opportunity to discuss a broad set of relevant considerations, potential pitfalls and false logics, and managerial techniques that are likely to be most effective.

We will have numerous guests over the course of the semester, most of whom are HBS graduates. In addition to hearing from several case protagonists, we will be joined by CFOs who are subject matter experts on topics we will discuss. In the past, guests have included Eleanor Laurans, CFO of Boston Public Schools; Jonathan Mariner, former CFO of Major League Baseball; Byron Pollitt, former CFO of Visa; Helen Riley, CFO of Google X; Robert Ryan, former CFO of Medtronic; Scott Ullem, CFO of Edwards Lifesciences, and several other current or former CFOs and CEOs. We will use part of our time with these guests to discuss their career paths and explore career options.