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Chief Financial Officer, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)


Chief Financial Officer – Madison, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), supporting one of the world’s leading research universities, seeks a strategic and collaborative leader to be its next Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This is a unique opportunity for a proven and engaged finance executive to lead and enhance the fiscal operations of an organization committed to commercialization and investment in research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The Opportunity

Reporting to the Managing Director, the CFO will work in close partnership with each member of the management team to provide a strategic fiscal vision and operational plan for the organization while ensuring a high level of innovation, openness, collaboration, and accountability.  As WARF embarks on its next five-year strategic plan, the CFO will play a critical role to guide changes in financial management to achieve the organization’s mission and foster WARF’s position as a leader in technology transfer and investment management. The CFO will be responsible for communicating a complex set of information to key stakeholders in a way that is consistent, understandable, and thorough. The CFO will also manage the Information Technology (IT) department ensuring appropriate processes and systems are in place to support data integration and reporting across the organization.

The Organization

WARF’s mission is to support scientific research within the UW–Madison community by providing financial support, actively manage assets, and move innovations to the marketplace for a financial return and global impact. Founded more than 90 years ago to support and serve the UW – Madison, WARF is a separate, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation with assets under management exceeding $2.7 billion and a robust intellectual property portfolio that generates millions of dollars in annual revenue.  WARF also manages the Town Center within the Discovery Building, which provides platforms for hands-on activities that link scientific research and the general public, and offers a venue for the campus and community to engage in programs that highlight science, discovery and entrepreneurship. With a 16-member Board of Trustees and staff of 75, WARF provides over $100 million a year in support to its beneficiaries, including the UW-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research, a private nonprofit research institute located on the UW-Madison campus.  The Chief Financial Officer is the chief liaison to WARF’s Board of Trustees for all areas of the financial and budgetary operations and also partners with the University and Morgridge Institute leadership to develop a robust process for grant application, grant making, and post grant reporting.

The WARF Finance  and IT Teams

The accounting team the CFO will lead includes a controller, assistant controller, staff accountant, accounts payable/accounting specialist, accounting assistant, and contract managers. The information technology team includes the IT technical manager, systems administrator, and senior business analysts/apps developers. The CFO will be responsible for mentoring and developing these high performing teams, managing work allocation, supporting an effective team dynamic, and engaging and motivating employees through feedback, recognition, and coaching opportunities. These teams also support a variety of financial activity and information systems for two affiliated organizations.  They are WiCell, a nonprofit supporting organization which serves as a global leader in cell banking, cytogenetic testing, and distributions of cell lines; and WiSys, a nonprofit supporting organization which provides technology transfer services to 24 of the UW System’s 26 campuses.

The CFO will be joining WARF at a pivotal time and will be a strategic leader in developing and operationalizing a financial strategy and budget model that supports WARF’s strategic priorities. The CFO will provide operational direction and oversight of the accounting functions as they relate to WARF’s investment portfolio including valuations, control and reconciliation, portfolio and fund level accounting, and systems operations support. S/he will also support financial activities and reporting related to direct investments in, and valuations of, startup companies spinning out of UW-Madison.   WARF’s investment portfolio is highly diverse with investments that span over 75 externally-managed active funds in global equities; hedge funds and portable alpha; venture capital and private equity; real estate, natural resources, and other inflation-hedging assets—private and public; and fixed income. Within these classifications, portfolios are further diversified across sub-asset classes, geographies, and active investment styles and strategies.

The following provides a summary of the key responsibilities:

  • Be a strategic leader in the organization. This includes actively collaborating and working cross functionally as a member of the senior management team to set the vision for the organization and ensure the organization is aligned to the vision and strategic plan.
  • Develop and operationalize a financial strategy that supports the WARF strategic priorities. Key to this role is the development and support of integrated financial plans and budget models to support WARF’s long-term objectives.
  • Oversee and develop long and short-term budgetary planning and cost management in alignment with WARF’s strategic plan, especially as the organization considers grants, tax-exempt bonding, litigation, startup and prototype development activities, and collaborations with external organizations.
  • Manages the accounting processes for a variety of assets. Oversee all accounts, ledgers, and reporting systems, ensuring compliance with appropriate Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and regulatory requirements. Maintain internal control safeguards and coordinate all audit activities.
  • Be a partner with management to provide data-driven insight and forward-looking guidance on cost analysis to optimize financial management and investment strategy selection.
  • Build a risk-aware culture at WARF by educating employees and managers and utilizing a risk framework to monitor, measure and identify emerging risks. 
  • Preserve and protect WARF’s tax-exempt status through monitoring financial investments and due diligence reporting.
  • Work closely with the Board of Trustees on the setting and monitoring of WARF’s budget. Engage the Board’s finance and audit committee and pension committee around issues, trends, and changes in the operating model(s) and operational delivery; assist in establishing yearly objectives and meeting agendas, and selecting and engaging outside auditors.

Ideal candidates will be mission driven, with a strong desire to serve a public research university in a highly complex nonprofit independent organization. The new CFO will be a seasoned financial leader and have a proven record of success in navigating highly complex environments, implementing new innovative projects, communicating to a wide variety of stakeholders, and interacting with the Board of Trustees in a collaborative manner. The successful candidate will have significant fiscal management and leadership experience, and possess the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance with CPA designation; MBA is preferred.
  • At least ten years of progressive management experience in a senior level financial role, preferably from a university foundation, nonprofit, research institute, or higher education institution setting.
  • Strong analytical skills and experience translating a strategic vision into an operational model.
  • Proficiency in statistical analysis, revenue forecasting, financial modeling, project modeling and business plan development.
  • Success in leading IT teams to manage critical financial management systems as well as information systems and processes, required to provide timely and correct financial information with which to make sound and timely business decisions.
  • Proven track record for inspiring colleagues with the ability to cultivate and sustain trust and credibility.
  • Demonstrated understanding of fund accounting systems and reporting for a large foundation associated with a major research university or an overall comparable scope of responsibility.
  • Demonstrated leaderships and ability to inspire change and innovation with a strong orientation toward collaboration, teamwork, openness, accountability and empowerment.

WARF offers a competitive salary and comprehensive benefits package, and supports an inclusive team environment. To ensure consideration please apply via the career portal at by May 31, however, resumes will be accepted until the position has been filled. For more information about WARF: