How to be a topflight student: Airbus CFO, RU alumnus shares pointers

Kevin Sherfey '96, chief financial officer for Airbus Group and Radford University alumnus, gave a group of RU students Friday an insider's look into what it takes to be the CFO of a multi-billion dollar business.

Sherfey spoke to students in two of Associate Accounting Professor Mike Chatham's fundamentals of financial accounting classes. He spoke about his role as the CFO for his company's U.S.-based operation, which has about $2.5 billion in revenues, he said.

During his 50-minute talk, Sherfey provided an informative overview of Airbus, including the amount of money – it's about $15 billion for an A-380 jet – and the effort it takes to put an aircraft in production.

In this role at Airbus, Sherfey has direct responsibility for the company's full range of financial and accounting activities. He said Airbus Group contributes more than $14.4 billion to the U.S. economy annually and supports more than 245,000 American jobs through its network of suppliers.

In addition to sharing information about his company, Sherfey gave the students some "real-world" insight about his position, which included a display of Airbus financial charts that revealed revenues and earnings before tax and interests. "This is something I would typically present to the investment community," he said before reviewing the charts.

Sherfey spoke of the demands of his job and the importance of always being prepared. "I travel to New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco all the time," he said. "I go to a lot of investor forums, and the investors drill me with questions. I have to be prepared to answer those questions. They're investing substantial money in our company."

Sherfey also spoke about the value of his RU education and how it has led him to a successful career. He also told students there are three things they need to learn in order to be successful: communication, the ability to write and the ability to solve problems.


Kevin Sherfey '96 talks with students in Michael Chatham's Fundamentals of Financial Accounting course in the College of Business and Economics.

Delany Jones, a sophomore accounting major from Purcellville, said Sherfey's visit was helpful as she planned for her future.

"He talked a lot about the way the professional world works that we may not realize here as students in the college world," said Jones, who is planning and preparing for a career in accounting. "He gave us a lot of different examples of places he's worked and how he grew to be successful. It helps us know what to expect when we graduate."

Sherfey said he relished the opportunity to return to campus and share his insights.

"It's been so long since I've been back to Radford, and I really wanted to get back and make a contribution to the students," he said.

Chatham said he was "elated" for his students to have the opportunity to hear from Sherfey, who was "sitting in their chairs at RU less than 20 years ago and is now extremely successful in the business world."

Oct 15, 2014