His areas of responsibility include budgeting and forecasting, cash management, pricing, compliance, strategy and various operational support roles.
Before joining URS, he was at Apptis Inc. for five years and helped complete its merger with URS, integrating the two companies, as well as serving as the primary liaison with URS during due diligence.
The 25-year federal and commercial information services veteran recently caught up with ExecutiveBiz to discuss the evolution of the chief financial officer’s role, the integration of Apptis into URS and how he applies experience from different functional areas into his current post.
ExecutiveBiz: Briefly describe your position as VP of finance and controller at URS Federal Services.
Mark Cabrey: In June 2011, URS completed the acquisition of Apptis and at that time, I was the corporate controller at Apptis. Upon the merger, Apptis became a stand-alone IT services group within the federal division of URS. Early in 2012, Apptis was then combined with other organizations within federal services to create a $700 million unit named the Systems Engineering and Information Solutions Group. I am currently the VP of finance and controller for that organization.
(See GovCon Wire’s previous coverage of the Apptis transaction here)
ExecutiveBiz: In what ways has the industry been transformed throughout your 25 years of finance experience?
Cabrey: The finance industry has changed immensely in the years since I graduated from Villanova in 1985. The meaning and the role of the CFO has significantly evolved and expanded, hence making it a very difficult and challenging role for companies to fill. Some key factors contributing to this evolution are: the abundance of technology choices and enhancements, the expanded scope of efforts for most CFOs outside of traditional finance and accounting roles, the increased number of accounting rules and standards and their complexity, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the increased personal liability and accountability to key finance personnel.
All of these are reasons the finance industry has gone through significant transformation over the past three decades. In the end, what this has meant to most in this field is an incredible change in the pace of work and amount of things thrown at you every day. Because the expectations are so high of any CFO at any level of an organization, in addition to how I have learned from these and adapted over time, my key focus areas in my current role with my team are as follows:
- Goal setting: Constant and clear expectation setting; prioritization of work
- Focus: Do less things better, measure what matters, focus on the information part of “IT”
- People: Building and retaining talent, empowering your people, set them free across the greater organization
- Financial transparency: Provide financial literacy across the organization – report and communicate key information to leadership
- Time and risk management
ExecutiveBiz: We’ve seen a heightened amount of competition, specifically in the federal contracting sector, throughout the last several years. In what ways has that impacted URS’ financial strategy and operations?
Cabrey: URS is uniquely positioned as a company compared to many of its peers in the federal market. At the company level, URS is diversified across multiple markets. Those markets are federal, oil and gas, infrastructure, power and industrial. That strategic diversification and the competitive positions we hold in those markets has enabled the federal division to execute its strategy and grow over the past few difficult years in the federal marketplace, while other URS markets have thrived as well.
With the acquisition of Apptis, the URS federal division acquired an IT services platform to grow upon and enter into new growth areas and opportunities. Given the current market and economic conditions, as a division we continue to watch discretionary and overhead spending as we approach the election, federal budget issues and possible sequestration. We continue to monitor these situations carefully and frequently. Given the flat to negative federal budget growth over the past few years, competition has increased and the low price-technically acceptable concept has emerged, putting further downward pressure on prices and margins; however, for the most part, we have not seen many net new entrants into our market.
ExecutiveBiz: URS currently has approximately 57,000 employees around the globe. At this time, would you say the firm is placing additional emphasis on international contracts?
Cabrey: URS is well diversified in markets and geographies. The company will continue to look for areas in both markets and geographies to be opportunistic in and new entrants in as opportunities arise.
ExecutiveBiz: Throughout the last decade URS has been involved in several key acquisitions, is URS actively working to continue expansion or narrow in its focus efforts?
Cabrey: As announced in May of this year, URS completed the acquisition of Flint Energy Services Ltd. This acquisition will better position URS in one of the fastest-growing segments of the North America oil and gas industry. URS strategy is to maintain a balanced portfolio of diversified businesses that serve a variety of markets worldwide. This strategy helps to mitigate our exposure to industrial, technological, environmental, financial, and economic risks that may affect a particular market or geographic region. The growth strategy involves both organic growth as well as expansion through acquisitions of other companies that complement or enhance our technical capabilities or enable us to address new markets or geographic regions.
ExecutiveBiz: How has your past experience, including the 20 years you spent with Unisys, helped you transition into your current executive role?
Cabrey: From the outset of my career, and in conjunction with working for a large, international, public company, I consistently looked to expand my experiences across functional areas (finance, accounting, audit, pricing, operational support, M&A), geographies (U.S. and international), markets (federal and commercial) and levels (corporate, division, field) while at Unisys. I strongly believe this diversification of work and experience has uniquely qualified me for more challenging management positions.
Upon leaving Unisys and joining Apptis in mid-2006, I assumed positions of increasing importance at Apptis through the acquisition in mid-2011 at which the time I served as the corporate controller. While at Apptis, I also served as the key point of contact for all due diligence activities in relation to the acquisition process with URS and prior M&A activities. Prior to that, I led a cross-functional project team of individuals that led to the operational and financial segmentation and the eventual spin out of Iron Bow Technologies which occurred immediately preceding the acquisition of Apptis by URS. All of the aforementioned positions and experience has positioned me very well for the exciting and challenging role that I currently have at URS.
(Click here for GovCon Wire’s coverage of the Iron Bow spinout)