Governing Body Spotlight

Governing Body Member of the San Francisco CFO Community

Julie Underwood

Chief Financial Officer


Julie Underwood oversees the accounting and financial reporting operations, as well as enterprise risk management, enterprise compliance services and actuarial resources for the largest educator-only pension fund in the world, California State Teachers' Retirement System. She previously served as the Chief Financial Officer for the San Bernardino County Employees' Retirement Association, a multiple-employer defined benefit pension plan.

Learn more about the San Francisco CFO community here.

Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.

I've managed a fast-food restaurant and worked for the court in various clerical positions. It was in college where I ultimately decided that accounting was my passion. Since then, I've held various and progressively responsible accounting and tax positions with public accounting firms, including Ernst & Young and a county government agency, before accepting my first CFO role at SBCERA, a county pension fund. This prepared me for my current role as CFO of CalSTRS.

What is one of your guiding leadership principles?

To be kind, which fosters confidence and growth in others, as well as collaboration and teamwork. I feel this is critical to developing a culture where staff feel valued and supported.

With disruption being a key theme of recent years, where do you see the CFO role going in the next 1-2 years?

Expanded sponsorship of technology innovation projects will assist the organization with defining what innovation means and what success looks like enterprise-wide. It's going to be critical to provide a financial lens as we innovate, streamline and automate processes to increase efficiency, grow capabilities and culture to support a strategic and innovation mindset, transform our business processes and drive digital adoption.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out as a CFO?

Take the time to listen, learn and build your network within the organization. Don't be so quick to make changes. Take the time to meet with your staff and ask them what their concerns are.

Tell us a few fun facts about yourself.

  1. I've swam with sharks.
  2. I recently learned to snowboard and decided I like skiing better.
  3. I'm obsessed with all things pumpkin spice.

What is the value of joining an Evanta community? 

I look forward to the networking opportunities that this community provides. Learning from others in different industries and sharing best practices is an invaluable experience.

Evanta Governing Body members share their insights and leadership perspectives to shape the agendas and topics that address the top priorities impacting business leaders today.

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