Michael Burwell is a successful financial advisor who is currently serving as the Chief Financial Officer at Willis Towers Watson, an advisory and consulting firm that provides a wide range of services for organizations large and small. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and is also a trained CPA. Before he joined Willis Towers Watson, he worked for over 30 years at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, LLC, in a variety of high level and crucial roles.
He spent 11 years working on business advisory services before being elected partner and moving into the transaction business at their operations hub in Detroit. He had such a high degree of success there that he was asked to take over the central US transaction division.
After his success at the national level, Michael Burwell was named Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. In 2012, he helped to expand internal shared services within the company in his role as Vice Chairman Global and U.S. Transformation.
Where do your ideas come from?
That is a good question. A lot of the best ideas that we’ve had have actually come from other people within the company. They have an invaluable and unique perspective that gives them the ability to infer and intuit things that someone outside of the daily operations just couldn’t do. Making sure those good ideas get the proper assessment has led to many innovations.
How do you stay productive?
I think one of the best ways to be and retain a high level of productivity is to know how to do more with less. Technology has dramatically improved our lives in so many ways, including in the number of tasks we can accomplish on a given day. I think taking advantage of all the tools available to me helps me maintain a high level of production.
What’s a piece of advice that you give most often?
I cannot stress enough the importance of networking and developing relationships within your field. Not only is it important to cultivate relationships for the purposes of business, it is also helpful for general interpersonal relationships to be in the moment and try to really focus on what is being communicated to you.
Can you tell us about a tough decision you’ve had to make?
I was involved in an effort relating to a new technology in development. We had put time, effort, and also a lot of money into the project, but looking into the market trends, I had to make the decision stop the project. It definitely wasn’t the most popular decision, but it was the best decision that could be made at the time, but it’s hard to pull the proverbial plug on a project you’ve given a lot to.
Can you give us an overview of a typical day in the life of Michael Burwell?
I get up by 5am most days and always make my bed, even when I am traveling and not in my own. There is something about accomplishing even a small task to start your day that I really appreciate. I hop on my bike for awhile and use that time to plan out my goals for the day, what I’d like to get done, and reflect on what I have achieved already and how it will best prepare me for future goals.
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