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Robert Ryan, the CFO of Medtronic Inc., liked his work as an outside director for UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Brunswick Corp. He sat on the boards’ compensation committees and got to discuss issues that were out of his purview as a CFO. But since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the companies consider Ryan and his accounting expertise vital necessities and have wasted no time switching him to the place where they need him most–the audit committee. “Sarbanes really narrowed my opportunities,” Ryan jokes.

The irony: For the past seven years when Ryan sat on the boards of companies other than his own, he was a rarity. Traditionally, outside directorships have been doled out to chief executives, chairmen and former CEOs. Forget about choosing CFOs; it was a stretch for even presidents to get invited into this elite stratum. CFOs were relegated to seats reserved for insiders on the board, if they made it onto the radar screen at all.

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