A funny thing happened to Pitney Bowes' CFO Michael Monahan on the way to dental school. He became an accountant. After majoring in biology and winning a spot at dental college, Monahan found the DDS entry price too stiff. Studying finance was more affordable, and, he says, it was a way to "learn about how the markets prevented me from being a dentist."

Monahan, 47, learned that and more. In 20 years at Pitney Bowes, he has risen through the financial and operational ranks, taking on key jobs in marketing services and product management, among others, to become one of a new breed of CFOs whose influence extends far beyond the finance department. "Being a CFO in today's environment is a unique experience," says Monahan, whose responsibilities extend to oversight of corporate development, investor relations and real estate administration, among other areas.

"I had a lot of grounding to prepare me for this job," he says.

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