Math alum Bill Fahrbach rides a rapid wave of success as a CFO in the technology world
A few years after Bill Fahrbach (B.S. ’02, mathematics; B.A. ’02, economics) graduated from the University of Maryland, he had a tough decision to make: should he stay on a path toward a career in business or give it all up to become a professional musician.
“It was either music school to be a jazz musician or business school,” he recalled. “I loved music and played guitar in bands throughout college and a musical career was definitely tempting. All my bandmates had already moved out to LA and became musicians, I was the only holdout.”
Though music would always be a part of his life, Fahrbach decided business was a better career choice.
“I realized that although I love music, I would never be happy without the challenge of the business world,” he said. “You can’t just chase what feels good at the moment, you have to chase what’s going to continue to fulfill you.”
Fahrbach’s decision to pursue business paid off. Honored with numerous awards, he has risen to rockstar status in the technology world for his success as a financial leader and advisor, guiding big and small tech businesses through exponential growth, acquisitions and highly profitable selloffs for over 10 years.
In his current role as chief financial officer at Facet Wealth, Fahrbach restructured and rebuilt the finance team, launched a data and analytics program, and raised more than $150 million in just 10 months, with more growth still to come, all setting the stage for a future IPO. It’s a high-stakes, high-return career that fits perfectly with the kind of challenges Fahrbach loves most as well as his passion for mathematics and problem-solving.
“I’m in an executive role that requires me to consider the interests and personalities of various stakeholders, internal and external, but at the heart of it I’m a corporate problem-solver, it’s what I do as a CFO of technology businesses,” Fahrbach explained. “I love solving problems. In my college math classes that was really appealing to me—every question was, ‘Here’s an issue, solve for the problem.’ It’s very exact, it’s very fact-based and I just enjoy going through that logic chain and getting to an answer.”
Starting early with math
For Fahrbach, it all started with mathematics. Growing up in Long Island, New York, he gravitated toward math early on.
“I was always good with numbers and logic,” he said. “I excelled at a young age and it kind of came naturally to me.”
When Fahrbach entered the University of Maryland, he initially leaned into electrical engineering and economics, seeing law school and a career as an intellectual property attorney in his future. But as time went on, he realized he was more interested in problem-solving than circuit theory. And just before his junior year, an internship at Morgan Stanley convinced him he’d found his niche.
“It kind of blends all the things I was interested in. It’s business, it’s sales, but it’s also detail orientation, analytics and all those things that I really enjoyed,” Fahrbach noted. “When I took the internship and loved it, I said to myself, ‘This is something I can see being really excited about.’”
Realizing that math and economics would put him on a solid track toward investment banking, Fahrbach changed his major to math and soaked up as much as he could before graduating in 2002.
“I had a lot of great mathematics professors at Maryland,” he recalled. “They had a terrific program and they taught me so much.”
From UMD to Wall Street
From UMD, Fahrbach went on to Wall Street and his first job at Standard and Poor’s.
“I worked in leverage lending, analyzing the debt markets,” he said. “It was great training on how the finance world and the capital-raised world work and it helped me understand business and run analytics in a way that was relevant.”
Fahrbach joined a Credit Suisse spinoff firm in 2005, working as an investment analyst until 2007 when he moved to Merrill Lynch. For Fahrbach, it marked a fork in the professional road.
“I thought, do I want to be a lifetime institutional finance person, or do I want to take the skills that I’ve acquired and help individual businesses directly,” he recalled. “I learned that what I really enjoyed was the challenge, the problem-solving, and working with people to optimize outcomes. When I sat down with executives in fast-growing businesses and saw them grapple with key strategic business decisions, it was just really exciting.”
By 2007, the appeal of an advisory role in business was so strong, Fahrbach put his career on hold to earn his MBA. The timing was pivotal.
“I was in business school during the financial crisis of 2008 to 2009 and the world changed in those years,” he explained. “You had a lot of great people pursuing nontraditional, more entrepreneurial paths, whether it was starting a business and growing it and raising venture capital or entering private equity-backed businesses, which is what I do now.”
Earning an MBA launched Fahrbach into a new role working closely with tech businesses, from Iris Wireless, where he managed mergers and acquisitions, to Oragenics, a health technology company where he advised executives on major strategic decisions.
“In 2010, I was brought in to Oragenics to work with the Board and CEO to figure out how to best monetize their assets,” Fahrbach said. “We launched their consumer products division from the ground floor, then spun it out, sold it and recapitalized the business, which we later partnered.”
“In many cases in the past, my goal has been to sell myself out of a job”
In 2013, Fahrbach landed his first CFO position at Mobile Commons, a software company where he learned volumes about the inner workings of running a deal process. Hired to position the business for sale in 18 to 24 months, Fahrbach had it sold in just seven months.
He moved on to WorkWave and achieved another career milestone.
“We more than quadrupled the size of the business in four years,” Fahrbach recalled. “We acquired five businesses, then sold the company, and achieved a great outcome for our investors. It really launched my credibility in the private equity world.”
As he moved on to another CFO role at ComplySci, then another at CultureIQ, each opportunity set the stage for the next.
“You see there’s a pattern to this right? When I sell off to a strategic party, that’s typically my cue,” he explained. “My goal is to sell myself out of a job and go on to the next one.”
When Fahrbach joined Facet Wealth in 2021, it was the right opportunity at the right time.
“It’s been a very intense 10 years, it takes a lot out of you,” he explained. “So the idea of having a four to five-year trajectory to grow and to launch an IPO was exciting to me and a compelling reason for me to accept the challenge. I love doing deals, but I love operating just as much.”
Fahrbach credits the strong foundation in mathematics he built at UMD and his years of financial and business experience with much of his success. But he admits he couldn’t do this work if he wasn’t passionate about it.
“The world I’m in is not for the faint of heart, it can be brutal,” he admitted. “You cannot slip up and very often there’s a lot of people’s money on the line and they trust you to get a great outcome for them. There’s no way that I’d be able to do this if I didn’t love it.”
After nearly a decade as a CFO, Fahrbach is still hooked on the challenges that drew him to business and finance from the beginning. And he’s still learning every step of the way.
“I thought I was pretty proficient years ago and now I look back and think, I could have been better,” Fahrbach reflected. “So it’s probably reasonable to think that 10 years from now I’ll say the same thing about where I am today. As long as I’m still being challenged and I’m getting better at what I do, I imagine I’ll be fulfilled.”
Written by Leslie Miller