What’s new for CFOs? How the landscape is changing

November 8th 2018 | Posted by Phil Scott

The role of Chief Finance Officer has changed significantly over the years.  As businesses have developed and organisational needs have evolved, the CFO’s role is becoming more complex, more diverse and even more critical to business success.

In today’s modern organisation the Chief Financial Officer is responsible for so much more than purely the traditional accountancy function.  Overseeing budget and spend are still very important, but the responsibilities and functions have grown substantially to the point that the CFO is viewed now as one of the most essential senior personnel.

Accenture recently published a report that surveyed over 700 Finance and C-suite leaders across 9 industries which gives some interesting insights into the changing landscape of CFOs.

“In virtually every company we look at, the CFO is becoming the second most important C-suite executive.  An effective leadership team depends on the CEO and the CFO being a great double act”, says David Axson, MD – Accenture Strategy and CFO and Enterprise Value, UKI.   The CFO is a business critical partner to the leaders of business.

In present-day organisations, the function of the CFO now incorporates wider strategy and business leadership, focusing on areas such as business performance, business transformation, company strategy, digital and data analysis and evaluation of business growth opportunities.  As Accenture points out, “CFOs are positioned to be powerful digital guardians who use data to drive value, improve efficiency and enable strategy.”

As a CFO or a Finance Director looking to progress in your career to become a CFO, what can you do to keep up with the ever-changing landscape?  How can you keep up with the growing demands of the role that has evolved from “Accountant”, to “Business Partner” to “Strategic Enabler” , as labelled by Accenture in its recent report.

Build relationships

As the role of CFO role continues to become increasingly strategic, building exceptional relationships with key business units becomes increasingly important.

The Finance function doesn’t operate in a silo.  It has a strategic value to the business and a CFO should focus on building relationships throughout the organisation – with Sales, Operations, Business Development, HR and more.  This will help to understand the in-depth needs of the wider business and how Finance can support both strategic business objectives and the detailed day-to-day business demands.

Utilise Data

With the increase in technological capability, the emphasis on data continues to grow.  Businesses look to the finance team to provide them with past data, current knowledge and future speculative insight.  The modern CFO should embrace the insights that data analysis can bring and use what’s at their fingertips to help shape business strategy.

Streamline tasks

With a wide range of expectations placed up the modern CFO, streamlining tasks within the finance and accounting function becomes ever more important.

Efficiency and organisation can increase productivity and free up time to focus on critical business activities and more strategic operations.  Streamlining tasks, by either utilising technology, improving systems, outsourcing or improving internal workflows can all contribute to the overall efficiency of the accounting function and help the CFO’s role in a business.

Create a capable team

As the CFO, focus should be given to the capabilities and skills held within the wider finance team.  Concentrating on increasing knowledge & expertise is essential.  This can be achieved by making outstanding recruitment decisions and bringing into the organisation the necessary experience and also up-skilling members of the current team.

A capable team that possesses all the necessary skills will be well placed to support the growing demands placed on the finance function.

Look to the future

With the job role continually evolving, it’s important to give attention to the future.  How will the role evolve further?  How will responsibilities change?

It’s important to focus on visualising how the role will develop.  Build networks, keep skills up-to-date and increase knowledge of the business needs.  Only then will a CFO be ready to face the responsibilities of the future.