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Mastering the many roles of a CFO

CFOs, FDs and other senior finance professionals have been under pressure to play a more strategic role in their organisations for decades.

But many experts believe that this message is too simplistic. Rick Payne, the ICAEW’s finance direction programme manager, believes that those on the sidelines making criticisms are simply asking the wrong questions.

Payne says it’s wrong to ask CFOs to focus more on business strategy formulation. Instead, what they should aim to achieve depends entirely on what skill set their individual organisation requires.

It’s acknowledged that the CFO role has broadened in the past decade. According to the management consultancy McKinsey, the CFO is as likely to be involved with corporate portfolio management and capital allocation, as they are with the core responsibilities of financial reporting, audit and compliance, planning, treasury, and capital structure*. Others, say McKinsey, have become prominent as the voice of the company – whether in investor relations, communications to the board – or as leaders in performance management.

Like ICAEW, McKinsey stresses flexibility. Different businesses need different types of CFOs. It all depends on a company’s history, industry characteristics and investor demands. It suggests four roles that organisations might require – and that individual CFOs might choose to play, which include the finance expert, the generalist, the performance leader and the growth champion.

So how can CFOs achieve mastery of their organisation’s financial information? Mark Cracknell, CEO of financial performance consultancy, Aramar, suggests a two-pronged approach. Firstly, look at the company’s ‘backward-looking’ historical data – normally visible via BI systems producing analytic-based information. Secondly, generate forward-looking planning information.

To learn more about the changing face of the CFO and how they master their many roles, download our Access Dimensions whitepaper today.

Author: Mark Hallett, 07 August 2016

*McKinsey: Today’s CFO: Which profile best suits your company? 

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