From CFO to business strategist: the CFO’s new mindset

From CFO to business strategist: the CFO’s new mindset


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The life of the CFO is changing rapidly, his role increasingly being as much of a leader and strategist as of an accountant. Coupled with the adoption of technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced data analytics, this is driving a shift in the CFO’s mindset, focusing on what matters most: survival. business, productivity and growth.

Taking on a larger, more strategic role requires a broader skill set that will drive business growth. “Boards will expect the CVs of future CFOs to include experience in operational or digital roles and exposure to different markets and industry sectors, as well as optimization across the company. , rather than just from a cost control perspective, ”says Tony Gregg, managing director at executive search firm Anthony Gregg Partnership.

This could signal new opportunities for candidates outside of traditional accounting training. However, there are many experienced finance professionals who have successfully transitioned from leader, partner, sounding board and strategist to CEO, as well as taking ownership of finance. They have forged diverse careers that have prepared them and helped them develop for the challenges they now face in the leading role of finance.

When he left pure accounting in 1993, Richard Snow, CFO of finnCap Group, knew he needed practical experience in day-to-day financial management. He says: “One year at Ladbrokes at a senior level and two years at Greenberg Traurig for both CFO and Financial Controller roles, alongside a regulated role, have enabled me to advance to my current role.”

He believes that experience in key CFO responsibilities, e.g. operations and communication with public markets, management of expectations, management of key external advisors, and implementation of key strategic programs, such as mergers and acquisitions, is essential to add value to the board and to support the chief executive.

This is all to no avail if the finance and accounting team is unstaffed and succeeds in being a strategic growth partner.

“The transition from a small team spirit in investment banking to working within large teams at Vodafone and Ladbrokes has been vital for me to become effective as a CFO,” says Snow. “We can’t be as good as the team we manage, and learning and discovering people’s skills and diplomacy were two things I had to learn quickly when I entered the industry.”

Adopt new technology

In the digital age, the adoption of new technologies, especially around data analytics, is crucial for CFOs to meet the evolving needs of the business and their role. Samuel Monti, CFO of Epicor Software, emphasizes that technology is essential to the continued evolution in the CFO’s office.

Monti says, “They need to understand how to transform the financial and accounting organization from a data perspective, and that starts with designing and building systems that will support effective financial closings and data repositories, ending with a robust strategic watch function. ”

The increase in skills, he says, can be accelerated by engaging in consulting practices at the forefront of this evolution, understanding cutting-edge technologies in financial planning and analysis and business intelligence, as well as in smartly hiring roles in finance and accounting to align with this technological change.

“However, all of this is for naught if the finance and accounting team is unstaffed and manages to be a strategic growth partner,” says Monti. “Finance can deliver data to the entire organization, which should result in proactive decision making.”

Others consider that the role of technology in defining the role of the CFO is still somewhat limited, as the tools available lack the required flexibility, especially when it comes to forecasting.

Catherine Birkett, CFO at GoCardless, says: “It’s still very difficult to predict what happens if we lose revenue, if we lose it over a longer period of time, or what happens if our customer profile changes, or even which of these most likely. You have to consider different possibilities and allow enough flexibility to be ready for any outcome, and unfortunately we haven’t found a tool that fits the bill yet, but hopefully it will. ”

The impact of remote work

Forced remote working during the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for better use and understanding of digital collaboration tools to keep businesses running. The finance function of home appliance company SharkNinja has long been engaged in analysis and modeling tools, and like many organizations in the past year, it has had to embrace virtual work and the use of communication tools. such as Microsoft Teams.

Vice President of Commercial Finance Alison Rose says, “Scenario modeling is fundamental to how we forecast, understand changing consumer trends and respond appropriately. The analysis helps us understand our performance and what the medium and long term impacts of these results will be.

“Business intelligence tools helped us with our reporting dashboard and enabled transparent communication of sales data within our UK operations and US headquarters. Being able to collaborate in real time while being remotely has been an essential tool for us and for other functions of the company. ”

Timely, accurate and relevant data has never been more important to finance and the need for agile business decision-making. However, as technology generates ever greater volumes of data, businesses and investors are demanding more.

By adopting advanced analytics technology, CFOs can play a key role in helping to interpret and transform this data into meaningful predictive information to maintain the decision-making agility seen during the pandemic to identify and seize opportunities. faster and ahead of the competition.

Andrew Hicks, CFO of software and services company Advanced, says: “As people accustomed to dealing with numbers and data, CFOs, sitting at the intersection of financial and operational information, are ideally placed. to lead the management of that data, which supports more informed management decisions and provides stakeholders with the information and insight they demand. ”




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