This indicated article is found in Forbes and essentially summarizes an interview/discussion between the author and a CFO of a multinational corporate. The subject matter is around what the pandemic has taught those who work as financial professionals, both in terms of hard skills and controls as well as softer capabilities, including leadership and communication.
For readers who may not be familiar with enterprise risk management, it is a risk framework developed in the 90s by COSO (Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission). The CFO was a contributor to that effort and suggests it is a good start.
‘Like so many management accountants, my first exposure to COSO was in conjunction with internal control over external financial reporting, in my case while leading Campbell Soup’s original global Sarbanes Oxley compliance team. Only later, while representing IMA on the COSO Advisory Council charged with updating COSO’s 1992 Internal Control – Integrated Framework, did the lightbulb go off that effective internal control increases the odds of achieving your operational objectives as well. And it took me longer still to realize that creating and maintaining effective internal control is not the point, nor is identifying and managing risk. Rather, we must focus on setting our organization’s strategies and then doing whatever it takes to achieve them. Leveraging risk management and internal control (RM/IC) plays a role, of course, but it’s simply what we do; it’s a means to an end vs. the end itself.’
Beyond that is the refrain we have been hearing for some years now (through attendance at industry events such as AFP, etc.) that CFOs, treasurers, and other financial professionals have had increasing amounts of work heaped upon them with few additional resources, therefore technical skill sets have had to improve, and solutions involving data capture and analysis now a staple requirements, but also leadership skills to help navigate overburdened staff through ongoing changes, only exacerbated by the pandemic.
So the trusted analyst and advisor role to other parts of the business has also motivated better communications skills. A good read for those in the field or interested in joining it.
‘I often talk about the need for CFOs and their teams to earn their seats at the table as business partners and strategic advisors. As companies continue struggling in response to the ongoing pandemic, rejiggering budgets and strategies to exist, it has never been more important to take that seat. But you need to earn it!…Of course finance professionals need to get the basics right, owning the financials and protecting the bottom line. To be successful, though, they must go way beyond “the basics.” The CFO, for example, must inspire and empower their team and organization, effectively tell the story behind and beyond the numbers, steer strategy, embrace change and mitigate risk. The CFO must also develop a strong CFO-CEO relationship, becoming the CEO’s right hand and developing a shared vision for the company’s future. And finance professionals must always remember to be transparent and objective, delivering the “hard truths” and engaging in “fierce debate” when needed. By doing so, you’ll earn your seat at the table!…And this is where the “soft skills” come into play, such as leadership, teamwork, political savvy, communication and emotional intelligence. Certainly college programs can bring awareness to the need for such skills and can support students in developing these skills via group projects, internships, etc. And certainly CFOs can support their staff, especially young professionals, with coaching and mentoring. And certainly leadership development programs and courses like the ones offered by the IMA Leadership Academy, or CalCPA’s Management Skills course, can spark new insight. But, ultimately, development of soft skills will only be fully realized via experience.’
Overview by Steve Murphy, Director, Commercial and Enterprise Payments Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group