The pandemic has driven change at every level of businesses, and nowhere is this more obvious than for the CFO. The challenges of the last couple of years have pushed finance leaders’ strategic objectives to the forefront: their responsibilities not just changing, but also broadening.
Today’s CFOs are at the front and center of leadership, making key decisions that will impact the company and employee day-to-day operations. As a result, CFOs are having to develop new skills and responsibilities based on these changing demands, while continuing to drive strategic, long-term goals. The three main shifts we’re seeing include the natural path between CFO and CEO, a drive for digital innovation and a crisis-driven expansion of responsibilities.
1. Many CFOs are on the path to CEO.
It’s no surprise that almost one-third of CEOs hired post-pandemic were previously CFOs, and Peloton’s recent announcement that their new CEO is former CFO Barry McCarthy is a great example. There’s increasing acknowledgment that the roles are complementary. CFOs have the unique ability to keep a pulse on the business, particularly as more and more companies are in the midst of having to rapidly pivot and adjust.
As CEOs manage the long-term goals of the company, CFOs are working alongside them to increase the visibility of company performance, guide long term objectives, and operationalize goals. It requires a keen, strategic eye to evaluate finance processes to determine inefficiencies that are keeping wider company goals from being achieved. Coupled with vetting and adopting the right technology solutions to solve for those complexities, CFOs are modernizing and refining other processes to enable the business’ growth trajectory, and ultimately boost the bottom line.
2. CFOs are driving digital transformation
In the last five years, the number of finance leaders responsible for their companies’ digital adoption and implementation has more than tripled. For companies looking to grow, that means constantly searching for and implementing the most cutting-edge technology to maintain a competitive advantage and solve for waste. When building that finance machine, it’s critical CFOs prioritize solutions that optimize growth and will scale with the business.
Many CFOs are driving the adoption of automation to solve challenges and provide space for growth. Automating processes streamlines workflows to achieve accurate and faster results, while connecting all disparate processes to create an end-to-end workflow. This impacts functions across the finance department, from compliance to suppliers, which is why the most successful CFOs are getting their teams to integrate their processes with the right solutions now. While these implementations start in finance, they are widely viewed as a cue to other departments, establishing not only a prioritization of technology as an accelerant to reach those company milestones, but they also dictate a culture of innovation and competition throughout the company.
3. Crisis-driven expanded responsibilities of the CFO.
The pandemic accelerated the shifting role of the CFOs, who took on crises management, guiding corporate strategy, and informing key decisions. Never before had accurate, insightful and up-to-date financial information been more important for companies navigating a rapidly changing landscape and turbulent economy.
Today, companies expect more from their finance leaders. Enabled by widespread remote work, businesses are leveraging their finance leaders and teams to drive international growth and change. This growth has to start with finance to ensure their teams are prepared to handle a massive expansion in their jurisdiction, as well as expected (and unexpected) complications including tax codes, compliance, conversions and more.
As the role of CFO continues to evolve, we’re welcoming the next generation of digital-savvy finance professionals. In addition to the aforementioned leadership vision, technology investment and future-proofing mindset, the real keys to success include a renewed focus on empowering employees, contributing consistent high-impact work and anticipating, as well as responding to, the latest in the finance industry.