What exactly is the role of the CFO anyway?
In my book, Guide to CFO Success, my first chapter discusses what a Chief Financial Officer is. I say that the CFO needs to be a Strategist, Leader and Advisor, and those that act as such are able to become the business leader their company needs.
My perspective is not the only perspective on this topic. Those that follow the continuing discussion in print and online about the Chief Financial Officer see numerous perspectives in blogs, whitepapers and articles about what the CFO really is.
One whitepaper I came across recently was an EXL whitepaper entitled Chief Growth Officer: A new role for today’s CFO. The whitepaper was of interest to me because it discussed how the head of finance, which in many organizations has been very compliance oriented, can (and should) make the transition to a more strategic role. The paper describes the idea of CFO as
…a “Chief Growth Officer”, a newer, more sharply focused evolution of the notion of the CFO as a “strategic partner” to the business.
The paper also includes an infographic detailing the difference between the “Traditional CFO” and the “Modern CFO”
For those with an interest in the evolution of the Chief Financial Officer, this paper offers some worthy insights on how CFOs can move beyond the traditional and lead growth in their organization.
To gain a better perspective on the CFO as “Chief Growth Officer”, I spoke with Vince Sparrow, CPA & CGMA, VP and Client Executive at EXL.
Samuel: Why is Growth so important for the CFO?
Vince: Growth is important for the CFO because it’s important to CEOs, boards and investors. CFOs who help drive the strategies that create growth not only increase shareholder value they also differentiate themselves as active partners to the CEO and the business. CFOs’ access to a broad cross section of data and the analytical skills with respect to finding and interpreting that data can make the difference in carving out new or more profitable businesses. Doing this quickly and efficiently requires utilization of new cloud and automation tools.
Samuel: Why do some CFOs miss the opportunity to help grow their business?
Vince: Some CFOs miss the broader opportunity because they are stuck in the older model as the organization’s scorekeeper and, a bit more advanced, as more passive advisor to the business. They may also spend so much time in gathering and validating information that they lose out on the opportunity to truly understand the implications in the patterns in the data – including external macroeconomic and political data.
What are your thoughts about CFOs being organizational leaders for continued growth in their organization?
Wayne Spivak says
Interesting, much of the literature on the role of the CFO is moving to strategy.
Too bad the hiring managers or those creating the hiring specification haven’t caught on to this “new” trend. I say “new” because I and many in my network have always been strategically focused.
It still the same old list of functions and requirements, that these hiring spend all their time fretting about; mostly related to accounting. In fact I was questioned recently by HR on how many years of experience I have with A/R; this for a CFO role.
And as long as this narrow-view, myopic and in my humble opinion an organizational self-destructing road to de-innovation, the role of the CFO can’t change.
It is a sad commentary on business, on the CEO/Board and underscores the issues I have with talent acquisition in today’s environment.
Samuel Dergel says
There are those that do not understand what a CFO does.
There are those that do not understand what they need from a CFO.
CFOs have a part in helping others understand the value they bring to the table.
Others can be blamed for not understanding what CFOs do. CFOs (others, not you Wayne) need to take more responsibility to help others see the real value they bring to the table.
CFO is the backbone of the company. It is really important to grasp and accept the importance of CFO in business so as to escalate growth. CFO should be given utmost importance and complete access to participate in the business matter. CFO’s must be the Chief Future Officer as CFOs have access to financial and customer data across the organization. As a result, a good CFO can develop actionable data to inform decision-making. In addition, the CFO is not tied to any one business, but rather focuses on the overall results of the company; therefore, the CFO can remain unbiased when developing strategic alternatives. For this reason, the CFO is well-equipped to assist and advise the CEO.