A chief financial officer can be found in almost every company around the world today. Yet only a few decades ago, the role barely existed. For example, less than 10 percent of the major companies in the U.S. had CFOs before 1978 - compared to 80 percent or more each year after 2000.
The emergence of the CFO role can be attributed to the increasing complexity of financial operations and the need for specialized expertise in managing financial risks and strategies. As companies grew larger and globalized, the CFO's responsibilities expanded to include financial planning, analysis, and decision-making, making them crucial figure in driving business growth and ensuring financial stability.
Now and then
CFO’s traditionally oversaw an organization's finances. They minimised risks, analysed expenses, watched regulatory trends, and managed investments efficiently. The organization's financial soundness was their priority.
In 2023, the role of CFO is changing drastically. In today's fast-paced global economy driven by customers, affected by local and global events, and powered by data, AI, and advanced analytics, “financial operations” are changing.
How the world is going, what drives consumer behaviour, how data might trigger new revenue streams, and how to operate at the speed of customers will be important for CFOs. They have great chances to become indispensable company leaders with profound financial understanding outside the walled accounting sector.
While there are likely other variations, here are the four roles of the modern CFO.
#1 Data Champion
As the CFO takes on the role of the Data Champion, they can leverage their financial expertise to provide valuable insights and make informed decisions based on the data analysis such as customer sentiment, new buying patterns, global economic trends, recruiting and hiring developments, the evolving dynamics of partner ecosystems, and rapidly fluctuating demographic data.
By understanding the financial implications of these trends and patterns, the CFO can guide the company towards strategic growth opportunities and mitigate potential risks. This holistic approach ensures that the entire enterprise is well-equipped to adapt and thrive in an increasingly data-driven business landscape.
#2 Acceleration Officer
This ability to adapt and innovate quickly is crucial in today's rapidly changing business landscape. Companies must be able to move as quickly as the environment they operate in in order to adapt to changing consumer preferences, market trends, and business opportunities.
By adapting and accelerating data and technology, a CFO can not only streamline processes but also make informed decisions that align with the company's strategic goals. This proactive approach will not only drive growth and profitability but also foster stronger relationships with stakeholders, ultimately positioning the company as a leader in its industry.
#3 Customer Evangelist
By leveraging their financial expertise and comprehensive understanding of the organization, the CFO can identify opportunities to enhance the customer experience at every touchpoint.
This strategic approach allows them to analyze customer data and trends, identifying areas where investments can be made to improve the overall customer experience. By allocating resources effectively, they can implement strategies that address pain points and exceed customer expectations, ultimately driving growth and profitability for the organization.
#4 Culture Shaper
By embracing a forward-thinking financial approach, the Future Office of the CFO can serve as a catalyst for innovation and growth within the company. By adopting a proactive and agile mindset, the CFO can navigate complex financial landscapes, identify emerging trends, and seize new opportunities for sustainable growth. It has also the potential to inspire employees, attract top talent, and foster strong relationships with external stakeholders, ultimately propelling the organization toward its goals.
The role of the CFO is developing and expanding.
How to make sure you hire the right one?
It is crucial to establish a clear understanding of your company's specific needs and goals. Additionally, conducting thorough interviews and assessments that evaluate not only technical and financial expertise but also leadership skills and cultural fit can help identify the ideal candidate for the evolving role of a CFO.