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The evolving role of the CFO

The evolving role of the CFO 41

By Marieke Saeij, CEO, Visma | Onguard

The data that financial professionals have at their fingertips is becoming increasingly important for entire organisations. It is perhaps no wonder. Knowledge is power. In these times when there is more risk and uncertainty in the market than ever before, organisations are keener than ever to make choices based on what they do know; and that insight is often held within the company financials. With access to a wealth of financial information, the CFO is often the designated person to build a bridge between the finance department and the rest of the organisation. And for good reason. They are perfectly placed to help the organisation to make the strategic decisions that will put it in good stead for the future. Because of this, new skills are needing to be developed and honed by the CFO to ensure they continue to be successful in this evolving role.

Lifting the veil

The CFO of today is more akin to a conductor. They must not only check the financial lines of the organisation but provide the insight and the evidence required to help move the organisation forward. To do so, it is important to bundle the structured financial data from throughout the organisation and make it available in an easily digestible manner for decision making, forecasting, and budgeting. This way, they can help provide insight and lift the veil on the various risks to the business.

In addition, the importance of knowledge on legal matters has increased. As has knowledge about risk management and security. There are more and more international procedures and regulations than ever before, and the fines for non-compliancy can be crippling. It is an important area, therefore, to be cognisant of. After all, various developments such as the integration of systems and stricter requirements regarding security and privacy laws and regulations have an impact on the order-to-cash process. With a plethora of financial data available through one single system, a CFO can make decisions based on facts. For example, they can assist the sales department in limiting the risks of a potential new deal that crosses international borders. Further questions that the CFO can answer include: How is the business liable through all those entities? What risks does the organisation run by dealing in various currencies, and what are the various risks run by customers and partners?

A driver of digital transformation

CFOs are increasingly playing a vital role in the digital transformation of business. Our annual Fintech Barometer shows that digital transformation is top of mind for many finance directors today. In fact, it is now on the agenda for 90% of finance departments. Timelines are increasingly aggressive, with almost four-in-ten (37%) saying they would like their organisation to be fully data-driven within the next three years. CFOs are finding themselves on the cutting edge of strategy, operations, and financial management daily. They are perfectly placed to be able to determine how investments and expected results balance each sub-project, and know better than anyone else within the organisation what effect an investment in digital transformation will have on the business and its employees. This information is needed to deploy digital processes in the right places.

Unlocking the power within

Unlocking the power held within the financial data is still a challenge for teams. At present, just over a quarter (27%) admit that a lack of expertise in data processes and analyses is the biggest obstacle to becoming truly data-driven. This has caused a shift in what CFOs want to add to their team. Today, the qualities they feel that financial employees will need to possess in the future are: analytical ability (44%), communication skills (44%) and programming skills (43%). It is, in many ways, a sea change for the profession.

The modern CFO is a connector: both within their team and within the organisation as a whole. The CFO needs to be an internal business partner who advises policymakers and directors within the business on strategic choices based upon the organisation’s financial status. To ensure that the right decisions are taken, the CFO needs access to real-time insight. Plus, they need to be backed up by a team of financial professionals with the right skills. Today, a CFO is the bridge between the financial department and the rest of the organisation. They are at the epicentre of ensuring the right decisions are being made to assist businesses in continuing to navigate these turbulent economic times in which we live.

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