By Lewis Miller, Chief Financial Officer at Frank Recruitment Group
When I made my first forays into the finance sector almost twenty years ago, the role of the CFO and the duties it entailed were worlds apart from what you see in the industry today. There’s been a marked move away from more conventional responsibilities to a more fluid role that requires the CFO to broaden their skill sets, and act as that pivotal force driving their organisation’s business strategy.
We’re living in the era of cloud technology. If a business wants to not just survive, but beat the competition, CFOs need to have the flexibility to grow in line with the evolving demands of their position. The main duties that typically fell within the remit of the CFO involved safeguarding assets, risk assessment and management, reporting, managing cashflow, interpreting performance and general financial planning and analysis.
These core responsibilities will always come with the territory, but they have transformed from the sole duties of the CFO into basic requirements expected right off the bat. Every new development in the tech world brings with it fresh expectations, generally more focused on implementing the organisation’s wider business strategy.
If you don’t have these core competencies down to a T already, then you might not be ready for this level of responsibility just yet. You need to get the foundations of the role nailed down before you can really thrive as CFO. The lion’s share of your energy needs to go into working hand in glove with your CEO, and making connections at board level to keep the gears turning smoothly and efficiently when it comes to the strategic side of things.
Getting the right support
To succeed as a CFO today, you also need to invest time and energy into building a team that you can depend on. Having the right people there to support you professionally allows you to produce high-quality work and maintain standards across your department, hitting all the occupational cornerstones we’ve just mentioned. This frees up precious time for you to work with C-suite to continue driving the organisation forward.
Technology and the modern CFO
Technology has given us the ability to analyse and derive insight from structured and unstructured data which has created an unprecedented number of opportunities for CFOs to recognise macro trends. CFOs then apply these high-level insights to their financial planning and investment decisions, paving the way to a more profitable future for the wider business.
You need to stay up to date on all the latest advancements relevant to your industry, and harness that technology to use data to obtain more granular insights and broaden the reach of your business. To do that, a CFO needs to hone the practical skills necessary to properly analyse and interpret that data before using it to sharpen their strategy and keep up with the rest of the industry.
Build those bridges
Perhaps the most important thing my career has taught me is the value of communication. From day one as CFO, it’s imperative that you focus on establishing relationships with the rest of senior management as well as the other departments across the business.
If you’re new to the role, be sure to take the time to really get to know your organisation, really understand your target markets and the various challenges and opportunities they hold. Speak to department heads and key decision makers to get a crystal-clear understanding of how the business operates, and give you a better appreciation for how any strategies or budgets on your desk could affect your organisation.
The bottom line
The bottom line is this: fail to invest time in building relationships early on in your time as CFO, and you could cripple not just one or two departments, but stunt the business’s growth further down the line as customers shift their attention to the competition.
When an organisation is experiencing financial turbulence, for example,it can be tempting to just cut costs across the board, but a real understanding of the wider business could reveal that this might not be the best long-term solution. Take the time to carefully consider the long-term implications of every plan you approve and decision you make, because the remedy could lie in investing in specific areas of the business while cutting back on others.
To be a successful CFO, you need to be able to make predictions about not just your company’s future, but the future of the industry as a whole, and you can’t do that without knowing the business inside out.