The traditional role of the figures-minded CFO is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Businesses (from all sectors of industry) are now looking to recruit a more well-rounded, commercially aware figurehead. This is not someone who will simple hand over a spreadsheet with no context, but a driven and focused leader who has a complete understanding of each element of the business.
To a certain extent, there is still a clear line between the role and responsibilities of a CFO and an MD. The latter will have a general overview of the business as whole, whilst a CFO will be looking towards strategy, risk and well thought-out growth plans.
But, as the role of the CFO slowly evolves, the lines are getting blurred. The traditional image and expectations of a CFO are changing – with the ‘new’ version of the role charged with adding value and (in essence) becoming a business partner to the senior executive team.
CFOs are now part of the executive team and are involved in key investment and strategy decisions. They have migrated from ‘scorekeeper’ to ‘strategist’
. It could also be said that CFOs have the necessary expertise that make them uniquely placed to make the transition from a solely finance function to driving a company forward.
Technology has also played a key part in changing the skillset that companies now look for in their CFO. The stereotype of the number cracker in the grey suit has been replaced by someone who is well-networked, a good public speaker and who has a good understanding of commercial value. Modern CFOs need to be seen to be looking outward, instead of focusing on insular issues. There will rarely be a business that solely requires its CFO to look only at the figures. They are recognising the value of allowing individuals to step outwith their traditional remit.
A good CFO is someone who is able to shape their role – and balance their different responsibilities – in response to the needs of a business. It is important to strike the balance between being a finance function and contributing to overall strategy. Businesses will always want an individual with a finance background within their executive team – who better to lend their views on the current economy as well as developments within accounting regulations?
This is a new generation of CFOs who are actually quite sales-minded and intuitive when it comes to the markets. They are bold and willing to make difficult decisions. They have redefined their role; they have more responsibility and accountability within a business. Not only are they more equipped to support the decision makers – they are, quite often, the ones making these decisions. This is something that the exiting generation of CFOs simply don’t do.
That’s not to say that an individual within a CFO remit is making designs on an MD position. Rather, it’s just another way for a business to bolster their executive team with the very best minds.
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