The Expectations of a CFO

If you look back just a couple decades, you’ll see a far different role for the CFO in most companies than you’re used to, a far more limited one. Traditionally, this role was to ensure statutory compliance while seeing to the accuracy and completeness of the company’s books and other financial records. They also worked with other leadership roles within the company to plan for future endeavors through their role as the primary financial reporter and the one whose purview included earnings projections.

Today’s chief financial officer manages all of those tasks, but instead of participating in a support role that involves little engagement with other workers outside of leadership, the role has changed into one of the most influential positions in corporate leadership. The modern financial officer shapes the company’s vision, often bringing new and efficient technologies to light as they become cost-effective investments. As a result, leadership skills and operational tools like training in process management are both vital to the full success of a CFO in 2019.

Embedding Finance Throughout the Business

The key to successfully building influence over company operations is the embedding of financial measurements and feedback tools throughout the company. For example, manufacturing companies that provide clear feedback to project managers and machine operators about the volume of good work produced, scrap rate, and machine down time can help minimize costly issues in the manufacturing process, leading to stronger growth that benefits everyone from the shop floor up. These tools can also be used to reduce shipping costs by pricing to the best carrier for the weight and distance on that day. This support for sound financial decision-making helps everyone make better choices without needing a lot of feedback after the fact. That makes changing behavior patterns across the company easier, and also less bewildering for the employees in those departments.

Are Today’s Executives Prepared?

Workers rising to executive status today are used to the higher-pressure environment, since the use of technology to streamline business is hardly new. They may find the social and leadership skills required by this job to be a change of pace if they are promoted from a more data-oriented role, but with the right support any competent executive with strong financial skills should be able to learn the extra soft skills needed to function as a modern CFO. Making a great one, though? That requires inspiration, and dedication on the part of the candidate, and you just won’t find an easy recipe for that. It takes time and a pool of strong candidates.

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