The new CFO: How 4 CFOs have seen their roles evolve
The GoCardless content team comprises a group of subject-matter experts in multiple fields from across GoCardless.
The authors and reviewers work in the sales, marketing, legal, and finance departments. All have in-depth knowledge and experience in various aspects of payment scheme technology and the operating rules applicable to each.
The team holds expertise in the well-established payment schemes such as UK Direct Debit, the European SEPA scheme, and the US ACH scheme, as well as in schemes operating in Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand. See full bio
Last editedJan 2020 — 6 min read
Today’s CFOs possess the expertise and business experience that colleagues and stakeholders rely on to define and align business strategy.
While there are new tools at their disposal, such as data, technology and increasingly specialised talent, that can help them fuel business growth, there are different opinions about how these diverse areas can best be harnessed to boost the bottom line.
In this guide, CFOs from a number of leading businesses tell us how the main drivers of the modern financial world offer great opportunities – but also present novel and evolving challenges.
The data challenge
Data is a tool that can successfully drive understanding and planning for business growth, but brings with it hidden pitfalls. Mushrooming volumes of data mean savvy business leaders need the people and technology to manage and make sense of it. Otherwise, business strategy can soon be bogged down by information, in place of knowledge and informed analysis.
The tools of the CFO’s trade have changed immeasurably – as technology enables the streamlining of operations, brings cost reductions through automation and offers greater visibility across a company’s cost centres. Those benefits are only available, however, if a CFO has a deep knowledge of the digital solutions available, possesses an understanding of how they work and knows where they can best be deployed.
Technology is also taking human error out of the accounting side of the business. Innovations such as text recognition software is enabling operatives to photograph receipts and other documents to digitise data. By automating the routine parts of the day to day business, companies can redeploy staff to more value-added tasks or reduce headcount - either way, the bottom line is improved.
The arsenal of skills required in today’s finance teams has expanded, rendering redundant the view of CFOs as being mere “number crunchers”. Now they’re expected to lead boardroom discussions, provide wise counsel and offer a sound vision for future business growth.
Finding the right personnel is proving to be a headache for a large proportion of CFOs as they look to recruit and retain people to fill a seemingly ever-widening variety of roles required of a modern financial department. Despite many reporting an expansion in their recruitment strategies, the number of CFOs who see no prospect of hiring more staff this year outstripped those who do by about 50 percent in a recent Deloitte survey.
Outsourcing senior roles has become increasingly popular among small companies that don’t have the resources to employ a highly skilled financial professional full time. But the benefits of that are limited.
Where a CFO would once have provided the data and manned the flipcharts for a CEO at board or shareholder meetings, they’re now as likely to drive agendas. That means razor-sharp interpersonal and communication skills have become an essential part of a CFO’s armoury.
A mathematical background and an aptitude for coding, has given Catherine an advantage over her peers, providing her with the breadth of skills necessary in today’s financial environment. But CFOs must also constantly develop their communications skills.