The Role of the CFO and its Shift to Virtual
The CFO plays a key leadership role in an organization, acting as the trusted business advisor to the CEO and the Board of Directors, by providing them an objective view of the financial performance of the business, while holistically assessing the company’s risks and opportunities.
Today the CFO role is not viewed as solely keeping score or maintaining operational efficiency (cost containment, controls, quality of data, defined processes, etc.) it’s about “operational agility” and the CFO’s ability to collaborate, focus on growth, embrace a culture of adaptive learning and to effectively deliver analytics that are both meaningful and change agents for the company.
While its critical that CFO’s understand the past, the present and the future financial outlook of the company, it’s paramount that they are also able to:
- Strategize and execute the organization’s vision/mission
- Accelerate their organization’s ability to take new products to market, drive growth and profitability and maintain integrity/compliance across the business
- Build a framework to quickly assess new business opportunities and continually analyze the current corporate structure and infrastructure to mitigate risks (audit, reporting, tax planning, working capital management)
- Lead the company on understanding and measuring both the financial and the intangible drivers of value of the business by delivering forward looking business metrics
- Foster key business relationships that will help serve the company well (boards, external advisors, investors, etc.)
- Communicate the results of the business effectively to its stakeholders so that well-informed decisions can be made
In a poll conducted by McKinsey, they found that “2/3 of CEOs want their CFOs to spend more time driving growth, ensuring strategy, budgets and capital allocation are fully integrated; that growth spots are nurtured; and short-term demands are balanced with longer-term success” (Agrawal, January 11, 2016). There is no doubt that the CFO is an integral member of a company’s leadership team and their input is greatly valued.
The value of a CFO can be summed up in their ability to help shape the direction of the business and predict the future. Their value can be measured by:
- Their influence to drive business outcomes in the long-term (strategy, unleashing the potential of big data/analytic skills, data visualization, business acumen, influencing skills)
- Their ability to drive greater efficiencies through automation (simplify, standardize/automate, etc.)
- Their ability to drive value creation for the business (growth, profitability, cash flow, leverage)
- Their ability to provide direction and leadership throughout the company
As the workforce shifts to a more contingent labor pool, more and more businesses are leveraging a part-time, fractional or virtual CFO model to help lead their companies. Not only is this a cost effective approach for small and medium sized businesses but it’s one that is delivering tremendous value to organizations, especially when the VCFO is backed by an integrated team of experts that can further propel the company’s objectives.