The CFO’s Road Ahead: Part 1

The role of the CFO is going through significant change. CFOs are being called upon by CEOs to play a larger role in driving strategy, growth, and operational excellence in their organizations, including closer collaboration with business partners across the enterprise.

This expanding role is being shaped by an intensely competitive and constantly changing business landscape. In this two-part blog series, we will first highlight four business priorities that are greatly impacting the focus of CFOs and their strategies for driving businesses forward. In the second blog, we will explore the role that technology plays in supporting these business demands.

CEOs are looking to CFOs to help them drive growth strategies across the organization.

Growth

A majority of CEOs view growth as their top priority during the next three years, according to the KPMG Global CEO Outlook survey, and this focus significantly impacts the CFO. CEOs are looking to CFOs to help them drive growth strategies across the organization, an expectation that makes sense given the unique perspective of the CFO. Outside of the CEO, the CFO is often the only role that has a view into every part of the business, and brings an understanding of both financial information and business context to the table.

CFOs will be driving multiple growth strategies, with CEOs reporting geographic expansion and organic growth as primary focus areas, and nearly half planning to grow through acquisition, according to KPMG. This will not be an easy task for CFOs in today’s dynamic business environment as consumer behaviors continue to impact supply chains, new business models disrupt the market, and the competition for talent intensifies.

Regulatory Environment

The regulatory environment is a top issue for organizations today, and CEOs are looking to the CFO to help them not only adapt to new regulations, but to create more value for the business as well. While regulations can be highly specific to a given region or country, CFOs can think more broadly about how regulatory change can help drive improvements beyond compliance, such as streamlining processes or gaining new insights into the business.

For example, according to KPMG’s “The View from the Top” report, changing reporting requirements have become a catalyst for the financial services industry. “For most financial institutions, there has been greater standardization and a deeper emphasis on building data-warehouse environments to meet new regulatory reporting requirements—data environments that can also be tapped to better understand and help grow the business.”

The CFO  can no longer rely on just looking at historical data to inform decisions and support business planning.

Business Insight

Businesses, under pressure to operate quickly and at scale, are demanding more real-time financial analysis to help drive decision-making across the organization. CEOs are looking to the CFO and finance organizations to support functional leaders with relevant data and insights, and advise on strategy.

Finance will need to work differently than it has in the past, spending less time on processing transactions and more time on analysis and advising. The CFO and finance team also can no longer rely on just looking at historical data to inform decisions and support business planning. To keep pace with change, finance will need to work with a current and holistic view of the business that can help them understand how financial data and other data like talent acquisition and HR data impact each other.

Continuous Innovation and Transformation

CEOs are feeling pressure to keep their products and services relevant and are looking to the CFO to help their businesses innovate and transform. According to the KPMG’s “The View from the Top” report, one out of three CEOs say experience with transformation is one of the most important attributes for a CFO.

Businesses today are being impacted by change on many fronts—disruptive technologies, regulatory changes, shifting consumer demands, and unexpected competition are forcing companies to evaluate and evolve their business and operating models to stay competitive. Much of this change is driven by industry-specific needs, such as connectivity and digitalization disrupting the auto industry and omni-channel impacting the retail industry.

Many companies are viewing change as an opportunity to continuously innovate and evolve their business models to stay relevant and grow. CFOs and finance can support this by providing data and insights that can help identify growth opportunities and inform decisions. Finance will also need the ability to adapt to changes quickly and support new strategies, such as entering new markets or making acquisitions, helping to ensure their success.

For more information on these business priorities and their impact on the CFO, check out the article “Driving the Strategic Agenda: The CFO’s Road Ahead.”