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The Expanding Role of the CFO

Date: 25 September 2015

Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are gradually seeing their roles expand into new business areas as the job itself becomes more encompassing – a position that heralds more responsibility for the candidate in the role.

As a recent article in the Washington Post details, the role of the CFO no longer revolves solely around ‘number-crunching’, but can include responsibility for various other tasks, such as data security, data analytics and marketing.

The role of the CFO no longer revolves
solely around ‘number-crunching’

There are a number of possible reasons behind the expansion to the role of CFO. The requirement for both CEOs and CFOs to sign-off official financial statements for businesses, as passed in the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, helped to raise the profile of CFOs within companies and thus led to board members and company directors becoming more involved in candidate selection. Also the shrinking prevalence of Chief Operating Officers and the need for CEOs to become more aware of operational details has helped to propel CFOs upwards within business hierarchies.

Some of the most prominent influences, however, are rapidly evolving technological capabilities and the growing need for companies to better manage their data. As online security of consumer and business data becomes more important, CFOs are also having to demonstrate an ability to understand and manage various IT and security functions, data analytics and overall corporate intelligence. They need to delve deeper into the data and look at it in new ways.

This is leading to the hiring of candidates – or the ascension of employees – with diverse backgrounds into the CFO role. Having an intimate knowledge of not only financial matters, but data, IT, security and management within a company are all considered essential traits for the modern CFO.

Having an intimate knowledge of data, IT, security and
management are all essential traits for the modern CFO

And with the role evolving so dramatically in the present, businesses and candidates need to begin considering what else the role of the CFO will encompass in the coming years. In the past, a decided focus on accountancy and finance skills was all that would be required, but nowadays far broader experience is needed. Rather than only having experience of working within finance departments, time spent in other business units is also important.

Prior experience in other business units 
is also important for the modern multidisciplinary CFO

Having a robust digital skillset and being tech-savvy are two key traits that will only grow in importance as the use of the cloud, big data and data analytics continues to expand. Social media is also playing a key role; modern communications platforms are able to drive cost efficiencies and allow businesses to better recognise risk in real-time.

Similarly, CFOs will require adaptable, multidisciplinary skills to encompass all of the above; they will need to not only have the skills to utilise and understand complex IT functions, but also be strategic, flexible – possibly with international experience – and have managerial, marketing and possibly even sales skills, too.

With these new responsibilities, however, come monetary gains – CFOs benefitted from raises that far surpassed those of their bosses, with those in the S&P 500 receiving a median pay increase of 13.9% in 2014 compared to just 6.9% for CEOs. This makes the median compensation package for the group worth $3.8 million; an increase of $500,000 compared to the previous year.

CFOs benefitted from pay increase of 13.9% in 2014

And as collated in the Grant Thornton CFO Survey for 2015, those in the role state that the top three needs of a business looking to expand are: being able to retain the right talent (70%); maintaining efficient processes (64%); and establishing efficient and integrated systems (54%). With these points in mind, hiring the right candidate into the role of CFO will help establish business growth. While in the past the movement of CFOs into the business functions mentioned in this article would have been rare, the expanding skillsets of CFOs mean they are almost interchangeable with CEOs, amongst others. The modern CFO is more than their job title suggests. 

At DSJ Global we specialise in the recruitment and placement of individuals within this space. For more information about the trends discussed in this article or for advice about job opportunities within this space, contact DSJ Global today.

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