Views. Vision. Insights. The evolving role of today's CFO

Changing horizon, longer view

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Today's chief financial officers are engaged, focused and strategic. They are thoughtful and entrepreneurial on behalf of their organizations — even visionary — but they remain focused on maintaining the integrity of the finance function.

"The thing that keeps a CFO objective is staying relentlessly focused on shareholder value creation."
Andrew Campion, Nike

The CFOs we talked to are also versatile. They echo one another on the critical importance of managing and mitigating risk, ensuring the integrity of controls, and making intelligent choices about investments both international and domestic.

With room for debate and latitude for differences by industry and size, our interviewees agreed that:

  • CFOs today must maintain a strong relationship with the CEO. They have an important role to play in supporting strategy – but they also help develop it.
  • Experience outside finance — in international roles and operational and/or commercial roles — is important for the aspiring CFO. But core skills in finance are “table stakes.”
  • Compliance and controls have become more complicated in a global environment and remain a vitally important responsibility — one that CFOs must continue to focus on even as they are invited to take on other roles inside their organizations.
  • Developing a strong team is important, cultivating the skills of the next generation of financial leaders is an ongoing process, and giving direct reports a variety of experience is important.
  • CFOs must be able not only to address the needs of external stakeholders but also to translate complex ideas for different audiences internally, making facility in communications part of the requisite skill set for any finance leader.

Above all, our interviewees emphasized the critical importance of a focus on business value. Every discussion we had points to the growing importance of the CFO as a contributor to corporate strategy and success. Every answer demonstrates the CFO's deep involvement in the operating business — and their tremendously high level of satisfaction in their current roles.

And every answer these executives offer reflects their vision of the business, the versatility and diversity of their experience, and value of listening to the CFO's voice on topics ranging from organizational strategy and
business growth to operations.



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