In the 1990s and 2000s, CFOs became the interface between companies and shareholders, as well as investor groups. “Instead of just being inward-looking chiefs focusing on cost and control,” Álvarez says, “they became outward-looking, keeping suppliers of financial resources informed. In that role, they have been considered by some as being as important as CEOs.”
Following the global financial crisis, many CFOs found themselves center-stage, partnering with CEOs on cost reduction and financial management strategies. Álvarez says, “The economic troubles have emphasized the need for growth, to complement the original cost-control function of CFOs with a more strategic orientation.”
The role of today’s CFO is not always easy to define. Can they continue to focus on their traditional roles as well as these new strategic functions? Álvarez believes they can and should. “CFOs — like any other ‘chief’ — have to go beyond a unidimensional, specialized view of their role and consider themselves general managers who should contribute to the development of the organization’s business model,” he says.
Reporting spoke to five CFOs to find out how they work with their CEO and to what extent their roles encompass a strategic focus on growth.