Press release

4 Nov. 2020 London, GB

CFOs to play a critical role in reframing the future of the enterprise beyond COVID-19

LONDON, 4 November 2020. The chief financial officer (CFO) will emerge as one of the C-suite’s most critical roles in reframing the future of the enterprise post the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, according to the 2020 EY DNA of the CFO, a survey of more than 800 global CFOs and senior finance executives.

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  • 86% of respondents say they will need to focus on protecting their organization today, while enabling sustainable future growth
  • 82% responded that they are increasingly seen by key stakeholders as the stewards of long-term value 
  • 77% of respondents believe that by 2025 finance IT will be cloud-native rather than on-premise

The chief financial officer (CFO) will emerge as one of the C-suite’s most critical roles in reframing the future of the enterprise post the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, according to the 2020 EY DNA of the CFO, a survey of more than 800 global CFOs and senior finance executives.

Describing their future priorities, 86% of respondents say they will be required to protect their organization today, while enabling future growth. At the same time, 84% agree that achieving a balance between short-term results and creating long-term value will become a priority. This will also include traditional mandates, such as corporate reporting, along with new ones like overseeing digital transformation.

As they deliver on these priorities, CFOs will also need to enhance relationships with their fellow C-suite peers. The survey, however, found 52% of responding finance leaders reported limited or no collaboration with the chief human resources officer (CHRO) with 44% saying the same of their relationship with the chief marketing officer (CMO).

Myles Corson, EY Global Strategy and Markets Leader for Financial Accounting Advisory Services, says: 

“Senior finance leaders need to look beyond solving today's major issues or even what lies ahead in the near-term future. Instead they need to imagine what finance could look like five years from now. The perception of finance as a risk-averse, cost-conscious team with a back-office mindset will be a thing of the past, with finance defined by a value-focused culture that’s aligned with enterprise purpose.”

CFOs as stewards of long-term value

In a shift mirroring market trends in 2020, CFOs recognize the importance of a purpose-driven strategy, with 82% of respondents saying that they are increasingly seen by key stakeholders as the stewards of long-term value, according to the 2020 EY DNA of the CFO. 

In addition, 79% of respondents say that investors are increasingly requiring much more information on how their organization creates long-term value for all stakeholders, while 81% believe there is significant value for their organization that is not measured or communicated using financial KPIs.

Myles says: “It is imperative that finance professionals take the lead in integrating financial and nonfinancial performance through an enterprise-wide framework for value creation that embraces how crucial intangible assets – including talent, brand, innovation and culture – contribute to long-term value creation.”

Reframing the finance function

According to the 2020 EY DNA of the CFO, the performance of markets is fundamentally changing. New virtual markets are emerging as platform-based giants connect buyers and sellers in a more seamless way, and new technologies converge to eliminate even more inefficiencies and frictions. 

A more fluid operating model that extends beyond the enterprise’s four walls will likely be a key factor in enabling finance to play a central role in the connected markets of the future. Many finance leaders see this more open future for the function becoming reality over the next five years. More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents believe that, by 2025, finance IT will be cloud-native rather than on-premise, and 74% believe the function will be part of a blockchain-based ecosystem.

Tony Klimas, EY Business Consulting Partner, says: “In this hyperconnected world, how organizations create value will shift from behind the walls of the company out into the network space. CFOs should look to reframe finance for this new reality. The finance function should become more open, working, as part of an extended ecosystem, in deeper collaboration both within the organization and also externally.”

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About the survey

The 2020 EY DNA of the CFO Will CFOs evolve finance or become obsolete? surveyed more than 800 CFOs, financial directors (FDs) and senior finance executives of large organizations to understand the challenges faced by the CFO. The research was conducted by Longitude on behalf of EY Global Financial Accounting Advisory Services (FAAS). More than two-thirds (69%) of respondents’ organizations have revenues between US$1b and US$4.99b a year and almost one-third (30%) of respondents’ organizations have global revenues in excess of US$5b a year. More than a quarter (34%) of respondents were either Group CFO or Group FD. The remaining 73% were CFOs, FDs or heads of finance (group, divisional or regional). Respondents were split across the Americas; Asia-Pacific; Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA); and Japan. Thirteen main sectors were represented, with 38% publicly held or listed, 52% privately owned and 10% not disclosed.