Press Release
25 Sep 2023 

EY survey reveals CFOs need to make bolder change to deliver lasting transformation

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Bangkok, 14 September 2023: CFOs that drive bolder change in their finance teams can deliver better performance and position themselves to greater outperforming later on, according to the EY 2023 Global DNA of the CFO, a survey of 1,000 global CFOs and senior finance executives.

Only 16% of finance leaders surveyed perceive their finance function as best-in-class in key change priorities, such as technology and operating model, and 14% say they are making bold holistic changes to transform the function for the future.

Waraporn Punnopakorn, Assurance and Financial Accounting & Advisory Services Partner, EY Thailand, said:

“CFOs that push bold change are more likely to drive value both today, and in the future. These CFOs are placing greater emphasis on changing the culture of their finance teams, transforming technology and analytics, developing leadership skills and identifying the next generation of leaders.”

CFOs face complex and contradictory demands as they strive to drive long-term value and find short-term cost efficiencies. The survey highlights three fundamental paradoxes within the CFO role: creating long-term value while facing pressure to cut priority investments; managing risk while driving value through bolder and more innovative change; and succeeding as a strategic finance leader and achieving career ambitions when traditional finance skill sets do not equip them with all the attributes required.

Balance near-term and long-term investment priorities

Sharing their experience, half of respondents (50%) say they are meeting short-term earnings targets by cutting funding that are considered as long-term priorities. ESG programs are the most vulnerable to such cuts, with 37% of respondents stating their organization plans to reduce or pause spending in the next 12 months

Figure: Long-term value priorities seeing pause or cuts in spending

Source: EY 2023 Global DNA of the CFO

Effectively balancing short-term demands with long-term value can require collaboration, cooperation and trust between finance leaders and the executive team. Sixty-seven percent of finance leaders surveyed say that there are tensions and disagreements within their leadership teams regarding prioritizing short-term and long-term values.

Fulfilling this role will require a CFO with the credibility and influence to challenge the CEO and executive team. However, less than one-third of respondents (32%) speak up when they have a differing opinion, and only 30% of respondents strongly challenge members of the executive team when they disagree on a key issue.

Balancing risk with innovation and bold transformation

Overall, 72% of respondents say traditional back-office behaviors and mindsets are slowing the modernization of the finance function.

“The finance function needs to foster a culture that encourages innovation while maintaining risk management practices. This will help CFOs to position finance as a strategic driver of sustainable growth within their organization.”, Waraporn said.

As CFOs look to build digitized finance functions to drive sustainable, long-term growth, their top priorities are transforming finance technology (37%) and advanced data analytics (27%), alongside sustainable growth capability of the organization.

Balancing the evolving role of the CFO with traditional skill sets

Two-thirds of finance leader respondents (66%) recognize the willingness of companies to appoint CFOs with limited finance experience. This highlights a move toward valuing strategic and inspirational leadership over solely domain expertise.

“Supported by a high-performing finance function, CFOs can reconcile the three critical paradoxes. To benefit the wider business, CFOs should articulate a strategy for long-term value while setting achievable targets. Transforming the finance function will likely require a cultural shift, fostering new mindsets and behaviors within the team. Additionally, CFOs should focus on fulfilling their strategic remit and preparing for future CFOs. By prioritizing these areas, CFOs will be better equipped to navigate the challenges and make a meaningful impact on their organization.”, Waraporn said.

For more information about the survey please refer to EY 2023 Global DNA of the CFO.




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