Part 2- The Changing Role of the CFO

In the 1st post of this 2-part series we examined how the role of the CFO has changed in recent years to become more digital. We also explored some of the barriers that CFOs face in driving digital transformation, whilst highlighting the many benefits of embracing digital. By doing so we touched on the ‘digital ready’ skills and qualities needed by modern CFOs.

In today’s post we want to drill down further into the skills needed to become a digital CFO. Digital isn’t the preserve of the future, it’s the past and the present. Those that are slow to adopt put their companies at risk. End to end digital enterprises are more agile, less wasteful, more innovative, and less prone to disruption. Without the tools necessary to conduct business in a digitised world, it is near impossible to compete. To ignore digitisation is to accept a decline into obscurity. Are you ready for the digital era?


What are the necessary skills for becoming a digital CFO?

With the rapid change of the role of the CFO comes a subtle development of the skills that a CFO will need to be successful. It’s important to note that these skills are not a far cry from the traditional skills of a CFO. In our view they are a natural progression, and for the majority of forward thinking CFOs, this progression shouldn’t cause too much difficulty.

Have you got all of the skills listed below?


Analytical skills

 One of the key changes is that CFOs in the digital age will need to be great at analytics. CFOs have traditionally been good at numbers, but those numbers have always been transactional. CFOs of the future will need the analytical skills to be able to look at the bigger picture. Transactional numbers will be one part of the equation. The larger part of that picture will be made up of data from a variety of points, both inside and outside the enterprise. CFOs will need the vision to ask the right questions, and will be instrumental in assessing a business’ needs and establishing the data points that can solve problems as they arise.


Risk management

 In a recent interview with Business Insider, Ash Noah made a very salient point in regards to risk. “In the 1950s, most companies featured on the S&P 500 would remain there for 60 years. Clayton Christensen of Harvard University says today’s average S&P 500 company will drop off the list in 18 years. Based on those numbers, 75% of the current S&P 500 will not be featured in 2027.” Such stark numbers highlight the important role that CFOs have to play in safeguarding the future of their company.

The precarious nature of business in the modern age demands highly skilled risk management processes. As tax, legal, and regulatory landscapes develop with the digital world, CFOs will need to monitor any changes and react accordingly. It is only by working closely with the CEO, that CFOs will be able to build a resilient business model that has the agility to move with the times.


Adaptability to new technology

CFOs will need to constantly assess their company’s business model with the view of adapting it. Innovation is key to remaining relevant, and new technology will be the vehicle that drives change and facilitates success. CFOs will need to align with the CIO, and work together closely to meet their shared needs. Financing digital transformation will be a primary concern and departments will need to work together to get the entire company on-board.

By adopting new technology, CFOs will be privy to new performance metrics. On the one hand these metrics will help to shape the success of the company by solving problems and driving change. On the other hand, new performance metrics will improve the bread and butter role of CFOs by helping them to quantify the value of intangible assets, such as intellectual property, customer data, and brand reputation. CFOs will need the vision to use new technology, performance metrics, and data points to guide companies through the choppy waters ahead, not only in managing risk, but in identifying and grasping new opportunities for growth and improved efficiencies.


Talent acquisition and retention

 A relatively new skill for CFOs will be the strategic management of talent acquisition. Whilst the nuts and bolts of acquisition and retention will remain with HR, CFOs will need the strategic vision to analyse the company’s present and future skill needs. For some CFOs, talent acquisition will involve acquiring digital start-ups or high-tech companies to quickly fill the gaps in an organisation’s capabilities. Alongside the HR director, the CFO will need to develop structured competency frameworks that meet the skill gaps that they encounter. Digital transformation will undoubtedly breed new types of staff, skills and job titles and CFOs will need the people management skills to infuse a digital mindset across their finance teams and company as a whole.

As we move forward, it’s clear that this is a brave new world for CFOs. The challenges they face are only equalled by the opportunities, and whether you’re an aspiring CFO or an experienced veteran, this is surely an exciting time.


If you’re not seeing these opportunities in your current role, get in touch with our specialist recruitment team today.

Part 1- The Changing Role of the CFO

There is a revolution happening right now. From multi-nationals to SMEs and everything in between, a new digital economy is taking hold and it demands your attention. Digital technology is running rampant through the business world, ending dynasties, breaking down sector boundaries, and forcing traditional businesses to diversify or fail.

Nearly overnight, ‘digital first’ start-ups can be transformed into market leaders. The speed of change that’s occurring is unheard of. In remedy, CFOs must strive to pre-empt what lies ahead, or at worst, react to market changes. CFOs must be unafraid to upend their own organisation’s operating models, and be willing to invest in the emerging technology required to build an end-to-end digital enterprise.

To highlight the risk that companies are facing by being slow to act, here are some stark numbers. McKinsey and Company recently calculated the impact of digitisation on competitiveness. They said that “industry leaders that had embraced digitisation across the entire enterprise have increased revenues; stock prices 20-30% higher than digital laggards; [and] not to mention the potential 50% bottom-line impact.”

Undoubtedly, there’s a lot of evidence for the need for digitisation, yet according to an EY study, only 50% of CFOs surveyed consider it a high or very high priority in the next three years, and only 49% responded that they will make a high or very high contribution to the shift to digital. If CFOs want to continue to act as a strategic business partner as they have in recent years, they’ll need to take a strong lead in the race for digitisation, equipping businesses with the range of digital tools and technology needed to forge ahead.

CFOs will however face a number of challenges in driving digital transformation. The complexity in moving from legacy systems is one of the biggest obstacles, and often draws resistance from across the board. To get the buy in from all departments, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the benefits, and be able to show that whilst the move may be costly and time consuming, the ability to bring together data from every area of the business under one roof will be worth its weight in gold.


How the CFO role is changing

 The role of finance and the CFO has changed beyond comprehension in the last decade. The recent global financial crash brought CFOs into the limelight, earning them both respect and recognition. As digitisation continues to disrupt everything from financial models, to business models, regulations to valuations, CFOs are without a doubt, under immense pressure to react, forecast and drive business change.

In the past, the role of a CFO was of a fiduciary duty, mainly concerned with looking back, driving efficiencies and managing budgets. Today’s CFO is expected to carry that forward whilst adding strategic insight that can shape business and operating models. CFOs of the future will need to be curious about every area of the business, as consumer experience, customer relations and branding become inextricably linked with company value. With this change in focus, future CFOs will need the technical know-how to guide business decisions and build the much-needed digital infrastructure. In a recent CFO Research survey, 93% of the senior finance executives surveyed believe that the CFO of the future will need a much stronger technology skill set than is currently required for the job.


The benefits of embracing digital

 For digitally savvy CFOs and forward thinking companies, the benefits of embracing digital are boundless. Principally, the proliferation of Cloud computing will allow companies to consume software innovation as and when it happens. In the past there would be lengthy waits for IT departments to upgrade in-house applications. Now companies can access the latest software as soon as it is available through SaaS providers. A large majority of this tech is focused on facilitating access to big data, and herein lies the importance for finance departments and CFOs.

Cloud based technologies have opened up access to real time data, not only in the financial realm but also in more intangible assets such as customer satisfaction, quality of business processes and customer relationship data. The growth of cloud based ERP and performance management systems are helping CFOs to see the bigger picture, providing one truth, where all the data points are connected rather than being viewed in isolation. In doing so CFOs will be able to strive towards a more customer-centric future, focusing not only on the financial numbers, but on strategic growth through a greater understanding of consumers and their needs.


If you’re looking for your next career move, or need to hire a finance professional, get in touch with us today.

As a finance professional you probably use Excel on a daily basis, but are you using it to its full potential? In this week’s round-up post we’ve featured our top four picks offering lots of useful Excel tips and insights to finance and accounting professionals.

Our first pick shares four Excel tricks that will help you work through your spreadsheets quickly and efficiently:

4 Excel Tricks for Accountants

Whether you work for a public accounting firm or are an accountant at a company, Microsoft Excel is likely an essential part of the work you perform. While I worked in public accounting, I used excel on a daily basis for numerous work assignments.

Do you use INDEX MATCH to find a single value? Perhaps you’re familiar with the formula VLOOKUP instead and you’re wondering how INDEX MATCH compares? This article guides you through each formula and highlights the pros and cons of both:


VLOOKUP is one of the most popular formulas in Excel and for good reason. The ability to lookup a single value from a large set of data based on a single value is incredibly powerful. It might surprise you to find out then that VLOOKUP isn’t the only player in town when it comes to looking up data in this way.

Working with large spreadsheets containing many calculations can leave readers guessing which sets of data relate and how final figures have been reached. This article provides some great suggestions for making your Excel documents more visual, indicating which cells are connected and how data sets relate:

Excel Tip: Illustrate the Flow –

Draw an arrow to visually illustrate that two cells are connected. USER: I have a large spreadsheet with many calculations. Results from section 1 are carried forward to cells in section 2. It would help to graphically illustrate that one cell flows to the calculation of another.

If you’re looking for accuracy in your data (let’s face it, who isn’t?), our final post highlights several methods and built-in tools that can be used to audit and debug Excel spreadsheets:

How to debug Excel spreadsheets

CPAs are often tasked with vetting or working with numbers in a spreadsheet. And while accountants are well-trained to identify and correct accounting errors, spreadsheets bring the danger of many other types of errors. Field audit results compiled by University of Hawaii professor and spreadsheet expert Ray Panko showed errors in 88% of 113 spreadsheets audited between 1995 and 2007.

We hope you find these tips useful! If you’re thinking of making your next career move, feel free to call us – we’d be delighted to help.

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