The role of the CFO as a strategist and value creator

It’s been a belief of ours for a long time now that there needs to be a paradigm shift in how we think about the role of a finance team in an organisation. As FP&A has evolved, we’ve seen more and more technology that helps the finance function move away from mundane, routine tasks (which can now be automated away), instead focusing their time on more strategic value creation. This is an exciting new path for the field and the companies that embrace it will find an entirely new form of strategic input and support that can serve to spur the growth of the company.

Within this, the CFO stands out as a vital component of this new future. While a CFO has always been more strategically involved than the rest of their team, there is still a lot of opportunity for growth and, in forward-looking teams, we’re seeing things change quite quickly. 

In this article, we’re going to lay out some of the key roles and responsibilities of the CFO of the future to show how they can be an incredibly valuable strategist and value creator for an organisation.

The CFO is a co-creator of company strategy

As might be expected, CFOs play a crucial role in setting the overall strategy of the company along with the rest of the key executives, but they play a crucial role in this process that shouldn’t be underestimated. They’re probably the only executive that has the full context of the current financial situation to the table and this means that their voice needs to be heard and respected when it comes to financial due diligence and risk management. The CFO is responsible for bringing a calm presence and a realistic picture of the current financial health of the business, which is often a contrasting view to a ‘growth-at-all-costs’ mindset that can come from other departments.

That’s not to say that they have to be overly cautious or pessimistic. In fact, the opposite is true, because from a solid base of financial context, the CFO can help to craft a strategic direction that drives the company forward. As one of the few roles that have direct contact with every other department, the CFO is in a good position to drive positive change and create value everywhere across the organisation through leadership and a drive to keep everyone aligned with the goals that have been set. Ensuring accountability to these objectives and incentivising the right metrics aligned with them is well within the scope of the CFO and is one of the most significant ways to affect change.

The CFO crafts the investor / stakeholder story

Another key component of a CFO’s role is to craft the story of the business that gets communicated to investors and other stakeholders. With all the data at their fingertips, a CFO must identify the key factors and information that these stakeholders care about and find a way to communicate them in a compelling way. This work is crucially important for building trust amongst key external parties and demonstrating how the company is working toward its long-term mission and objectives. 

Without the right investor story, a company simply cannot access the funding, exposure, and wide-scale acceptance that it needs to grow and scale to a large, meaningful organisation. The CFO thus plays a crucial role in presenting the financial case study to the world and enticing people to come along for the journey. The value that a CFO can create in this regard is significant and it often is underrated when compared to all the other tasks that the role requires.

The CFO sets the tone for best-in-class finance operations

From a leadership perspective, the CFO has the most direct influence over their immediate finance team and needs to develop and incentivise best practices across all financial operations. The small optimisations and improvements made to FP&A workflows and processes help to increase the efficiency of the organisation, reduce unnecessary costs, and provide more accurate strategic analysis for decision-makers.

What’s important here is that the CFO remains somewhat detached from the day-to-day processes so that they can provide important strategic input into how the various tasks are completed. The CFO should operate from more of a bird’s eye view and use the additional context gathered from other senior leadership to align planning and analytics with the wider goals and objectives of the company. The CFO is also responsible for nurturing a healthy company culture and a finance team that can grow and scale with the company as a value-adding department, rather than just a cost centre.

Becoming a CFO of the future 

These are just a few ways that a CFO can increase their influence within an organisation and prove their worth as a strategist and value creator. When the role is approached in this manner, there is limitless potential in terms of what can be achieved – because the CFO is focusing on what truly pushes the company forward and is spending less of their time on the mundane and sometimes tedious tasks that are often associated with reporting and analytics.

Here at Apliqo, we believe that software like ours enables our clients to change the way that finance runs and thus can change how the CFO operates in companies of all scales. To see what that might look like, get in touch today, and let’s show you how you can become a CFO of the future.

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