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The next generation CFO: the rise of the modern finance leader

The next generation CFO: the rise of the modern finance leader 3

The next generation CFO: the rise of the modern finance leader 4By Adam Zoucha, Managing Director, FloQast EMEA

Since inception, finance departments have been known as a back-end function – the ghosts in the machine that grind silently to ensure the financial cogs are balanced, supporting operations while also providing room for innovation. But today, in a much faster moving world, digital transformation has given way to financial transformation, thrusting financial teams into the limelight and to the centre of business excellence.

While numbers still need to be crunched and books balanced, the next generation of digitally savvy financial professionals have their best, and most important work, ahead of them.

Leading with commercial excellence

A company’s financial position will always be front and centre when it comes to the finance function. However, parts of operations are increasingly falling under the finance umbrella – an area less intuitive for CFOs.

As digitisation further impacts the roles of financial professionals and operations are progressively automated, all parties need to keep pace with the changing environment. The next-gen CFO needs to step into this new landscape, combining commercial acumen with traditional analytical insights informed by financial data, to underscore smart, strategic business decisions. So, what will it take to thrive in this more dynamic role?

Mastering change

Today, accounting automation is being used to execute repetitive tasks. This means financial controllers are able to assume responsibilities that were once the domain of the CFO and the CFO can shift focus on strategic initiatives that drive the business forward.

The trajectory of business means that modern CFOs need to understand what resources can make them more efficient, marrying tech smarts with financial know-how to become real change agents. Deploying tech resources is one thing but it’s impossible to positively impact operations if you are unable to translate those analytics into actionable insights that deliver strategic, data-driven outcomes.

It isn’t just the role of the CFO that is changing, the whole C-suite is shifting and that leaves room for the CFO to better align themselves with CEOs and the leadership values that they need for business development. For example, today’s CFO role is less about ticking boxes and far more focused on people and leadership. Cost reductions are great but how happy and supported do staff feel? What are customers experiencing? It isn’t just about cost reductions, it is about learning and creating efficiencies that support organisations.

Essentially, the modern CFO who is focused on adopting technological improvements will achieve strategic leadership for real-world change. As Albert Einstein said, “A ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for”.

Translating financial data into real-world strategies

Financial professionals have a good understanding of how data about operations can positively impact decision making. We are now taking those insights out of the office and into the boardroom for maximum influence. CFOs hold such a wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work within an organisation but that isn’t often communicated at the highest levels of leadership.

As leaders begin to uncover how intrinsic data is to the future of business, they are increasingly opening up the space for conversations about what it means and how to implement it. This is where the CFO role begins to take shape. The ability and skill to impart insights to the C-suite and other departments in the business increasingly relies on strong communication and leadership skills, to translate the financial data into real-world strategies.

We are living in a time of change and complex challenges. The tectonic plates have been shifting for years and show no signs of stopping now. Decision-makers must be primed and agile, ready to make the right decision in tight timeframes.

The modern CFO is well positioned to take advantage and run with the baton, but like elite athletes, only after effective communication and with great teamwork can they lay claim to being truly successful leaders.

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