CFOs operating more like chief strategy officers, study
Skills trend: Finance leaders are no longer siloed to financial and operational issues; rather they're expected to deliver insights and analysis that help shape critical business decisions
MENLO PARK, Calif. – Global consulting firm Protiviti has released the findings of its annual Finance Trends Survey, which reveals the continuation of a significant shift in the priorities and activities of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and senior finance executives. Survey respondents rated different areas in the finance function to reflect their priorities and areas of concern for the next 12 months.
Over 70% of CFOs and vice presidents of finance view “strategic planning” as one of the highest priority areas in which they want to improve their knowledge and capabilities, highlighting the need for these finance leaders to focus on strategic matters as much as operational and day-to-day finance and transactional matters.
“The data-driven nature of today’s finance function makes the CFO invaluable in setting and executing the company’s strategy, especially when it comes to forecasting trends or managing government and regulatory relationships,” said Chris Wright, a Protiviti managing director and global leader of the firm’s Business Performance Improvement practice.
The Protiviti survey report, titled Today’s Finance Priorities: Security, Data, Analytics and Internal Customers, is based on a survey of 817 CFOs, vice presidents of finance, finance directors, controllers and other finance professionals at both public and private companies from around the world, and representing a wide range of industries. Fifty-eight percent of companies surveyed have revenues of US$1 billion or more.
Data security and internal customer service
With the prevalence of data breaches hitting businesses today, understandably, security and data privacy are ranked as a priority for finance teams to focus on during the next year, with 84% of CFOs and VPs of finance and 77% of other finance professionals rating it as a high priority.
“A data breach – whether related to financial or nonfinancial data – can have severe financial and reputational ramifications and as cyber risks increase, finance leaders must adequately budget, allocate resources and prioritize company-wide security and data protection measures,” said Wright.
Strategic decision-making within organizations is being informed by data more than ever. As a result, the CFO’s internal customers are increasingly requesting that the finance function provide real-time information with specific insights, metrics and enhanced data analytics about the organization’s financial and operational performance. Nearly eight out of ten (79%) CFOs/VPs of finance and 70% of other finance professionals cited enhanced data analytics as a priority for the finance function to improve its knowledge and capabilities over the next year to help them exceed their internal customers’ expectations. Meeting the changing demands and expectations of internal customers is also a top area driving finance workforce increases.
Scaling the finance workforce
As a result of the changing demands and expectations of their internal customers, 61% of CFOs/VPs of finance plan to increase the finance function’s employee count in the next year. These respondents also cited cloud-based applications that support finance (49%) and data visualization (48%) as other priorities that are driving labor force expansions within the next 12 months. Of note, 28% of CFOs/VPs of finance plan to decrease their workforce in the next year due to efficiencies achieved through robotic process automation. However, other research from Protiviti, as well as recent news reports, suggests many companies are investing in long-term programs to reskill their existing workforces with new technology capabilities.
“The traditional finance-labour model is being reassessed. The need to reskill today’s finance professionals is placing significant strain on existing talent management processes, including traditional approaches to recruiting and retention that fail to help finance groups quickly pivot in response to changing strategic objectives,” said Scott Bolderson, a U.K.-based managing director in Protiviti’s Business Performance Improvement practice. “As a result, more finance groups are leveraging relationships with managed services providers compared to traditional outsourcing arrangements. They are also deploying various non-full-time employees to staff larger portions of their tax, risk management, M&A and treasury functions.”
The 2019 Finance Trends Survey report is available for complimentary download here.