Today’s CFO must understand the business and the strategy set by the CEO and they must align the finance function to support this strategy. A great CFO will be able to leverage technology to create meaningful dashboards that consolidate key financial information into simple, yet powerful visuals to propel the business forward. They must build strong relationships throughout the organization, possess a high degree of emotional intelligence and be leaders in effective communication. There should be no surprises in the financials!
CFO’s are no longer number cruncher’s, reporting on past trends. Strategic CFO’s need to partner with the CEO’s, giving them the confidence to make critical business decisions in a timely manner. They must carefully plan, monitor internal and external environments, offer sound financial guidance and mitigate risks.
Charles Holley recently wrote about this topic in a publication on the Deloitte website. Much of what he wrote, aligns closely with the methodology we follow at CFO Strategic Advisors. He also provides some great insights about the credibility of CFO’s and earning the trust of their CEO, as noted in the paragraphs that follow.
CFOs have to go beyond these roles and do the following, at a minimum, to be a credible voice and earn their CEOs’ trust:
- Understand the business and the strategy and build strong relationships with business leaders. To identify and discuss the company’s strengths, challenges, and gaps, CFOs need to know the business and the strategy as well as the CEOs do and should have solid relationships with the business leaders.
- Get the right things on the CEO’s radar. CEOs often have more on their plates than they can handle. Especially in this business environment, when companies need to transform themselves and change direction quickly, CFOs need to help the CEO focus on the biggest priorities.
- Be independent-minded and supportive. My CEOs counted on me to be the truth teller, to form my own opinions on important company decisions and to speak up. At the same time, they expected my support for execution.
- Challenge the business. CFOs are in the best position to call attention when the numbers aren’t supporting the strategy. For example, CFOs can push the business to change capex priorities when the underlying ROI assumptions are no longer supported by the numbers.
- Do the blocking and tackling. To make good decisions for the company, CEOs rely on the CFO to have the financial reporting, controllership, and accounting under control.
- Have a great bench. CEOs—and boards—expect CFOs to have capable finance leaders-in-waiting and a succession plan in place.
- Offer solutions. The CEO doesn’t expect you to have all the answers, but he or she needs a right-hand person who not only points out problems but proposes possible solutions to spark the debate.
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