Beyond the Numbers: Execs Want CFOs to Improve Their Communication and Management Skills

By Art Wittmann, EditorMay 12, 2022
CFO survey

As organizations try to navigate economic uncertainty, CFOs have taken center stage, advising other company leaders on strategy, and collaborating with colleagues. This has undoubtedly had an impact on the CFO’s job, which was historically seen as a numbers role. A pandemic, inflation and now fears of a downturn have given finance leaders the opportunity to collaborate and communicate with a much broader set of stakeholders.


But are they taking advantage?

To learn how CFOs are managing current conditions while raising their profiles and extending the reach of the finance department, the research team at Oracle NetSuite surveyed 500 executives and managers from companies with $250 million or less in annual revenue. Here’s what our survey found


The CFO Role Is Expanding

Several years of challenging conditions have increased the influence of CFOs.

  • 87% of executives and managers outside the finance team believe the finance group is more vital now than before the pandemic.
  • As the role of the finance group becomes more important, working in finance is getting more challenging. Almost half of finance execs (48%) and 68% of finance managers say their jobs are more difficult today than in 2019.
  • As CFOs take on more holistic roles, they’re spending more time communicating and collaborating up and down the organization. For example, 57% of finance leaders say they now spend significant time meeting with other execs outside of the finance department.

CFOs Must Improve Communication and Management Skills

As CFOs get more responsibility and greater influence, senior executives want to see improved communication and management skills.

  • 40% of non-finance execs and managers do not believe their company’s CFO is an expert communicator, and 35% do not believe their CFO is expert at managing the team.
  • Communication and management skills don’t come naturally to most finance chiefs. For example, only 35% enjoy telling the company’s story through financial data while 22% delegate this responsibility to others. Additionally, only 31% of CFOs said they enjoy coaching finance team members; nearly as many, 30%, delegate this responsibility.

As companies continue to manage through uncertainty, senior executives are encouraging CFOs to be communicative and collaborate more.

Success here means finance leaders need to not only provide data on company performance, they need to add context to help all employees grasp the ramifications of the numbers, communicate likely future scenarios, and recommend strategies the organization can take to come out ahead.

The most successful CFOs will move beyond their comfort zones and embrace technology and automation to manage day-to-day tasks, freeing up time to hone the soft skills that are in high demand.