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Working with the CEO

CFO the Natural Heir to the CEO
Is the CFO the Natural
Heir to the CEO?

Miguel Vergara,
EPM specialist at Oracle, @EPM_Insight

CFOs are setting themselves up for the top job by playing a bigger role in business strategy.

Co-Pilot of the business

Co-Pilot of the business: Finance is the new guidance system

While the leader of any organization may often take the limelight it is becoming increasingly clear that in any successful business behind every good CEO, is a great CFO.

The CFO has long been the sounding board for the CEO, the person that he or she turns to when they need to test an idea, be inspired, make plans or address concerns, and their value to the CEO is increasing all the time.

This is borne out by a recent report from Forbes and KPMG which found that 63% of CEOs predict the CFO’s influence will increase more than that of other board directors in the next three years.

 They must also be a leader, an investor and an innovator. 

In a modern business the challenges facing the CFO have grown considerably and the role is broader and more important than ever.

While it is still the CFO’s role to keep a strong grasp on reporting and compliance, they are far from just a gate-keeper for the company finances. They must also be a leader, an investor and an innovator. They must be able to think in a more entrepreneurial way than their predecessors.

To achieve this, the CFO must encourage change and new ways of thinking that will free their teams up for more strategic business analysis.

 They must be able to quickly analyze data about trends. 

It is a key CFO responsibility to recognize and embrace growth opportunities and make the business more agile and better able to rolling with the punches of a dynamic economy, through a period of digital disruption and economic uncertainty. They must balance some of the traditional risk aversion commonly associated with CFOs by helping the business invest in opportunities that can open up new markets, improve customer satisfaction or stave off the threat of more innovative or agile competitors.

eBook: Thriving in the digital age

Modern Finance: Driving Transformation from Within

Being less risk averse does not mean reckless, however. The CFO must be prepared to act and back the business with investment, but they must make those decisions based on solid numbers. They must be able to quickly analyze data about trends, the market and the economy in order to provide the business with informed, accurate guidance about where new opportunities lie and how important those opportunities may be. To keep pace with the rapid rate of digital transformation, the CFO’s ability to make quick, informed decisions on investment and risk while understanding changing consumer and market conditions is crucial.

 CFOs need to foster a closer working relationship with the CIO. 

To achieve this, CFOs need to foster a closer working relationship with the CIO, to ensure they can gather all the data they need and have the means to analyze it. Previously these two roles may have found themselves at loggerheads, clashing over the cost of IT, but their partnership is vital if the CFO’s decision-making is to be powered by the most up-to-date data, whenever they need it. Those companies whose CFO and CIO both have a digital mindset will be those in the front seat of their industry.

It is this increasing role at the intersection of digital transformation and high-level decision-making, with a focus on partnering with the business for growth and strategic investment that gives the CFO the opportunity to position themselves as the natural heir to the CEO.

The CFO’s knowledge and experience of the financial and technological aspects of the organization combined with their managerial abilities – and perceived gravitas in the eyes of the markets and investors - gives them a strong foundation for unifying the business and driving it forward.

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