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The Role Of The CFO Is Evolving

Explore the evolving role of CFOs, from working on traditional finance functions to visionary & strategic business partners in today's dynamic landscape.

Gone are the days when the CFO’s mandate was limited to recording and preserving value, crunching numbers, controlling resources (or saying no), ensuring financial compliance and being the toughest guy to win over when money had to be spent.

When a CEO is on the hunt for a CFO today, they seek a business counselor at least as much as they do a financial counselor. Across the 1,000 largest public companies in the USA, only 36% of the CFOs are actually certified public accountants (CPAs) (WSJ). That’s because today’s CFO is expected to do much more – they are expected to be a Visionary, a Strategy Partner, a Digital Champion and an Enabler across the business.


The most pronounced change to the CFO’s role has been the inclusion of the digital transformation initiative as one of their key deliverables. More than half of the functions a CFO has traditionally looked after are now at the forefront of most digital transformations (McKinsey). The finance function leads the way when it comes to digitisation – whether that’s business-process automation, cloud computing, data analysis and visualization, deeper integrations or advanced analytics.

The modern CFOs mandate around digitisation doesn’t end with finance though. They are also tasked with ensuring technology uptake, data congruence, systems integrations and generally leading digital transformation across the business. Their perspective on digital transformation must take into account the whole organisation. This is especially the case for finance led/driven projects that are also impacting processes that originate and transcend other business functions. ProSpend (formerly expensemanager) is a particularly perfect example – while the system is designed to improve, streamline and automate business spend management ultimately for the finance function, its effectiveness is largely determined by how well the system is implemented and integrated across the organisation.

Talent Management

Being at the forefront of an organisation’s digital transformation strategy, the CFO is faced with another rather unprecedented challenge. In a world heavily impacted by the Great Resignation, build a team of unicorns not only great at finance, but also capable of leading Data, System Integrations, Automation, Data Visualization and Analytics projects. Mind you, this is after mastering these digital skills themselves.

Today’s CFO is also often tasked with disseminating financial and digital knowledge throughout the organisation. ProSpend serves as a great example again. Beyond just implementing and integrating the system across the business, the CFO must also ensure that the end-users learn enough about finance and the digital world to be able to properly adopt the system and use it best. A great example is our upcoming Virtual Cards. It is upto the finance function to educate the rest of the business around what they are, how they work, how to use them and how not to use them (Don’t worry, we’ll make this easy as pie with numerous training videos and articles).

Managing Conflicts

According to a McKinsey survey, the average number of roles that reported directly to the CFO grew from 4 to 6 in just two years. Unfortunately, this growth does come at a bit of a cost – other C Suite members might feel their “powers” reduced and the CFO’s involvement in their teams might not always be welcomed.

A solid indicator of this conflict is the disparity between how CFOs and non-CFO C Suite members view the CFO’s contribution to Strategy. In the McKinsey survey:

  • 39% of CFO respondents said they were highly involved in Strategic decision making whereas only 25% of non-CFO respondents thought the same of CFO involvement
  • On the contrary, when it comes to the traditional fiduciary CFO responsibilities, 33% of CFO respondents said this was their main focus but a whopping 47% of non-CFO respondents said this is where CFOs were mainly involved

The new age CFO is required to not only manage these conflicts, but to actually inspire and enable their C Suite partners to support and get behind CFO initiatives like the digital transformation one.

The new Mandate = Enabling and Driving Transformation and Growth

The new age CFO is expected to be a change agent. CFOs today can’t just be the controlling, limiting, saying-no influence they’ve been in the past – they now have to motivate, inspire and be the voice for innovation and advancement. Their mandate today includes bits and pieces from many other roles, particularly that of the Chief Transformation Officer.

CFOs have to lead by example on many fronts – and not just their own team, but cross-functionally. Successful companies of the future will, more often than not, have a charismatic CFO who not only masters the finance function, but comfortably plays a key, leading role in revenue generation, digital transformation, talent management and ultimately enabling the organisation to transform and grow.

What can you do next?

With a mandate expanding so quickly and posing such a diverse set of challenges, there is no doubt that the new age CFO has their work cut out for them. The silver lining though is that the solution to the challenge lies within the challenge: digitisation.

As a leader of the digital transformation initiative, the successful new age CFO leverages technology partners that not only build and deliver highly configurable solutions, but do so with an appreciation for the CFO’s broader, organisation wide perspective. Their focus transcends beyond the obvious and helps the business achieve bigger, more strategic longer-term objectives, such as their hyper automation strategy.

ProSpend does exactly that. It not only neatly links and presents all business spend management tools as one easy to use platform, it also is a highly configurable system that fits right into the rest of an organisation’s technology stack. This power is increased manifold as it is backed by customer focused, experienced and localised in-house development, implementation and support teams that work closely together with users to facilitate the best possible uptake and utilisation of the system across the organisation.

If you are, aspire to be or want to explore being the new age CFO, engage with us and we’ll help you uncover the massive potential. Alternatively, check out our customer stories to see how others like you have benefitted with ProSpend (formerly expensemanager).

ProSpend is Australia’s leading Spend Management Platform that offers Smart Automation for finance teams. Through one cloud-based platform, you can easily manage expenses, supplier invoices, purchase orders and travel spend. All with budget visibility. Expense Manager is 100% Australian owned & developed and is used every day by leading brands, including KFC, WWF, Best & Less, Guide Dogs, RGF Staffing and many more. For those looking to better understand the benefits of automation, book your FREE savings consultation.

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