Several finance leaders shared their thoughts on the role of the chief financial officer as an innovative and strategic business partner during a panel discussion at the 2018 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in New York on November 28. The panel discussion, “The CFO as an Innovative and Strategic Business Partner,” featured the following participants:
Chief Financial Officer
Area Director, Solutions Consulting – East Americas
Chief Financial Officer
Vice President of Finance
Sony Music Entertainment
The panel discussed focused on a variety of finance topics, including:
- The Expanding Role of the CFO
Today’s CFOs are responsible for a broad array of financial tasks. At the same time, they often serve as intermediaries between chief information officers, chief data officers and other C-suite executives relative to cloud computing.
Cloud computing creates many opportunities for organizations, yet it also raises myriad concerns and questions. Meanwhile, CFOs frequently are responsible for helping various C-suite executives develop and deploy cloud strategies.
For CFOs, it is important to understand cloud computing, the opportunities associated with it and the potential security issues it may raise. By doing so, CFOs can act as viable intermediaries who can help their respective organizations get the most out of cloud computing.
“The CFO has to be the referee [for the cloud],” Sheehan pointed out. “The CFO is negotiating what goes versus what doesn’t.”
- The CFO As a Continuous Planner
CFOs generally help organizations craft budgets and plan financially. They may be responsible for helping different departments map out their financial strategies as well.
If CFOs maintain open communication with departments across an organization, they can help these departments maximize the time and resources at their disposal. Furthermore, CFOs can collaborate with different departments to ensure they can optimize their respective budgets and find the best ways to help an organization achieve its goals.
“The need for continuous planning has never been more than what it is today,” Caruso indicated. “The CFO is trying to be a better strategic parts to different parts of the organization … and the CFO has a lot of things to offer to different executives.”
- The CFO As a Change Agent
A CFO drives change and transformation, regardless of his or her organization’s size or industry. If a CFO is committed to short- and long-term planning, he or she can serve as an effective change agent across an organization.
“Planning is something that no longer just finance does,” Caruso noted. “There is all of these other operational parts of the organization that do planning as well … and the ability to connect different plans makes an organization more agile.”
Also, a CFO must foster accountability across different departments. If a CFO requests that multiple departments contribute to the development and implementation of a financial strategy, for example, this professional must ensure each department is accountable for its actions. That way, a CFO can help an organization drive meaningful change across all departments – something that may put this organization in a strong position to accomplish its desired results.
“[The CFO] is building a business plan and asking the people who are helping to build that plan to be accountable for it,” Gee said. “In the business planning environment, when you have better tools and you have accountability, the role of the CFO becomes that of a true change agent.”
- The Impact of Regulatory Factors on the Finance Function Today
In addition to financial tasks, CFOs often are responsible for helping their respective organizations navigate a challenging regulatory environment.
CFOs must allocate time and resources to keep pace with changing regulations. If CFOs learn about different requirements and implement plans to comply with these mandates, they can help their respective organizations avoid regulatory violations, along with potential brand reputation damage and customer turnover associated with these penalties.
“Manufacturing and sourcing of our components makes business planning so difficult,” Gee pointed out. “These are very strange times that we live in … and the idea of certainty is not there.”
- Determining Where to Invest Time and Resources
CFOs usually are tasked with helping their respective organizations maximize their time and resources. Today, CFOs must take a data-driven approach to determine where to invest time and resources, and doing so could prove to be exceedingly valuable both now and in the future.
Thanks to data, CFOs can understand a wide range of factors related to potential investments. They also can identify partnership opportunities and boost the likelihood that they can find investments that deliver the optimal returns.
“We now have a greater ability to analyze things globally,” Sheehan stated. “Traditional investment is out the window … it’s now all about joint ventures.”
John Vuono has served as Chief Financial Officer of Ashcroft for 13 years. Prior to his time at Ashcroft, Vuono served 15 years in senior financial roles with Hasbro’s U.S. Toy Division, Victoria’s Secret Stores, Wachovia Bank and in public accounting.
Patrick Caruso has spent nearly 15 years consulting and implementing solutions focused on financial transformation, planning and budgeting, profitability analysis, allocations and zero-based budgeting. At Anaplan, he is responsible for the Americas East Solutions Consulting (Presales) organization, where his team supports Anaplan’s Connected Planning go-to-market efforts across all industries.
With an academic background in chemical engineering, it’s no surprise that Ron Gee’s approach to finance is analytical and disciplined but always open to experimentation as a pathway to innovation and value creation. Gee’s broad experience has led him to value talent development as vital to organizational success, earning him a solid reputation as teambuilder, decision-maker and innovator.
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