These are the 4 characteristics that a modern CFO must possess

These are the 4 characteristics that a modern CFO must possessIn this day and age, CEOs do not want their CFOs constantly gazing in the rearview mirror. CEOs need their CFOs to provide them with market insights, opportunities and armed with these insights, help them to make various decisions pertaining to running of the business. The bottom line is the CEOs want their CFOs to enable them to make conclusive decisions, based on insights gleaned from cold, hard facts and data.

According to a study done by KPMG with 549 top executives worldwide, 92% of CEOs in the US and 63% of CEOs worldwide believe that in coming three years, CFOs will need to take up more strategic leadership role. At the same time, one third of them were also worried that CFOs are the not prepared to face the new challenge.

“What the research is telling us, and what we’re seeing in the market, is that CEOs are relying more and more on the CFO to be their partner and even their strategic coach,” says Morris Treadway, global head of financial management and Global Enterprise Performance Management Center of Excellence lead at KPMG in the UK.

The CEOs who were surveyed expect their CFOs to become the company’s driving force, propelling global strategy development and execution, while bringing in an amalgamation of analytical, operational, and collaborative skills to the C-suite.

In addition to those skills, CEOs rated the following four areas of experience and knowledge as most critical for CFOs of the future.


1. Have Global, Varied Experience

Almost half of the CEOs worldwide list global experience-not just the global perspective—as the most important attribute a CFO can possess. “To get that global experience, I think you have to literally have lived in those regions and done significant work on those regions to gain both a business and cultural perspective,” Treadway says.

That however, is not the complete scenario. 45% CEOs also ranked non-finance experience for CFOs especially involving business transformation and innovation, as more important than any other functional or technical skill or even industry experience.

2. Be Up-to-Date on Technology

Seventy per cent of the CEOs surveyed said that technology is going to be one of the biggest elements of the role of the CFO. However, less than 50% of them think that CFOs are doing a good job exploring and implementing the new technology. Though, CEOs know that their companies need to transform with the digital times, many are observing that there is not a lot of investment in ERP systems. Treadway says, “They’re seeing that they have multiple ERP systems that aren’t harmonized, or are just antiquated. And they understand that cloud-based platforms can help with costs as well as improve the company’s speed and agility.”

CEOs also see the need to simplify the integration of multiple data sources, which enables them to make information available to a very mobile workforce.

3. Hiring the Right Talent

Almost all the CEOs surveyed agreed that attracting and retaining talent is critical, Treadway says that a company’s technology strategies, including the use of cloud and digital technologies to enable predictive analytics, will help attract new talent—and help get younger professionals excited about finance again.

“It’s also important to have a rotational program on down through the levels, giving them experience in sales, operations, or marketing,” he says, adding “When they come back, they’ll have that deeper understanding and perspective.”

4. Be a Leader

In the past, CFOs used to be known for their eye for detail and processes. But today, almost half of CEOs consider leadership qualities the most important personal attribute for a CFO. Treadway breaks the rather broad term – leadership - down into three areas: the ability to drive global strategy and transformation, the insight to be a thought leader and drive innovation, and charisma to influence partners internally and externally.

The Modern CFO should look to ditch dull spreadsheets and PowerPoints at the board meetings. They should look to place a focus on briefing their colleagues on the present standing of the business, and funneling their insights into cultivating an outlook of what the future looks like for their organisation.

(The article is authored by Ajay Kumar, National Sales Consulting Director - ERP at Oracle India)

(Image: Thinkstock)