Traits of Today’s Brightest Financial Leaders

In today’s ever-changing, technology-filled, marketplace the way we do business is constantly evolving. The role of today’s CFO is transforming too. From responsibilities in place, to technologies used and challenges faced, a lot has changed for the modern CFO.

How Today’s CFO is Different

Perhaps the greatest change CFOs have been forced to navigate over the last few decades is the emergence and transformation of new technologies. A great deal of business can now be executed using just a smart phone. Mobile communication tools like Skype have enabled us to expand our businesses internationally with more ease and simplicity than ever before.

Additionally, today’s CFO has access to far more sources of data and methods of analysis than before. This affects everything! Where the CFO of 10 years ago may have been seen strictly as the head finance manager and budget keeper, the modern CFO has a much broader purpose. He or she continues to add value to every aspect of the organization, as the role has changed from a functional one to a strategic one.

We can attribute much of this shift toward strategic thinking to the market crash of 2008. When financial crisis hit, the CFO was looked to for crucial guidance and given crisis management responsibilities that were new to most of them. Upper management simultaneously gained a new awareness of the impact every decision has on the financial state of the company. Even though the U.S. has almost completely recovered from the recession, the role of the CFO has remained very involved in company-wide decision making.

New Roles, New Challenges

Along with new roles and the ever-changing technological landscape comes new challenges. In fact, according to a survey reported by Robert Half Management Resources, most CFOs feel that their jobs are more difficult today than it was just seven years ago. The predominance of these challenges can be attributed to the same thing: information overload. A surplus of information turns what used to be straightforward decisions into very complex choices. The unprecedented amount of data available to CFOs forces them to understand exactly what data they need and how to analyze it.

Information is also coming from multiple different sources at a time–across states and countries. Managing this scattered workforce is a challenge of its own, pressuring the CFO to not only have a grasp on what is happening in each branch, but also to make certain he or she has an accurate, big-picture view of the company’s financial situation.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Despite the expanding roles and challenges of the modern CFO, there will always be the same major responsibilities covered under the job description, no matter the size or location of the company.

Financial records must always be in tip-top shape—it’s probably the most obvious part of the job and the one that most CFOs have no problem excelling at. Collecting data for decision-making partners is another crucial function. Companies need that data (and the insight of the CFO) to make sound business decisions across the board. To provide these insights, the CFO must be able to forecast the market behavior and benchmark results.

Filing and paying taxes, ensuring employees have adequate healthcare, and issuing dividends to shareholders are all examples of the compliance duties the CFO must oversee. When incorrectly handled, companies could be looking at audits and lawsuits. Preventing fraud and ensuring compliance is of the utmost importance for CFOs—past and present.

Finally, assisting other departments in the company is a crucial function of the CFO. Detailed financial data can help managers at all levels of the company make the company more profitable—not just upper level management. For this reason, many CFOs assist in multiple departments. From HR, to IT, to sales and marketing, each department can work better with the right financial information at hand.

Looking Ahead

It’s clear that the role of today’s CFO is extremely dynamic and always evolving. Accompanying this prestigious title are functions and challenges that are more complex than ever before. The skills and insight a bright and capable CFO brings to the table are invaluable to a growing business.

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