Progressive organizations are steering towards a CFO that plays a pivotal role in designing and driving the organization’s strategy and goals whilst ensuring operational resilience is maintained.
Digital transformation is undoubtedly shaping the CFO role by streamlining and automating core finance processes allowing for finance teams to gather comprehensive insights for analysis and identify new business models and growth strategies.
Traditional CFOs are still involved in managing cash flow and risks, financial planning, analysis and reporting, safeguarding assets and interpreting performance. Whilst these remain central to the finance leader’s role, today’s CFOs are assuming new responsibilities to scale the organization.
Increasingly, we are advising our clients to focus on four key areas of expertise when hiring a CFO – leadership, strategy, intelligence, resilience and talent as they are better equipped to deliver business performance management, planning and strategy.
Organizational leadership – today’s most effective CFOs are advisors and business partners to the business owners and a key member of the senior management team. They must be able to talk confidently and with knowledge about business strategies and models rather than just financial statements.
To drive business growth, CFOs need to understand how to transform and redefine their function, so they are able to guide their organization more effectively in a highly digital age. They should be capable of formulating strategies that drive profit improvement across top and bottom-line growth and shareholder value.
Strategic value creator – they must address regulatory, enhanced security threats, globalization and compliance needs and utilize advanced analytics to align strategy and risk. This requires a strategic and commercial mindset with the ability to align strategy across the organization, delivering complex transformation, redesigning operating models, developing financial capabilities and managing business performance.
Emotional intelligence – finance has an impact in every facet of the value chain and this requires building relationships across the entire organization. CFOs need to have the ability to articulate critical facts and insights that link financial and non-financial business drivers to provide a balanced view to all internal and external stakeholders.
Adaptability and resilience – finance leaders should be curious and have a continuous improvement mindset where they are exploring if there are better ways to do something and are able to bounce back when things do not go as planned and try again until they succeed.
To create more resilient finance functions, CFOs need to have the right data management systems and practices in place and they need to be the driving force of digital transformation in the organization. Advanced analytics when used effectively in planning, forecasting and budgeting can be the difference between success and failure.
Talent – today’s finance function requires the right people with the right skills in the right roles. As technology drives business changes, building and upskilling a culture that thrives in a modern technology driven environment is critical for the organization. Having the right talent to optimize this technology and decision-making empowerment is equally important.
Organizations should be recruiting business focused candidates with data science and analysis backgrounds who can truly understand and make best use of data and technology to support the organization with meaningful information to the business rather than only traditional financial and accounting backgrounds.
In parallel, the existing workforce should be reskilled in digital aspects of their roles.
Organizations are finding it more challenging to sustain business growth and success. As the dynamics of business changes, the CFO role has increasingly become fast-paced, far-reaching and much broader in impact across the whole organization. They are expected to make better decisions faster to stay ahead of the game.
By being more proactive and with our clients’ changing business models, we are shifting our executive search to agile and strategic candidates who have expertise in digital transformation, managing business planning and continuity, financial risk, reducing costs, improving margins, managing working capital to spur growth and ensuring regulatory compliance.
4 driving forces which have impacted the CFO to have critical skills to lead financial transformation:
#1 Increased expectations of boards, CEOs and stakeholders – by leveraging automation and continuing to automate routing accounting, control and compliance, there is better value creation to shape the strategy, reduce costs, improve productivity and empower employees to use critical thinking for growth, sustainability, innovation and continuous improvement.
Hire candidates that are change agents and have transformed finance functions towards effectiveness, i.e. the ability to deliver what the business needs, rather than a narrower focus on its efficiency, i.e. serving the business.
#2 Pressure for growth and profits – by providing insightful analytics to the business, high-performance finance leaders are successfully executing companywide transformation initiatives and influencing the strategic planning process. Whether the growth is organic, M&A, introducing new products and services or entering new markets, there is continual demand in more challenged markets.
Hire candidates who have led operating model rationalization initiatives and transformed their businesses to give each function greater agility and control through end-to-end process ownership and reduced costs.
#3 Power of data – the requirement for data analysis requires a new focus and capabilities – many CFOs have been used to reporting on past data – now is the time for them to look at future data. Predictive scenarios that drive decision making and action and presenting a range of possible outcomes are becoming more relevant to plan ahead. Finance teams need to be able to collect, mine and analyze data and provide meaningful insights from the data which the organization finds beneficial.
Hire candidates that leverage data to drive value – their ability to capture, synthesize structure and develop rigorous analysis of rich and complex data sets and effectively use data to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the finance department and across the organization is a CFO’s greatest area of strength.
#4 Expanded the need for compliance and control driven by regulations and customer expectations – today’s business environment has become increasingly dynamic and uncertain. Between the fast pace of digital innovation changes and the expanding regulatory environment, the types of business risks that can impact an organization’s strategy have ballooned over the past five years. CFOs, given their expanded role in establishing and executing strategy, have become well positioned to help ensure that an enterprise’s risks are identified, assessed, managed, and integrated into the corporate strategy.
Hire candidates that have deep expertise in the scope of corporate risks, changing frameworks, controls management and reporting locally. They must have in-depth experience of assessing and mitigating risk through a commercial as well as financial lens.
The new CFO persona is evolving – as finance takes on more strategic responsibilities across the enterprise, a CFO must be a change agent driving fresh thinking, collaborative working and cross functional decision making through strategic insights.
CFOs today need to see the “big picture” and play a strategic role in decision making, yet in reality many CFOs remain entrenched in the transactional number crunching and reporting as this is their comfort zone. To gain a competitive advantage, CFOs must become a valued strategic business advisor with strong business acumen, agility and innovation.
Appointing a high calibre CFO is crucial for any organization’s growth, profitability and long-term success – it requires a robust and unbiased assessment process. Contact us or call +971 552 167 567 to discuss how we can partner with you to recruit a superstar finance leadership candidate.
Deepa Sud is the founder of Plum Jobs, a Dubai based boutique consultancy where she works with CEOs, business owners and leadership teams to define corporate vision and strategy, transform operating models and overcome people and hiring challenges.
Through a global HR career at Board and senior executive level that spans across multiple FTSE 250 organizations in EMEA, APAC and America, Deepa has a visionary and pragmatic approach with expertise in leading business transformation and turnaround through strategic talent management and leadership development to accelerate long-term growth and sustainability.