Friday, July 11, 2008

The "Empowered Chief Financial Officer"

In my last post, I referenced a recent CFO Research study of 171 finance executives that found that over 70% of finance activities are still focused on routine finance and accounting tasks. What the heck? That percentage really threw me. So I started looking at posted CFO job descriptions to find out what companies really want from their CFOs, and sure enough, there was the standard list. The following job description actually came with the job title "Empowered Chief Financial Officer:"
  1. Prepare Management Reports
  2. Manage Routine Accounting Functions
  3. Manage Administration Functions

Where is the empowerment here? Then, as I continued perusing job descriptions from various sites, I started seeing some different twists on the CFO role. Job requirements included:

  • Act as a change agent within and outside Finance
  • Partner with business units
  • Internal process improvement
  • Investor activities

The primary difference that I found in the job descriptions was that these were postings for larger companies. Do these companies have their governance processes established and can now focus more effort on decision management? Are their investors demanding more participation from the CFO? Are their businesses in extremely competitive markets? All of the above?

While regulatory compliance is obviously a key concern for any public company, it became clear to me that there is a growing requirement for CFOs to broaden their organizational role. While I suggested in my last post that the Finance team should be educating, providing guidance and showing additional value to business teams, it appears that these functions are working their way into the job description, as well. Now there seems to be some opportunity for empowerment.

I’d love to hear from some CFOs out there what your job functions are looking like – are you primarily focused on control and compliance, or does a significant part of your role include collaboration with lines of business, expanded business and performance management tasks? Are you working to roll out reporting tools to expanded user communities within the business? Are you seeing your role change within your organization? What percentage division are you seeing in your tasks? Please share your experience in the Comments section.


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