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16 FINANCE CFO’S
IN 2009’S ECONOMY, CHIEF FINANCIAL
OFFICERS HAVE A LOT MORE TO
FIGURE OUT THAN JUST MONEY...
If you’re a chief financial officer (CFO), chances are that your job today allocating responsibilities amongst the team
is a lot more different than it was even just a few years ago. Accounting and communicating progress, should also
scandals, financial restatements, and increased investor activism have all all be given weight. In addition to promoting
placed CFOs increasingly under the microscope. At the same time, the CFO shareholder value, quick turnaround is
faces never-ending pressure to cut costs, grow revenue and tighten controls equally important to ensure the timely closure
while assuming unprecedented personal risk for their company’s mistakes. of accounts.
Given these internal and external forces, it’s no wonder that turnover for this On face value, all these tasks may sound
position is on the rise. Added to this is the fact that in some cases the rapid relatively simple yet a complex challenge lies,
disappearance of the chief operations officer (COO) position is saddling CFOs as ever, in the actual implementation of any
with a variety of responsibilities, such as human resources, real estate and IT, that change. The most critical aspect is that of time
have little or nothing to do with finance at all. Often, the CFO acts like the CEO. constraints. At this stage, a CFO should consider
Today’s CFO increasingly needs to play four major roles in the organisation. asking the following: what is the organisation’s
These can be summarised as the strategist, influencing the company’s capacity to achieve change within this time limit?
overall direction; the operator, conducting basic finance operations efficiently; Which tasks can be achieved internally and
the steward, protecting and preserving the assets of the organisation by which of them may require external support? If
minimising risk and getting the books right; and the catalyst, instilling external assistance is required, the CFO’s role will
a financial mindset to execution and risk-taking throughout the business. require presenting a convincing business case
Certainly, CFOs face a variety of big debates and yet, in most cases, there for management as well as participating in the
is no right answer. Each situation requires a unique assessment to ensure selection of the best professional firm to provide
that the function is realigned with the changing realities to determine the value expert advice. Before seeking external help,
drivers and the relevant enablers to though, a CFO will also need to ask themselves
ensure delivery of this value. To find the following: should the organisation make
the right way forward, CFOs have to GIVEN INTERNAL AND a financial investment during these difficult
weigh up priorities and apply good EXTERNAL FORCES, times? And would the benefits and savings
judgment – easier said than done. IT’S NO WONDER THAT exceed the immediate cash outlay which may
Urgency in determining the need for CFO TURNOVER IS be significant in certain cases?
change may require applying proven ON THE RISE This is the most challenging aspect of the
methodologies to ensure delivery CFO role. It tests the true ability to present
of shareholder value is given the a business case and demonstrates real
priority. However, there are several ways in which the foundations for ensuring leadership in achieving the firm’s objectives in
value can be laid. Firstly, a CFO needs to embrace any strategic change these unprecedented turbulent times.
and define the role of the finance function within the organisation’s overall
strategy. They will also need to demonstrate leadership by communicating to
WORDS Nader Srouji. Based in the Middle
all internal and external clients the objectives and the benefits of this change. East, Nader is a partner in charge of
Determining priorities and benefits to the firm, developing an accurate plan and consulting operations at Deloitte.