After the financial crisis of 2009–10 and the subsequent global recession, CFOs have suddenly found themselves thrust under the spotlight like never before. They are no longer being seen merely as ‘chief number crunchers’ or even as senior accountants; organizations now want more out of their CFOs, and expect them to act as agents of ‘organizational change’. In this idea, some guidance is offered on how to effectively undertake such change management.
Discussing her return to PwC as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in 2012, Carol Sawdye said she would be spending much of her first year on the job focused on “change management.” In saying so, Sawdye acknowledged that the role of a CFO has now transformed; they need to assume bigger responsibilities and play a crucial role in effecting change inside and outside their organization.
In order to better understand this new role for CFOs and what it means for organizations as a whole, Egon Zehnder interviewed the CFOs of large corporations, and organized panel discussions with a select group of CFOs working in global companies from India. Analyzing the findings, Pablo Sagnier and Luis Baón from the firm discovered certain challenges faced by CFOs and published their thoughts in IESE Insight.
According to Sagnier and Baón, CFOs have much more to consider than just spending decisions, which makes their relationship with CEOs a complex one. The CFOs interviewed did not seem comfortable with this new role as an ‘ally’ of the CEO, while holding the company’s purse strings at the same time. Yet it remains a fact that they are becoming highly sought after for their advice on areas not traditionally considered part of their job description. So how can they meet the new demands being placed on them and successfully complete the challenges they now face? A healthy balance between the following four facets is a good starting point:
According to Sagnier and Baón, the key to getting results lies in changing the organization; CFOs are now change leaders too, and must push their organizations to work more efficiently and come up with solutions that lead to better performance.
How does a CFO transform into an agent of organizational change? Here are some suggestions:
The need to move from traditional functions towards strategy will become greater, and Sagnier and Baón predict that the CFOs of the future will become key partners in setting the strategic direction and tone of their organization’s business.
Stepping Out of the Confines of Finance. Pable Sagnier & Luis Baón. IESE Insight Issue 16 (First Quarter 2013).
The Changing Role of Today’s CFO. Egon Zehnder International Panel Discussion (2011).
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