The Role of the CFO Continues to Expand, Accenture Report Finds

By: Vanessa Quake | 22 Feb 2021

Accenture have released their report “CFO Now: Breakthrough speed for breakout value“.

In the report, they discuss the three personas that the CFO needs to embody in order to deliver the greatest value to organisations:
(1) The CFO as Economic Guardians
(2) The CFO as Architects of Business Value
(3) The CFO as Catalysts of Digital Strategy

According to their research, CFOs who emulate the behaviors if these three personas can almost double the compound annual growth rate of their organizations. But they do of course, as the title of their report suggests, work fast in order to address the scale and pace required for today’s decision-making, leveraging technology in order to do so.

The CFO as Economic Guardians
As an economic guardian, CFOs need to ensure that the finance function is focused on predictive insights. Predictive being the operative word. While many CFOs have made major investments into technology, their applications are usually limited to basic automation to solve yesterday’s problems such as improving cost efficiency and reporting accuracy. Accenture’s study has found that only 43% of CFOs have used financial modelling in the past two years to identify future risks and opportunities.

In their roles as economic guardians, CFOs need to harness technologies such as cloud architecture and data analytics in order to capture data, information, and insights in real-time. And along with this new access to data, CFOs can no longer build their teams with traditional finance skills but must rather view data fluency as a new core finance skill, along with scenario planning, horizon scanning, innovation, and storytelling.

The CFO as Architects of Business Value
As architects of business value, it is imperative for CFOs to collaborate across the C-suite in order to gain visibility over the whole enterprise, and to understand the risks and levers of growth. 88% of CFOs that Accenture surveyed have already introduced new metrics to better leverage finance’s collaboration with and influence on the enterprise.

The CFO as Catalysts of Digital Strategy
Efficiency and cost savings alone are no longer the goal of the CFOs. Instead, they need to be the creators and guardians of value. As catalysts of the digital strategy, CFOs should aim to increase the ROI from digital investments, helping to define new products and services, and markets and customers. In this new role, CFOs should accept accountability over:

  • New Business Models – Accenture’s report has discovered that 41% of CFOs have been driving new business models, while 40% have been revising strategy holistically.
  • Security – As CFOs were working towards executing their new roles, data and privacy breaches were the most cited barrier to success, yet only 28% of finance professionals are engaged in managing risk through data security to a meaningful degree.
  • Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) – as CFOs become more future focused in order to drive growth 68% say that they have taken ultimate responsibility for ESG performance within their organisations. As they lead their organisation’s digital strategies, CFOs can influence carbon footprints and take efficiency to new heights.

In these new roles, one thing remains clear – CFOs need to be involved in how and what technology is being implemented, so much so that 72% of CFOs in Accenture’s survey have final say on the technology direction of the enterprise.

So what’s next for CFOs and digital transformation? What technologies can they explore in order to deliver greater value to their organisations?

Click here to register your interest in our CFO Summit, Go Hard or Go Home: The Urgency of Finance Transformation, which will take place virtually in Q2. Some of the topics we will explore will include:

  • Finance Automation
  • The Future of the Finance Function
  • From Cyclical Finance and Real Time Finance
  • Data Driven Finance Transformation
  • Hiring for Finance in 202X