The Changing Role of the Chief Financial Officer
By Stephen P. Konstans
Senior Vice President & Financial Officers Practice Leader
Today’s chief financial officer manages far more complex and wide-ranging responsibilities than in decades past. In addition to the traditional numbers side of the job, finance leaders are now organizational strategists with expertise in technology, risk management, human resources, analytics and geopolitical trends.
To explore the changing role of the chief financial officer, we invited a panel of CFOs to share their experiences at our second-quarter Spotlight SeriesSM breakfast on June 4, 2019. Our panelists included:
- Julie Anderson, Chief Financial Officer, Texas Capital Bancshares, Inc. and Texas Capital Bank
- Craig Bjerke, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Methodist Health System
- Rob Bodnar, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary, Executive Vice President &Director, Masergy
- Beth Bull, Senior Vice President & Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Communities Foundation of Texas
- Stephen Konstans, Senior Vice President & Financial Officers Practice Leader, Pearson Partners International (Moderator)
Increasing Complexity in the CFO’s Role
Today’s CFOs wear many different hats. In addition to their traditional finance responsibilities, in recent years they have assumed responsibility for complex initiatives involving everything from technology to risk management, legal issues, regulatory compliance, global trade, data security, artificial intelligence and human resources. But today’s CFO has an even higher calling as a strategic advisor to the CEO and board of directors. Beyond the board room, the CFO continuously interacts with directors and top management to ensure a constant flow of open communication and to eliminate surprises.
CFOs play a key role in promoting their organizations’ growth, working closely with the leadership team to guide go-to-market initiatives, plan capital allocation and use advanced data analytics to produce real-time insight that supports effective decision-making.
A growing number of CFOs play a pivotal role in digital strategy, as technology represents a massive investment in meeting consumer and customer expectations in a digitally enabled world. Thus, a deep understanding of technology and its impact on the business is a necessary skill for finance leaders. In some organizations, the chief information officer reports to the CFO, with the CIO taking the technical lead and working closely with the CFO to shape digital strategy and ensure cyber security.
As team leaders, CFOs also share their expertise in developing the next generation of finance executives within their organizations. Through succession planning, mentoring, on-the-job training and creating leadership teams that empower younger finance team members in decision making, CFOs pass their knowledge down to the next generation to feed the finance talent pipeline. Many also work closely with human resources to develop employee development, engagement and wellness programs that improve employee satisfaction and support a healthy company culture.
At the same time, CFOs must continuously study and evaluate the impact of the many different global influences that affect their organizations, from trade wars to Brexit, tax law, regulatory shifts and healthcare reform. Within this realm of ever-changing environmental influences, the CFO always keeps a close eye on the competition and works to keep the organization a step ahead.
There’s an old joke that asks, “What do you call a CFO who always works through lunch, takes two days of vacation every other year, is in the office every weekend and leaves every night after 10pm?“ The answer: “Lazy.” Never has that old quip rung more true than in the ever-expanding realm of responsibilities of today’s chief financial officer.
Pearson Partners Spotlight SeriesSM Breakfast
Save the date for our next Spotlight SeriesSM breakfast scheduled for September 10. Did you miss one of our Spotlight SeriesSM events? Check out summaries of past events.