Top 6 traits of strategic CFOs

The role of the CFO is an ever-changing one. In the last decade or so, with the emergence of new technologies and new ways of running growing businesses – many roles in companies have changed – but none so much as the role of the CFO.

Back in 2015, some 63% of CEOs said that the role of the CFO would become more significant in the coming years.

They have never been more right as more and more CFOs are taking on new tasks and responsibilities in companies worldwide.

However, with the role advancing and changing so rapidly, it’s becoming hard for CFOs to keep track and know what to do to get their organizations to new heights.

We at Consero are well-aware of how your role is changing, and we make an effort in reaching out to many top CFOs to learn all the traits that make them as great as they are.

With that in mind, we compiled a list of the top traits every strategic CFO should possess to be counted among the best and get their company to grow even further.

  1. It’s about growth – not about managing costs
  2. Integrity and skillful communication
  3. Insight into the company value chain
  4. Leverage the right metrics
  5. Finding the link between strategy and finance
  6. Find and hire the talent

As you are well aware – the traditional role of the CFO has always been to give a firm ‘No’ whenever other executives wanted to take on new seemingly risky ventures to boost the growth of the company.

However, today, the CFO needs to find a balance between saying yes and no. If you want to be a great strategic CFO, you’ll need to learn to recognize opportunities with potential and avoid the ones that are too risky.

In essence, the job is no longer avoiding ventures as much as possible – but separating the good from the bad ones and then enabling the company to grow whenever it can.

CFOs used to be the protectors of company finances, but today they are that as well as the ones who make sure all projects in the organization are bringing value.

That means that you need to have natural integrity, but you also need to be a skilled communicator. It would help if you made sure that there is transparency around your office because you are the one who forms relationships with most people in the company:

  • The CEO
  • Unit leaders
  • The board
  • Regulators

You need to spend time with all of them to create good working relationships – especially with the unit leaders as they are the ones who will provide the information you need to do your job properly.

If you want to know the real performance potential of your business, you need to have a holistic and unbiased view of the value chain your company has. That means that you need to look at all areas:

  • The needs the customers have
  • The operations within the organization
  • The contributions of the suppliers
  • And more
  • How to improve customer value
  • Encourage the right use of resources
  • How to link business planning with developing improved capabilities
  • Market share as a percentage of market potential
  • Operating profit after capital charge or OPACC
  • Market favorability rating
  • And many more
  • Find,
  • Manage,
  • And develop that talent

By knowing how everything operates – you’ll be able to pinpoint where the problems are and which areas require your attention.

With the knowledge you gain by doing this – you’ll be able to advise the CEO on which specific actions and initiatives to make. You’ll also be able to master all essential operational metrics, not just the financial ones.

The role of a successful CFO today is to develop and follow the right metrics because these are the ones that will provide you and the CEO with the knowledge you need to improve the company.

That means that you need to avoid some popular metrics like share price and EBITDA, as they don’t bring anything to the table when the strategy is considered. They are focused on what’s going on within the company, and they are not showing you how to create value for the business in the future.

The top strategic CFOs know this, which is why they develop their metrics – the ones which are specific to their company and its corresponding industry. These metrics should give insight into things like:

Some of the metrics that achieve this are:

Besides developing and using these metrics, you should never consider them as being fixed. They need to change, and you need to work on evolving them over time.

If you’re looking to develop these metrics, make sure you are using all the data available to you in the organization.

What many in the finance and accounting departments fail to realize today is that there is no longer room for people who only look at the numbers – especially when it comes to CFOs.

You can’t hope to help your company grow without being good at both strategy and finances. You need to realize that the CEO doesn’t need reports with stats and numbers from which they can get insight by digging deep - they need you to provide the insight they want.

The top CFOs today are always the ones who find ways to turn business strategies into finance strategies. As Jack McCullough, the founder of the CFO Leadership Council has stated: “It's the person who can synergize strategy and finance who will have an impact.”

Every growing company needs new talent, and it’s the job of the CFO to:

This is particularly vital in the financial department because talented finance personnel can add much value to the business – a lot more than the traditional finance staff. The importance of this is very evident today when the demand for finance talent is the highest it has ever been.

If you are looking to become the true strategic CFO your growing company needs, you will have to learn the traits that other top strategic CFOs have. By limiting yourself to the ones we mentioned here, you’ll undoubtedly reach the levels you want to achieve and provide more value to your organization.

The value of the CFO leans heavily on the level of insight and strategic guidance they provide to the business. The challenge that most CFOs face is that their time is regularly consumed by addressing the daily needs of the business. At Consero, we empower the CFO by taking the daily operations of the back-office finance & accounting off their plate. We do this more efficiently, with more accuracy and at a lower cost than in-house. Contact Consero today for more information.