CFOs have traditionally been considered outside of regular management of a company. They deal with the finances, investments, and strategy that keep a company progressing. They often are perceived to be the ones to shoot down projects or ideas because of the finances or risk involved. But in the last few years, CFOs have been broadening their role in many industries.
CFOs have been involved in management in a more advisory, decision-focused role recently, and this role has only continued to increase as CEOs and boards realize the unique perspective a CFO brings to corporate decisions.
One expert on the growing role of CFOs and how they can create value is Ajit Kambil, Ph.D and the Global Research Director at Deloitte’s CFO Program. Recently, Ajit was featured in an interview in the Wall Street Journal where he shared his thoughts on a variety of issues affecting CFOs, especially when it comes to creating value within an organization.
When it comes to changing perceptions of CFOs as a sort of “Dr. No,” Ajit suggests that “it makes sense to shift the focus from savings and value preservation efforts into actions that add value and promote value creation.”
He does acknowledge that it is a “delicate line” that CFOs walk when managing costs and value creation. It’s like balancing a traditional, well-understood role and simultaneously acting in a new role. But ultimately, Ajit states that “when CFOs take a leadership role in activities that create value, it helps them relate better to everybody and to the business.” Gone are the days when the CFO could sit in his office, keep track of finances and the bottom line and never have to engage others on a regular basis.
An important skill for CFOs to start looking into developing is their ability to drive cultural change. As CFOs become more of a “catalyst of change” they will have to deal with aspects of their organization beyond finances and beyond the employees in their department. There is no reason a CFO cannot be a strong leader in driving cultural or organizational change, but Ajit concedes that this can be difficult.
It’s fascinating how the CFO position continues to develop in organizations throughout the world. Ajit does have some advice for CFOs who have recently joined an organization. He says that it is important to “find opportunities for ‘quick wins’ – projects where the CFO can produce a value-creating impact” quickly, and ideally soon after they have joined the company.[via Wall Street Journal]