CFO as the Digital Investment Sherpa
UK CFOs are emerging as drivers of the digital agenda, with 80 percent heading up efforts to improve performance through adoption of digital technology, and 73 percent also exploring how disruptive technologies could benefit the entire organization and the business eco-system. Not only are CFOs carrying out their own tasks faster and better through automation, they’re also increasingly ushering in the “digitalization” of other functions and finding new ways to use technology to change business models and open new revenue streams.
CFOs: Get Your Data House in Order
The standard CFO to-do list is shifting towards strategic planning, advisory and analytics roles as CFOs continue to automate routine accounting, control and compliance tasks. Automation of these finance duties is enabling the finance function to focus on newer and more challenging tasks and bring the C-suite together to act on insights gleaned from data analysis. Today, 34 percent of finance tasks are carried out by technology; by 2021, almost half (44 percent) of these duties will be taken over by automation.
“CFOs’ use of data is expanding to other parts of the business. As a result, they will need to be more entrenched in transformational technologies such as AI and analytics to usher in digitization of the broader organization, create new business models and unlock new revenue streams,” said Dr. Christian Campagna, senior managing director, Accenture Strategy, CFO & Enterprise Value. “The CFOs who step up to manage these opportunities will be the true guardians of the enterprise.”
Future Finance Talent Is Calling
As the role of the CFO continues to evolve, so do the skillsets required to become a finance executive. Today’s finance function must include employees with a wide range of capabilities, from data visualization to flexible thinking. Most CFOs recognize that finance skills will continue to move away from core finance to advanced digital, statistics, operational and collaborative skills (79 percent). And more than three-quarters (76 percent) say the change must be rapid and drastic, as traditional finance roles may soon become obsolete.
The biggest challenge for CFOs will be recruiting or training the talent to understand how to collect data and gain insight from data. Almost 9 in ten (87 percent) UK CFOs agree that data storytelling is an essential skill for today’s finance professional. They must be more open-minded and collaborative to work effectively with and serve as strategic advisors to leaders in other business functions.
“It feels like there are two camps for what people look for in a CFO: the control or accounting background versus a more strategic finance role who partners with the CEO,” explains Chris Weber, CFO and executive vice president, Halliburton Company. “Over time, I think the shift has been towards this second role, even if that means the candidate isn't an accountant by training.”
About the research
This research is based on online surveys with more than 700 finance leaders from around the globe and more than 200 up-and-coming finance professionals (the “talent of the future”). Close to 50 qualitative interviews were conducted with CFOs, senior finance executives, CEOs and Chief Data Officers. We selected interviewees on the basis that they worked for global, billion-dollar enterprises that reflected a good mix of sectors and geographies worldwide. The survey was conducted between December 2017 and April 2018.
Respondent company size: