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Leadership

Emerging Responsibilities of the New CFO

To build a competitive digital enterprise, CFOs need to harness the power of data and information.


To build a competitive digital enterprise, CFOs need to harness the power of data and information.

Eight years ago, I walked into the CFO role with a traditional financial mandate. I was responsible for financial and regulatory reporting. At the time the finance team had 200 members, heavy on accountants and people with business degrees. For decades, those skill sets were what corporate finance departments needed.

Since then, the CFO role and the finance team have radically evolved for one primary reason: the pervasiveness and promise of technology. Tech permeates the operations of most companies today. With employees, customers and suppliers all using digital operating systems, companies produce a mindboggling amount of data.

Understanding the value of that data and how to utilize it is a responsibility that increasingly falls to the CFO. When it comes to data and technology, today’s CFOs have no choice—you have to get engaged.

 

Data: Your New Mandate

I have a saying I often share with my colleagues: Technology is too important to be left to the technologists. Technology isn’t merely a set of tools, and you shouldn’t think of it that way. It’s what both produces an abundance of data and allows you to make sense of it.

Today, my own team operates under a new directive. We’re responsible for any important information that Commercial Banking requires to run the enterprise. Our 800-person team now includes experts in econometrics and people with backgrounds in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and we rely on a whole host of sophisticated analytics tools. We’re still responsible for financial reporting, but my job is to provide the CEO and the leadership team the data-driven insights they need to propel business forward.

Over half of our strategic initiatives for near- and long-term financial performance have a heavy technology component. Every organization is different, but no matter the size of your company or the scale of your digital operations, building your tech acumen is crucial preparation for what’s coming: an even deeper reliance on data and tech to stay competitive and create value for your business.

 

The Tech-Savvy CFO

As the CFO role shifts to include information and data, an interesting thing will happen. You’ll find yourself drawn into every aspect of the enterprise—and see your portfolio of responsibility quickly expand.

Our team plays a role in overseeing sales information and sales productivity, investments and ROI tracking, corporate real estate and capacity planning, pricing of deposit and loan products, sales tools and the implementation of new customer relationship management solutions, and the management of data, which historically resided with the CIO. And I could add a lot more to that list.

To CFOs with purely financial backgrounds, the expanded role may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But you have to embrace it. You need to be able to put the foundational pieces together and be a constructive contributor to the strategic agenda.

Are you going to be the most well-versed tech authority in the room? No. And that’s OK. You can’t be an expert on everything. But you can pursue knowledge and call on the expertise of your colleagues. Join in the discussion. Be curious. Ask all the tough questions about the spend, the ROI, the risks and the reporting structure.

For the right sort of person, it’s an exciting time to be a CFO. No longer a passive financial gatekeeper, the new CFO has oversight on every part of the business. That makes the CFO an integral part of the mission and a key player in the strategic direction of the business—what true leadership is all about. And it’s an absolutely necessary role in today’s digital enterprise. Finding trusted resources who are steeped in tech knowledge and in your business, such as your commercial banker, can help you embrace these new challenges and navigate your way to success.

Leadership Digital solutions

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