For today’s CFOs, having the right people in their organization and having the right information should be top of mind, says Jennifer Finger, CFO consulting partner at tax, assurance and consulting firm Baker Tilly. This is especially true because today’s finance officers are not only responsible for finance, but also for business operations, strategy and technology.
Being able to make sense of the growing amount of data coming at them so quickly is a key skill that modern CFOs need to master; CFOs don’t necessarily need to be IT experts, but they do need to have some understanding to ensure they are using their organizations’ data and tools effectively, Finger said in an interview. The co-leader of the bakery Tilly A national CFO consulting practice, Finger has been with the firm for nearly two decades, according to her LinkedIn profile.
“If you don’t analyze the right information or use the right people to make decisions, it’s unbelievable how bad the consequences can be and how quickly it can affect a business, especially in markets like these,” Finger said.
Stay afloat in the flood of data
The role of the CFO has expanded beyond pure finance, with CFOs now expected to take on decision-making responsibilities for other key areas such as operations and technology. Some organizations are merging the roles of CFO and chief operating officer, a trend that speaks to the unique point of contact the CFO often has within the business.
“While some businesses try to separate, I think it’s very difficult to do that,” Finger said of merging financial and operational responsibilities. “Because if you think about how the CFO’s office is set up…information comes from the functional units of the business, and because it goes into the CFO’s office, it affects every aspect of the business.”
However, the sheer volume of data available is “much greater than it’s ever been,” Finger said. Being able to crunch this data effectively requires CFOs to take a deep look at their own capabilities and be honest about where they fall short, Finger said.
“Is Your Strength Treasury Management Accounting? Is your robust data assessment and IT function directly on US GAAP?” She refers to generally accepted accounting principles. “And if you’re not strong enough, what kind of smart people do you want around you?”
For example, if you need the ability to support GAAP fundamentals, understanding and moving to fill gaps is critical for today’s financial leaders, not only with broader responsibilities, but also with economic and geopolitical winds and dynamic changes. from the needs and expectations of their employees.
Finding a balance of skills
However, finding the skills one needs can be a daunting task for today’s CFOs. That’s especially true when it comes to the finance and accounting field, as competition for certain key finance roles is growing. For example, “supervisor is the hardest role we’ve heard anywhere that people are struggling to fill,” says Finger.
The difficulty of filling the supervisory role may be due to various factors, including the increasing number of accounting and auditing skills that are leaving the profession. As more than 300,000 of their peers leave home, 24 percent of American accounting and finance professionals plan to leave their current roles in the next year, according to an October report by Management Accountants and Robert Half. Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there will be more than 136,000 job openings for accountants by 2031, the IMA study cited.
When looking to hire, ideally, companies and executives should “look for people who have a balance between skill sets that don’t disappear,” she said. “So if you’re missing something on the balance sheet, it’s good to have a little something in technology.”
But it’s important for finance leaders to remain flexible: While the role of the CFO will continue to change in the future, technology will also continue to evolve, Finger points out. Finance leaders must be confident that they can adapt to respond to future trends or the changing needs of their organizations.
“In certain businesses, I think the financial leader should be more involved in operations, because this organization is more focused on operations, and this kind of meltdown,” she said as an example. “And so I think that flexibility should always be in the entire C-suite to keep up with the times.”