COVID-19 accelerates shift of CFO role

October 16, 2020 | 18:13
The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the shifting of the chief financial officer (CFO) role towards evolving with additional responsibilities, according to a report by the Institute of Management Accountants and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
covid 19 accelerates shift of cfo role

“The CFO of the Future” report released on October 13, with data from global surveys and virtual roundtable discussions, shows that the CFO role is continuing to evolve with additional responsibilities and that the global pandemic has brought these changes on faster than expected.

To evaluate the extent of this evolution, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) developed six hypotheses for participants to consider for their organisations’ CFO roles:

• The CFO will become predominantly focused on stakeholder and investor management rather than safeguarding and reporting;

• The CFO will have a leading responsibility for business strategy formulation, validation, and execution;

• The focus of the role is shifting from principally historic-based cost control to growth optimisation;

• The role will encompass measurement of all aspects of the strategic objectives of the organisations;

• The CFO will provide the greatest value to the organisation through forward insight rather than retrospective reporting;

• CFOs will increasingly have the CEO role as the next progression in their career development.

“The events of the past few months have changed several finance and accounting fundamentals and will continue to do so, especially as it relates to the CFO role,” said Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research and policy. “Our research concluded that CFOs are no longer viewed solely as finance leaders. They are being looked to for governance and risk management, business change, business resilience, and technology advancement.”

The survey respondents, 1,152 ACCA and IMA members, as well as global roundtable participants that included CFOs and CEOs, saw most of the hypotheses already enacted. Respondents most strongly agreed with the hypothesis that CFOs will play an increasingly important role in strategy execution. The least supported hypothesis was the career progression of the CFO towards a CEO role; however, most felt that this trend would increase.

Additionally, 72 per cent of respondents felt that the role of the CFO will either “increase or increase significantly” in importance over the next three to five years. With this increased responsibility, finance and accounting executives must focus on building a talent pipeline in their organisations that can satisfy the needs of the future organisation.

“Our CFOs of today are strategic and forward-looking, and no longer limited by their organisation’s financial agenda,” said Clive Webb, ACCA head of business management. “They have broad agendas and are contributing to their organisations in ways that we identified back in 2012, even during this global pandemic. Our CFOs are more well-rounded than ever and will continue to enhance their skillsets as many take on more responsibility and possibly become CEOs in the future.”

Other key findings in the report include:

• 82 per cent of CEO respondents felt that the role of CFO would increase or significantly increase in importance;

• 78 per cent of respondents assessed that the ethical lens was a differentiating factor for the CFO in comparison to other executives;

• 68 per cent of CEO respondents felt that people highly value the strategic insights of CFOs.

ACCA is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability, and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance, and management.

ACCA supports its 227,000 members and 544,000 students (including affiliates) in 176 countries. It works through a network of 110 offices and centres and 7,571 Approved Employers worldwide, and 328 approved learning providers who provide high standards of learning and development.

IMA, named the 2017 and 2018 Professional Body of the Year by the Accountant/International Accounting Bulletin, is one of the largest and most respected associations focused exclusively on advancing the management accounting profession. Headquartered in Montvale, NJ, USA, IMA provides localised services through its four global regions: the Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe, and Middle East/India. It has a global network of more than 125,000 members in 150 countries and 300 professional and student chapters.

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By Bich Thuy

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