Covid-19 accelerating expectations of CFOs, study finds

A report by the Institute of Management Accountants IMA and The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has found that the pandemic is “accelerating” the shifting of the CFO role.

The ‘CFO of the Future’ report, with data from global surveys and virtual roundtable discussions, found 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, IMA and ACCA developed six hypotheses for participants to consider for their organisations’ CFO roles:

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  • 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 survey respondents, 1,152 ACCA and IMA members, as well as global roundtable participants that included CFOs and CEOs, said most of the hypotheses have already been  enacted. 

Respondents said they “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.

In addition, 72% of respondents felt that the role of the CFO will either “increase or increase significantly” in importance over the next three to five years. 

Other key findings in the report include:

  • 82% of CEO respondents felt that the role of CFO would increase or significantly increase in importance
  • 78% of respondents assessed that the “ethical lens” was a differentiating factor for the CFO in comparison to other executives
  • 68% of CEO respondents felt that people “highly value’ the strategic insights of CFOs

Clive Webb, ACCA head of business management, said: “Our CFOs of today are strategic and forward-looking, and no longer limited by their organisation’s financial agenda. 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.”

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