Not so long ago, the CFO was merely viewed as a bean counter – one that was expected to compile the company’s accounts, keep a tab on its finances, track the sources and uses of funds, ensure statutory and regulatory compliances and the like. Although these traditional responsibilities are still expected of the CFO, this will not suffice any more. The CEO and the Board are visionaries who have embarked on an eventful journey that will take the company from where it is to where they want it to be. These key stakeholders look upon the CFO as a business partner who will ably assist them in this journey of change. In doing so, the CFO is often given liberty to question the means proposed, debate the pros and cons with the CEO, work with the COO and other peers to obtain their buy-in, etc. In short, the CFO is expected to serve as a catalyst translating Board intent into achievable results that the organization can take pride in.
This is not easy though. Being basically risk averse, however, the CFO is often viewed as a villain in the mix – always trying to cut costs, questioning new investments, recommending closure of divisions that do not yield the expected ROI, etc. in short, often seen as forsaking exciting growth opportunities in order to preserve a safe bottom line. So, how does this conservative breed of accountants meet the changing needs of the several entrepreneur driven organizations of today? The answer is perhaps this. The CFO may have to possibly listen and appreciate better the struggles faced by other functions, fully knowing that they are equally appreciative of the organizational needs, but for want of ‘operational pressures’ functioning as they are. To stop issuing denial orders but instead present the corporate picture as is and invite the active participation of the peer group in problem solving. This not only increases ownership amongst the peer community but also helps them appreciate where the CEO and the Board are coming from. That way, the CFO will be seen as value adding rather than one who is out to cut corners. In turn, this will surely pave the way for a healthy long term relationship for the CFO – both within the organization as well as amongst the CEO-Board group.