The Changing Role of a CFO
A Discussion with Gianluca Bisceglie
Gianluca Bisceglie is the Founder & CEO at Visyond. He started his career with Vodafone in technology and strategy, has been a Partner in a buyout firm and taught at the London School of Business and Antwerp Management School. Gianluca holds an MEng in Electronics Engineering from the Polytechnic of Turin (Italy) and an MBA with Distinction from London Business School.
Mr. Bisceglie responds to a couple questions on the changing role of the CFO:
How do you define the role of the CFO today?
Depending on the stage of a company, the CFO plays one or more of the following roles:
- Planner & Forecaster
- Risk Manager
- Stakeholder Manager
- Controller &Treasurer
Although number crunching (and understanding!) is the base for every CFO (a bit like a CTO should understand the technology the company is using), I consider it a ‘commoditized’ skill. A great CFO is not the one answering hindsight questions (i.e., “how did we do last quarter?”) but the one foreseeing and planning the company’s financial position and risks in the future.
Many Enterprise-Resource-Planning (ERP) systems have contributed to automating and shifting the core activities of a CFO away from “reporting on the past”. The forecasting, risk management and communication activities require the finest minds that can be supported, but hardly replaced, by automation (we may talk for hours on how AI could play a role here).
Broadly, what is the impact on CFOs, are they having to learn new skills, adapt, or work longer hours for example?
The profession is evolving. Can you imagine a CFO more than 20 years ago in a world without spreadsheets or advanced ERPs? It was expected that reporting and forecasting would last much longer than it does today. Today, a CFO and their team can do much more with the tools available to them. They do not have to work longer hours to get more done unless they are understaffed or deliberately choose to reject innovation.
Automated software allow CFOs and their teams to perform in hours or minutes what used to take days or weeks; however, everybody can use these tools and it all boils down to how open CFO’s teams are to digital transformation and how broadly they embrace innovation. To be a successful CFO today they must accept learning new platforms, as they had to learn Lotus Notes and Excel decades ago.
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