In Their Own Words: 3 Ways Leading Executives Are Shaping The Future Of Finance

Jean Loh

Forward-looking CFOs and other finance leaders are taking important steps to shape the future of finance, rather than react to it. A recent survey of 1,500 finance leaders by CFO Research shows them focusing on three critical areas that will be increasingly front and center.

1. Ensuring that finance is the “business partner of choice”

Three finance leaders quoted in the CFO Research report were especially vocal about the need for finance to step up as a business partner.

Brian Waller, director of Revenue Operations at IT security and analytics firm Rapid7: “Just five years ago, if you were in finance, there were roles where you didn’t really need to know much about what your company did. But the environment has shifted. It’s critical to have a business partner mentality, all the way down to the lowest levels of finance. Basically, everybody on the finance team is now expected to be knowledgeable about the company and the products. You need to have some contextual information about the company and to be able to demonstrate you understand the organizational goals.”

Ulrich Borgstädt, head of Finance and Controlling in Southeast Asia for multinational chemical and consumer goods firm Henkel: “One of the key drivers of a successful top-rate finance and controlling organization is to be something we call ‘the business partner of choice.’ Not just the business partner that is available, but the partner that the business will actually want to work with.”

Paula Conde, corporate finance manager for software company Globant: “We are asked to play a more proactive role as business partners of the company, and to be able to influence others in order to obtain the best results for our company. Finance professionals are required to get out in the field and to understand the business, and I think that technology will allow that—allow us to have a different role, a more strategic role, and to be more like a strategist than a bean counter.”

2. Collaborating across all aspects of the business

With a clear understanding of the ever-increasing complexity of the business environment, successful finance leaders are looking to expand their collaborations. Here are two examples of their points of view:

Charles Thibault, VP of Analytics at telecommunications provider IDT, insisted that business activities must be “highly choreographed.” He explained, “Right now, the types of projects that deliver value to the business, leverage all aspects of the business. So, in today’s world, marketing, technology, operations, and finance all work collaboratively on key strategic projects. The challenges are so difficult, there’s no choice. Unless you have everybody at the table, it doesn’t work.”

Martin Murray, CFO of Cathay Pacific Airways, emphasized that “breaking down the barriers [between different functions and business units] that have been created over time is just as important as the new technology that’s coming in.”

3. Facing uncertainties with better predictive capabilities

Digitization is changing the business world, and forward-thinking CFOs know that finance must take full advantage of it:

Jennifer Thom, regional finance manager at the accounting and consulting firm BDO USA, noted that “managers expect accurate, real-time information at their fingertips. The month-end close looks at history, but [managers] need a look towards the future, or even at the current state—what’s happening right now.”

Marcello Botelho Rodrigues, global controller director for worldwide mining company Vale, pointed out that: “Every day we have access to more data. The [technology capabilities] will allow us to be more predictive, to react faster to the scenario, and better face the uncertainties.”

Alejandro Scannapieco, CFO of Argentina-based software company Globant, predicts, “Technology will turn information into a commodity, so an expectation on the finance function is that we’ll spend most of the time providing added value to the business—being more a strategic partner than a data-gathering function.”

Read more about how finance leaders are espousing the digital economy: Thriving in the Digital Economy: The Innovative Finance Function.

To learn more about this topic, please read my last blog on the Digitalist.

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Jean Loh

About Jean Loh

Jean Loh is the director, Global Audience Marketing at SAP. She is an experienced marketing and communication professional, currently responsible for developing thought leadership content that is unbiased and audience-led while addressing market challenges to illuminate and solve the unmet needs of CFOs, CIOs, and the wider global finance and IT audience.