Transformative technology is disrupting every industry, driving innovation and creating new business opportunities. It’s also reforming roles, all the way up to the executive level. Financial services chief financial officers (CFOs) are feeling the shift too, as they adjust to the impacts of technology and other forces on the financial services landscape.

To understand how CFOs across industries are using technology to create new value for their firms, drive efficiency and prepare the organisation for digital enablement and how doing so affects their role within the firm, Accenture surveyed approximately 1,000 finance executives and professionals and conducted in-depth discussions with 48 senior leaders.

The key message that emerged is that CFOs are at a pivotal moment. They’ve come out from behind the scenes and are now positioned side-by-side with the chief executive officer (CEO), chartered with turning finance into an engine that powers the enterprise. The CFO role is being reimagined.

In this series, I showcase the concept of the “reimagined CFO” and what that means for financial services. I also share how HR professionals can assist in this transformation.

The three main themes behind the reimagined CFO

In the digital age, the CFO is assuming a more influential role in three main areas:

  1. Digitising the finance function and harnessing the power of data. Data analytics is familiar territory for “number crunchers”. As technology advances, data analytics will increasingly contribute to more sophisticated insights and higher-level thinking that drives better business results.
  2. Leading the enterprise through digital transformation. CFOs are often the first to use new technology. As experienced “digital ushers,” they can help bring the rest of the organisation along on the journey.
  3. Developing future finance talent. Creating the financial workforce of the future requires both reskilling and new skill enablement. The reimagined CFO serves as a driver, a leader, and role model in this transformation.

What’s behind the CFO pivot?

There are five forces driving the evolution of the CFO role:

  1. A rapid pace of change that keeps getting faster.
  2. Increased pressure for CFOs to participate at a more strategic level.
  3. New regulations and consumer demands that are raising control and compliance expectations.
  4. An escalating volume of data.
  5. Constant pressure to show growth and profit.

Fortunately, CFOs are well positioned to respond to these influences. They’re already comfortable with automated tools and familiar with managing data. This makes them valuable transformation partners. Not only that; they can provide proof points and stewardship for the value of automation and data analytics in reducing costs, improving productivity, and allowing employees to make greater use of their critical thinking skills and creativity to drive profit. In fact, data analytics expertise could be considered a CFO’s greatest area of potential strength.

The finance function is already using a variety of emerging tools that help firms better interpret the data they have and use it for greater impact. For example, the survey shows that 74% of firms are using predictive analytics and 61% are integrating artificial intelligence into their workflows. As the finance function becomes increasingly automated, CFOs will pivot to an even more strategic role in using financial data insights to further their firms’ objectives. In fact, the survey results show that 62% of CFOs are seeing increased C-suite demand for insights and analytics based on financial data.

Common factors and nuances of digital transformation across the financial services sector

While there are factors in this transformation and the CFO pivot that are common across industries, there are some differences―even within the various sectors of the financial services industry. For example, the banking and insurance sectors face specific challenges with regard to digital transformation. In my next post, I address the CFO reimagined in the banking sector.

For more information about the reimagined CFO, please see Accenture’s report: From Bottom Line to Front Line

Accenture has also produced industry-specific reports for Insurance and Banking.

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