The role of the chief financial officer (CFO) is transforming. As emerging technology and sophisticated data analytics drive disruption and innovation, CFOs are becoming more valuable to their firms as strategic assets. Their expertise in data analysis and their comfort level with automated technologies, when combined with superior interpersonal skills, are positioning them alongside the chief executive officer (CEO) in driving organisational change and new business opportunities. We are in the era of the CFO reimagined, where the CFO is a digital transformation driver. This reimagining should be a coordinated effort between the business, the HR team, and the CFO who will help lead the organisation into a promising digital future.

In my previous posts, I explained the nuances of this transformation for the banking and insurance sectors, each of which faces unique challenges. In this post, I touch on the focus areas for the respective sectors and speak to how HR can lend support to the evolution of the financial services CFO.

Strategic focus accelerates transformation

Banking and insurance have been relatively slow to embrace technology, compared to some other sectors. Bankers have been reluctant to let go of cumbersome legacy technology and move to the cloud, though they’ve been willing to integrate customer-facing automation into their workflow to win over customers and overcome a negative reputation. While insurers are in the admirable position of being the data leaders of the financial services industry, they haven’t fully harnessed technology to enhance this strength.

With the CEO at the helm and support from the HR function, each sector can benefit from specific, focused efforts that will accelerate its digital transformation. Banks should seek to embody a smart-tech culture, find new solutions to talent acquisition and retention issues, and fully embrace automation and innovation. Insurers too should take greater advantage of emerging technologies to enter the digital world more boldly. They should also deepen their collaboration around data analytics and insights. In addition, like bankers, they should rethink the skills challenge.

How HR can help

HR can play a significant role in terms of reskilling the workforce and closing skills gaps. The ability to innovate and analyse will become a key employee competence. The best staffing choices should be made around a combination of inquisitiveness and digital skill level. Critical thinking will be in great demand. Finance employees should excel at both collecting data and gleaning key insights from it.

Choosing the right CFO will be based on new criteria. Recruiters and hiring managers should look for financial expertise plus strategic thinking plus technology skills. The key will be CFOs who can look forward and influence strategic direction rather than report backwards. Strong people skills and an ability to innovate will be a must for this new generation of CFO. The reimagined CFO is as adept at working with people as they are at working with numbers. Strong decision making, communication, and collaborative skills are essential. Finally, HR is an important source of support for CFOs as they embrace their new role. The CFO role should be positioned across the organisation as a strategy enabler, not a number cruncher.

Does the younger generation envisage a role in finance?

For quite some time, the finance function and the financial services industry overall has not been viewed by younger generations as an attractive career opportunity. But there are signs that’s changing. For example, 78% of the more junior finance practitioners who participated in Accenture’s survey of finance professionals said there has never been a more exciting time to be in the industry. And, 81% of finance executives think storytelling is an essential skill for today’s finance professionals, pointing to a more relationship-oriented business approach―which appeals to younger people.

As the finance function and the financial services industry develop a reputation as innovative enablers, more talented young professionals will want to join the industry. HR professionals can help paint that vision.

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

For a look at this research through an insurance lens, you can read Jim Bramblet’s coverage here.

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