What makes superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely – Christopher Reeve
CFOs are people who generally occupy a position next only to CEO (read it “power”) and are expected to exercise it with utmost integrity, responsibility, and accountability. With the ever changing nature of business models, technological advancements and the dynamic environment in which an organization operates, the role of CFO no longer remains of a finance controller, rather a strategic business catalyst who is expected to play a pivotal role in not just rescuing companies in the need of emergency but also in partnering with the business in helping them scale. The 21st century has seen a profound shift in the office of the CFO. It has shed its traditional image limited to financial stewardship, safeguarding assets, controls, and governance.
CFOs, today, wears multiple hats and have a broad range of responsibilities. While the emphasis certainly varies by organisation and depends on in part on factors such as the enterprise’s competitive position and the prevailing economic environment — executing through financial analysis, enabling business strategy by leading key initiatives, and developing organisational strategy continues to remain principal activities of any finance head across any geography.
Needless to mention, the current and foreseeable environment is increasingly dynamic, from volatile macroeconomics that impacts input costs to foreign exchange to rapidly evolving client preferences that impact the price/value relationship. Companies can’t operate in isolation anymore, given the competition and the fact that businesses are no longer local. So, increasingly “go-to-market functions” — be it product creation, service offering, marketing and sales or operations — are looking to the finance function to collaboratively help navigate the future from a business strategy perspective. Just like how a Superman is expected to pull a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ and bring out those flashes of cleverness when required, a CFO has to navigate a company through potential risks using his judgment and influence and on occasions display those shades of sheer brilliance during crisis / tough times while handling circumstances of finance and business conflict tactfully.
Merging geographies, increasing M & A activities and associated integration challenges, changing product portfolio and disruptive technologies like SMAC have resulted into complex business environments. Declining turnaround time, increasing pricing pressure and cutthroat competition are resulting into a lot more performance burden on companies. Prima facie, it may look simple in reality it is quite complex – right from juggling through operational challenges to acting as an adhesive agent in getting the other functions to align with the overall organisation’s goals and vision.
A CFO, today, has to juggle multiple balls in the air similar to a superman whose role is to protect people at ‘multiple’ places at the same time from perceived ‘injustice’ while ensuring that he himself isn’t unjust. In today’s rapidly changing environment, CFOs are poised to strike a balance between speedy delivery and being the mature ‘conscience keeper’ and ‘risk officer” for the company.
Although, the position of CFO seems to be glamorous; the level of intelligence and wisdom required, ability to handle stress and consistently perform thereby achieving the larger objective of shareholder value creation is far more daring and demanding.
“With great power, comes great responsibility”
Rupesh is a Bangalore based writer covering topics related to business & economics, finance, tech, and strategy. CA by profession, he is presently working for Infosys Ltd. and knows a thing or two about FP&A, IFRS, MIS reporting, international taxation and revenue assurance. When not doing any of the fancy stuff mentioned above, he can be found with a book in hand, oblivious to his surroundings, unless there’s an Indo – Pak cricket match on TV! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Rupesh_Kalantri.