At a glance
Sonia Kammel FCPA
CFO, Export Finance Australia
The role of the CFO has evolved significantly over the years. No longer is the CFO just a “numbers” person. Today, they are required to have a diverse set of skills to navigate the changing landscape for businesses.
The CFO plays a strategic role in an organisation. This means they must not only possess strong financial acumen, but also embrace and understand changes in technology and data, as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
The CFO must be adaptable and have the ability to pivot with the changing business environment, leading the organisation and team through change. A keen understanding of technology can allow the CFO to transform an organisation.
At Export Finance Australia, we are undertaking a large technology transformation, implementing out-of-the-box technologies with limited customisations. This will ensure that we can support large-scale business growth without the added back-office costs, while also enhancing customer and employee experience. The transformation will lead to more efficient workflows, creating capacity for employees to do more meaningful work, and will deliver a healthier bottom line.
The CFO of 2024 will be a change agent, driving and supporting the organisation through the challenges of the modern business landscape.
This requires strong leadership and a multifaceted focus, driving not only financial health, but also long-term sustainability for the organisation in 2024 and beyond.
Yvonne Chan FCPA
CFO and vice president, Singapore Management University
“CFO” tends to be associated with creating charts and graphs, and working with hard numbers – skills that are normally linked to systematic left-brain processing, which may come across as unfeeling and inflexible.
However, more so now than in the past, the demand is transitioning to skills that use more right-brain processing, such as creativity and human-related skills. The orientation is more on people than on tasks.
Let me name three of the human-related skills – people management, storytelling and business partnership.
First, with more hybrid work, the office has morphed into a place for interactive collaboration such as discussion, brainstorming, training and meetings. CFOs are required to understand individual and team motivations in order to achieve organisational goals and outcomes.
Second, there is a shift to developing a compelling narrative around numbers and graphics. What is the story behind what is being presented? Is it contextualised to the stakeholder that we are speaking with and in a format they understand?
Third is business partnership, to comprehend the industry and unit that we are supporting.
Resources will continue to be limited for competing needs. Hence, it is imperative for the finance partner to be more customer-centric, understand the constraints and help businesses to scale their mountains and jog alongside them, especially during the most difficult times.
The instrumental skills that I will prioritise will be mentoring and coaching skills, as part of people management. Leaders need a team to help them succeed, and keeping the staff constantly motivated is getting more challenging in this fast-paced, tech-heavy environment. We, likewise, need to receive ongoing updates in order to lead the pack.
Rohit Selvaratnam FCPA
Increasing productivity and efficiency gains are likely to be high on the agenda for many CFOs in 2024 as wage costs increase. Process improvements and technology will underpin these improvements. Flexible working is now here to stay. Bringing people and teams together as a collective group adds a new dimension to team management.
A business is not a homogeneous group, and different generations require a different understanding and approach – and perhaps a new culture – to get the best out of people. CFOs who invest more time engaging with their teams and meeting people across the business are likely to see positive results.
Accountants should cultivate a mindset for strategic finance to deliver value to equity and other stakeholders as they progress to the role of CFO.
The ability to add value has helped me to rise through the ranks, but it is important to recognise that adding value takes different forms for different businesses at different stages of their life cycle.
Strategic finance requires a blend of accounting, finance and technology, which needs to be applied to the commercial side of the business. The finance function is a cost centre that enables value across the business, and finance professionals need to work out how they support the business and create value.
In 2024, CFOs will also need to turn more of their attention to ESG matters. This requires more than making positive statements or accounting for the impacts of environmental change, but integrating ESG into the values and culture of the business.
A recruiter's perspective
Director and specialist finance and accounting recruiter, Robert Half Australia
The role of CFO is evolving to encompass a unique set of skills and competencies.
A strong and collaborative relationship with the chief information officer (CIO) is now imperative, at a time when Australia’s technology landscape is developing at an unprecedented pace.
A CFO should work effectively with the CIO to comprehend the significance of various technologies for the organisation and how these can be adopted in their department.
This necessitates curiosity and awareness tailored to the specific industry, as technology is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour.
As a result, CFOs must embrace a “whole of business” mindset, recognising the paramount importance of cyber security.
Protecting the company from threats like ransomware is as vital as optimising the accounts payable process. Additionally, a CFO needs the ability to seek out artificial intelligence opportunities to streamline processes to drive business outcomes.
CFOs must also promote a culture of technological awareness by fostering a learning environment for staff. The expenses incurred in training pale in comparison to the benefits reaped in terms of improved efficiency, innovation and staff retention.