5 things modern CFOs can learn from start-ups

Feb, 15, 2018

Agile, inventive, ambitious: start-ups are most of the time known to be one step ahead of larger companies. Their small size allows them to constantly test & learn and use the last cutting-edge technology. However, start-ups often are keen to share their discoveries with well-established companies that have the actual means to develop them. As a result, every organization can benefit from the best practices they set up!
Today, finance functions are disrupted: less accounting, more strategy but also younger age and better gender equality. The modern CFO is far away from the bookkeeping officer that was once ruling the game. So before you take the tech path, why not take a glance at what start-up CFOs are up to?

 

1. They are fully involved in their company’s strategy and growth

2. They foster digitization and new ways of working

3. They harness the power of data

4. They answer to the company’s specific needs

5. They manage all types of risk

5 things that make a modern CFO

1. They are fully involved in their company’s strategy and growth

Start-ups usually recruit CFOs to secure the company’s growth after a fundraising or to support the wage increase. They choose a young profile, trained in large organizations, to bring a structured vision to the Finance function. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Nomination (B2B information specialist), only 0.7% of start-up CFOs have worked in an audit firm – an experience that was mandatory some twenty years ago.

Nonetheless, they are way more involved in the company’s strategy in start-ups than in large organizations. The survey highlights indeed academic careers that can sometimes be quite far from accounting problematics: the Centrale Paris-Supélec, Telecom Paristech, agronomic sciences… CFOs are becoming strategy-makers working hand in hand with the CEO to grow the business. They focus their attention on the analysis rather than the collection of data to be more efficient, valuable and fulfilled.

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2. They foster digitization and new ways of working

Manage technological changes are one of the CFO’s priorities in 2018[1]. The Financial Officer of the future is younger – almost half start-up CFOs are under age 39 when only 11% of them are in that age group in traditional companies. Hence, he thinks the use of new technologies and the digitization of processes are a necessity. 58% of Financial Officers believe they need to “build their understanding of digital, smart technologies and sophisticated data analytics[2]. It will be particularly critical that they build their understanding of two disruptive technologies: blockchain and robotics process automation (RPA).

More and more CFOs strongly believe that technology could, indeed, be an opportunity rather than a threat. The amount of data, the velocity of communication and potential risks have been a source of stress and vertigo for many years. Though a growing part of the finance community now believe that digital tools can be used to drive cost efficiency, manage strategic risk and even an opportunity to focus on high added value tasks and create value. A vision that we share and thrive at UpSlide!

3. They harness the power of data

CFOs believe that delivering the data and advanced analytics for business intelligence and management information will be a critical capability for tomorrow’s finance function. However, many organizations are struggling to turn the promise of data analytics into the reality of improved performance. This presents an important opportunity for modern CFOs to step in and transform their organizations by turning the promise of data analytics into measurable performance gains. And finance leaders are ideally positioned to define a role for themselves and the finance function that goes beyond pure finance-related data analytics.

“There’s no doubt that CFOs need to be a champion and driver for the use of analytics in all current core financial processes under his or her remit today,” says Chris Mazzei, Global Chief Analytics Officer, EY

As CFOs become more focused on deriving strategic insight from data, they increasingly see the need for investment in the right people, as well as the right technology. The CFO’s next challenge will be to transform the analytics-based insights into actions, and aligning incentives, rewards and measurement accordingly.

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4. They answer to the company’s specific needs

Bye bye well-defined job description! Millennials CFOs jobs are defined by their company’s specific needs. 78% of them believe they will be increasingly responsible for the organization’s ethical concerns. 66% also think they will have to handle way more than financial processes. Only 54% of the baby-boom generation and 61% of the X generation share this vision.

These figures illustrate the profound change revolutionizing the function: CFOs will need to adapt to an environment where the employee’s happiness and the eco-responsibility policy of the company are almost as important as account management.

5. They manage all types of risk

Managing all types of risk – strategic, reputational, regulatory and cyber risk – are growing parts of the finance function, particularly in larger organizations, where 66% say it’s a critical future capability according to EY.

Today, organizations and their finance leaders are challenged by a rapidly changing risk landscape. Finding enough certainty to be able to make decisions in this volatile risk landscape is a major challenge for CFOs, and they are taking an increasing role in risk management.
Relationships are one of these risks, especially when they involve stakeholders. CFOs increasingly have to juggle the requirements of regulators with the demands of investors, and other stakeholders.

A research report from the Financial Executives Research Foundation[3] found that 74% of the companies surveyed are taking action to improve their financial reports. The benefits of doing so included positive feedback from senior management, board members, investors and analysts who found the information easier to read and digest — allowing them to make more informed decisions.

[1] According to Robert Half’s survey “2020: what future for the CFO and the corporate finance?”
[2] Study ” Do you define your CFO role? Or does it define you? The disruption of the CFO’s DNA”, by EY
[3] “Disclosure effectiveness: companies embrace the call to action”, 2015

Author: Léa Faust