Future of the CFO: From Number Cruncher to Value Driver
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.
In today’s fast-paced business landscape, a company’s chief financial officer (CFO) is more integral to operations than ever. In fact, about 41% of CFOs spend the majority of their time on non-finance related activities, fueling data-driven decisions across the business.
The only problem? Leaders outside of finance still see CFOs contributing the most value in traditional finance areas, such as accounting and controlling.
Today’s infographic from Raconteur explores the expanding scope of CFO responsibilities, as well as the perception gap between CFOs and non-finance leaders when it comes to the former’s primary value-driving activities.
The CFO’s Expanding Role
Traditionally, the CFO was focused on financial reporting and issues such as compliance, accounts, and taxation. However, the scope of a CFO’s duties has increased dramatically in recent years. Thanks to technological advances, CFOs are now able to access massive amounts of data on their organization’s operational and financial performance.
“This puts the finance function at the heart or, arguably, the mind of the business from the outset, with many now being crowned as the ‘stewards’ of the long-term enterprise vision.”
—Robin Bryson, Interim CFO at Impero Software
Armed with data, CFOs can help predict headwinds, forecast performance, and make informed decisions across departments. In a global survey, McKinsey asked finance leaders about the breadth of their responsibilities. Of the CFOs who said they spend they a majority of their time on non-finance tasks, here’s where their attention is focused:
|Activity||% of CFOs Focused on Activity|
|Big data and analytics||20%|
|Other (e.g. risk management)||5%|
However, other business leaders remain in the dark about this broader role.
While the CFO’s job description has evolved considerably, outside perceptions of it have not. In a survey of both CFOs and non-finance leaders, there is a clear difference of opinion with regards to where financial leaders create the most value:
|Areas in which CFOs have created the most financial value||% of CFOs who agree||% of others who agree|
|Traditional finance roles||33%||47%|
|Speciality finance roles||30%||27%|
|Cost and productivity management||26%||42%|
|Support for digital capabilities and advanced analytics||15%||10%|
|Mergers and acquisitions (including post-merger integration)||14%||23%|
|Pricing of products and/or services||10%||8%|
|Management of activist investors||3%||3%|
CFOs see their largest contributions in the areas of performance management and strategic leadership, while others still consider the CFO’s value to be derived primarily from traditional finance and cost/productivity management.
How can CFOs demonstrate their increased responsibility to leaders outside of the finance realm?
Closing the Gap
According to McKinsey, CFOs can demonstrate their expanded role in three main ways:
1. Actively head up transformations.
While CFOs are already playing a role in transformations, non-finance leaders are less likely to perceive them as making strategic contributions. CFOs also tend to initiate the most transformations in the finance function alone.
To change perceptions, CFOs can lead enterprise-wide transformations, and communicate their strategic value through activities like high-level goal setting.
2. Lead the charge towards digitization and automation.
Few organizations have initiated the shift in a substantial way, with only ⅓ of finance respondents saying their companies digitized or automated more than 25% of their work in the last year.
However, the payoff is well worth the effort. Among those that have undertaken this level of change, 70% reported modest to substantial returns on investment.
3. Develop talent and capabilities across the organization.
CFOs have begun increasing their value through talent-building, but there is still a significant amount of room for further growth.
For example, CFOs can build capabilities during transformations, teach financial topics to non-finance leaders, and develop top talent across the organization.
Through these various strategies, CFOs can foster collaboration and understanding between departments—and succeed in their broader roles.
Companies Gone Public in 2021: Visualizing IPO Valuations
Tracking the companies that have gone public in 2021, their valuation, and how they did it.
Companies Gone Public in 2021: Visualizing Valuations
Despite its many tumultuous turns, last year was a productive year for global markets, and companies going public in 2021 benefited.
From much-hyped tech initial public offerings (IPOs) to food and healthcare services, many companies with already large followings have gone public this year. Some were supposed to go public in 2020 but got delayed due to the pandemic, and others saw the opportunity to take advantage of a strong current market.
This graphic measures 68 companies that have gone public in 2021 — including IPOs, SPACs, and Direct Listings—as well as their subsequent valuations after listing.
Who’s Gone Public in 2021?
Historically, companies that wanted to go public employed one main method above others: the initial public offering (IPO).
But companies going public today readily choose from one of three different options, depending on market situations, associated costs, and shareholder preference:
- Initial Public Offering (IPO): A private company creates new shares which are underwritten by a financial organization and sold to the public.
- Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC): A separate company with no operations is created strictly to raise capital to acquire the company going public. SPACs are the fastest method of going public, and have become popular in recent years.
- Direct Listing: A private company enters a market with only existing, outstanding shares being traded and no new shares created. The cost is lower than that of an IPO, since no fees need to be paid for underwriting.
The majority of companies going public in 2021 chose the IPO route, but some of the biggest valuations resulted from direct listings.
|Listing Date||Company||Valuation ($B)||Listing Type|
|21-Jan-21||Hims and Hers Health||$1.6||SPAC|
|05-May-21||The Honest Company||$1.4||IPO|
|07-May-21||Blade Air Mobility||$0.83||SPAC|
|29-Sep-21||Warby Parker||$6.0||Direct Listing|
|27-Oct-21||Rent the Runway||$1.7||IPO|
Though there are many well-known names in the list, one of the biggest through lines continues to be the importance of tech.
A majority of 2021’s newly public companies have been in tech, including multiple mobile apps, websites, and online services. The two biggest IPOs so far were South Korea’s Coupang, an online marketplace valued at $60 billion after going public, and China’s ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing, the year’s largest post-IPO valuation at $73 billion.
And there were many apps and services going public through other means as well. Gaming company Roblox went public through a direct listing, earning a valuation of $30 billion, and cryptocurrency platform Coinbase has earned the year’s largest valuation so far, with an $86 billion valuation following its direct listing.
Big Companies Going Public in 2022
As with every year, some of the biggest companies going public were lined up for the later half.
Tech will continue to be the talk of the markets. Payment processing firm Stripe was setting up to be the year’s biggest IPO with an estimated valuation of $95 billion, but got delayed. Likewise, online grocery delivery platform InstaCart, which saw a big upswing in traction due to the pandemic, has been looking to go public at a valuation of at least $39 billion.
Of course, it’s common that potential public listings and offerings fall through. Whether they get delayed due to weak market conditions or cancelled at the last minute, anything can happen when it comes to public markets.
This post has been updated as of January 1, 2022.
Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2022
We analyzed 300+ articles, reports, and interviews to answer the question: is there any consensus on 2022 predictions? Here are the results.
What the Experts See Coming in 2022
Even at the best of times, it’s human nature to want to decode the future.
During times of uncertainty though, we’re even more eager to predict what’s to come. To satisfy this demand, thousands of prognosticators share their views publicly as one year closes and another begins. In hindsight, we see varying levels of success at predicting the future.
In truth, experts are merely guessing at what will happen over the coming year. In 2020, almost nobody had a pandemic on their bingo card. In 2021, NFTs completely flew under the radar of experts, and nobody saw a container ship get lodged in the Suez Canal in their crystal ball.
So, why should we pay any attention to predictions at all? Are they, as Barry Ritholtz says, “wrong, random, or worse”?
For one, these guesses are backed by expertise and experience, so the accompanying analysis is informative. Perhaps more importantly though, influential people and companies are in a position to shape the future with their predictions. In some cases, sentiment and actions can turn a prediction into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Regardless, whether for research or pure entertainment purposes, we’ve sifted through hundreds of reports, interviews, and articles to see which predictions are generally the most agreed upon. Where do experts see the ball moving over the next year? Our bingo card sums up the top 25, and below, we’ll dig into some of the trends that could shape 2022.
Vibe Check: What’s the General Outlook for 2022?
Based on the hundreds of predictions we analyzed, the general mood can be described as cautiously optimistic.
For starters, the global economy will likely keep growing, but not at the rate it did in 2021. We aggregated 40+ predictions from reputable sources such as the IMF and Goldman Sachs to determine median GDP estimates for the world, and select regions:
|Country / Region||Median GDP Estimate|
Next, there’s broad agreement that monetary policy will begin to tighten over the next 12 months. Here’s what major central banks are predicted to do:
Multiple experts described an era of lower equity returns and increased volatility. Many of the issues that plagued 2021 have carried over into 2022.
Technological disruption continues to reshape industries, and climate change and cybersecurity issues will be top of mind this year. Geopolitical tensions are heating up as well, now that countries have acclimated to the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic.
In short, nobody expects 2022 to be uneventful.
Trends that Will Shape 2022
Some of the predictions above are straightforward. GDP targets and explicit binary statements don’t require too much explanation.
Below are some of the predictions experts agreed on that are worth digging into in more detail:
1. Geopolitical Tensions Will Flare Up
There are a number of potential hotspots around the world, but here are a few that experts are watching in 2022.
Iran: Tensions ratcheted up between the U.S. and Iran after an attack on a U.S. military base in southern Syria in the fall of 2021. Further, the tension between Iran and Israel has the potential to escalate further in 2022, drawing in other nations in the region into a conflict.
Ukraine: This is a continuation of tensions that flared up after Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and Ukraine’s position as a key gas transit hub makes this a situation experts are watching very closely.
Taiwan: The risk that China will make a move on Taiwan has elevated in the minds of experts, though actions may contain “more bark than bite”.
2. China’s Rocky Start to 2022
At the dawn of 2021, many of the predictions around China were largely optimistic as the country had entered a recovery phase sooner than the rest of the world.
Fast forward to 2022, and the predictions are the polar opposite as China faces challenges on a number of fronts. To begin with, there is pessimism around China’s zero-COVID strategy, which even today sees entire cities fall under strict lockdown orders. This strategy has unavoidable economic impacts.
Secondly, uncertainty around power shortages, a potential housing crisis, and regulatory crackdowns have dampened enthusiasm for the country’s near-term prospects.
Finally, Xi Jinping eliminated term limits on the presidency in 2018, potentially positioning himself to lead China indefinitely. As the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Party Congress approaches later in the year, if the country is still on uncertain footing, it could create a tense political atmosphere in Beijing.
3. The Year of the Worker
Labor dynamics have stayed in the spotlight since the pandemic upended the world of work. There are a number of trends that emerge from this broader theme:
- The labor shortages that emerged during the pandemic will remain in place in 2022 and beyond. Certain sectors, such as cybersecurity, are facing acute shortages of skilled workers
- There is a broad consensus that the future of office work is “hybrid”. Companies that don’t offer flexibility will face a disadvantage in attracting talent
- The internet and social media have opened up a number of career pathways for individuals to earn an income beyond simply working for a company
- Work/life balance and burnout will be central points in discussions around workplace culture
4. The Changing Digital Ecosystem
If predictions are any indication, we’ll be hearing a lot more about NFTs and Web3. There are plenty of opinions on the former, and they run the spectrum from exuberant to outright bearish. Whether the hype surrounding profile picture NFTs dies down is anyone’s guess, but the technology has opened the door to a lot of experimentation for artists and creators.
On that note, experts are generally excited about the prospects of the burgeoning “Creator Economy”—a catch-all term describing the new technological ecosystem and growing infrastructure that is allowing individual content creators to monetize and flourish.
Another trend that is picking up steam is ecommerce centered around social media. The ability to purchase products straight from influencers is becoming more common on major social platforms, and ecommerce companies are creating more products to support influencers in their marketing endeavors.
5. Inflation Slowly Eases Off
Worries about inflation have always cropped up here and there, but in countries like the U.S., truly damaging amounts of inflation haven’t been seen since the 1980s.
Last year, the narrative changed.
After trillions of dollars of pandemic stimulus and borrowing, inflation suddenly came back on the radar—and it was not “transitory” as early central bank statements hoped. Now, going into 2022, experts expect higher-than-normal inflation levels to continue.
While inflation is expected to have an impact going forward, experts also see it leveling off (relative to 2021) as supply chain disruptions work themselves out.
6. Another Banner Year of Electric Vehicles
As climate change dominates more of the spotlight in 2022, regulatory actions will force automakers to consider the future of their fossil-fuel models.
Even as incentives are slowly rolled back in a number of markets, EV sales are expected to set new records this year. As well, electrification of fleets will be a trend that gathers momentum.
Industrial and battery metals like lithium and cobalt surged by 477% and 208%, respectively, in 2021, a trend that many experts believe will stretch into 2022.
The Good Stuff
Of the hundreds of sources we looked at, here were a few that stood out as memorable and comprehensive:
- Bloomberg’s Outlook 2022: This article compiled over 500 predictions from Wall Street banks and investment firms.
- The All-In Podcast’s 2022 predictions: This lively podcast, featuring Chamath Palihapitiya, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks, and David Friedberg, is always entertaining and informative. In this predictions episode, biggest business winners and losers is great, as is best performing asset.
- Eurasia Group’s Top Risks for 2022: This comprehensive group of articles covers a lot of ground, and offers up some very credible predictions as to what might happen on the world stage this year.
- Wood Mackenzie’s Predictions for 2022: Wood Mackenzie analysts offer 10 predictions for key developments expected in the energy and natural resources industries in 2022.
Lastly, if you’ve found our Prediction Consensus useful, we’re going to be diving even deeper into this subject matter in the coming weeks.
Our VC+ members get access to the whole Global Forecast 2022 series, which features a webinar and additional articles that flesh out predictions for the coming year in even more detail. You can learn more about it here.
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