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The Future of the CFO: From Number Cruncher to Value Driver

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Future of the CFO

Future of the CFO

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
Strategic leadership46%
Organizational transformation45%
Performance management35%
Capital allocation24%
Big data and analytics20%
Finance capabilities18%
Technology trends5%
Other (e.g. risk management)5%

However, other business leaders remain in the dark about this broader role.

Differing Views

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
Performance management39%19%
Strategic leadership39%25%
Traditional finance roles33%47%
Organizational transformation33%21%
Finance capabilities30%15%
Speciality finance roles30%27%
Cost and productivity management26%42%
Support for digital capabilities and advanced analytics15%10%
Mergers and acquisitions (including post-merger integration)14%23%
Capital allocation10%22%
Pricing of products and/or services10%8%
Management of activist investors3%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.

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Business

The Habits of Highly Effective Leaders

This infographic delves into what it takes to become an effective leader, and how those qualities can impact a company—beyond employee satisfaction.

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How Strong Leadership Impacts the Bottom Line

Organizations of all shapes and sizes are under immense pressure to retain good talent.

High employee turnover can directly impact a company’s bottom line—with many studies suggesting poor leadership is one of the main causes.

Today’s infographic from Online PhD Degrees explores what it takes to be an strong leader, and the behaviors of poor leaders that should be avoided at all costs.

In today’s rapidly changing world, how can the qualities of a strong leader positively shape a company’s future?

The Benefits of Investing in Leadership

Effective leadership is worth its weight in gold, with 58% of employees claiming they would choose having a great boss over a higher salary.

Not only that, 94% of employees with great bosses feel passionate about their jobーnearly twice as many as those working for a bad boss. A strong leader increases employee loyalty, creating a conducive environment for reaching a company’s goals.

In fact, research shows that companies with strong leaders are crucial when it comes to outperforming industry competitors and are three times more prepared to react to the speed of change. Moreover, a company with a strong leader is almost five times more likely to have higher customer engagement and retention rates.

How to Lead Effectively

While each company has its own processes and demands different skill sets, there are core behaviors that separate leaders from managers:

  • Clear Purpose: Clearly articulating the company’s future vision to all levels of staff in a clear and concise way.
  • Contagious Passion: While managers light fires under people to motivate them, leaders light fires in people.
  • Self-Accountability: The expectation to work harder than employees and set a standard of excellence.
  • Flexible Determination: Leaders are agile and open to change.
  • Sustainable Outlook: Focusing on long-term goals proves to a team that a leader is invested in the long-haul.
  • Dual Focus: Beyond thinking big picture, leaders provide employees with a clear and actionable strategy for success.
    • Effective leaders are born from this combination of behaviors. However, one of them has the farthest-reaching impact, both on employees and a company’s bottom line: purpose.

      Purpose and Performance

      The Global Leadership Forecast finds that a strong and well-executed purpose can build organizational resilience and improve long-term financial performance.

      effective leadership purpose

      Leaders who amplify an organization’s purpose create a culture of optimism where employees feel safe in proposing new ideas that will shape the trajectory of a company.

      The Future of Leadership

      To stay competitive, continuous learning and re-skilling should be at the heart of every organization’s leadership strategy. Leaders of the future should possess the ability to redesign jobs in a more fluid way and lean in to the changing nature of work.

      “If we don’t disrupt our business, somebody else is going to do it for us.”

      —McKinsey Analysts

      While management is a foundational skill, organizations need to invest in their leaders to ensure constant growth. Embracing the traits of an effective leader can not only provide improved returns—it also empowers organizations to thrive in an uncertain future.

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10 Global Insights into a Transforming World

Every day, global trends are reshaping society and the business landscape. Here are 10 insights into how the world is changing—and where we are heading.

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global trends

10 Global Insights into a Transforming World from 2019

Every day, global trends are reshaping society and the business landscape.

Today’s infographic from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) presents a snapshot of 10 insights into how the world is changing, based on its research work from 2019.

How did we get here, and where are we going?

A Connected World in Flux

Globalization is making the world “shrink” every day, as humans and trade become increasingly connected. However, there are signs that point to a new phase of globalization that is leading to different outcomes than prior years.

1. Globalization in Transition

Global exports are fundamentally shifting. Although manufactured goods are traded at higher volumes, certain services have grown up to three times faster.

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR, 2007-2017) for different sectors are as follows:

SectorsGlobal CAGR (% of GDP)
Telecom and IT services7.8%
Business services5.3%
IP charges services5.2%
Total services3.9%
Travel services3.7%
Financial and insurance services3.2%
Total goods2.4%
Transport services1.7%

This has a profound impact on the mix of industries and countries involved in this shift away from goods and towards services. Asia is coming of age in this phase of the global economy.

2. Asia’s Ascent

Trade with and within Asia is rising, and shows no signs of slowing down. The region’s economic might is growing rapidly, and with higher disposable incomes, consumption is growing too.

In China, there is a new dynamic at play.

3. China’s Changing Relationships

Compared to other developed nations, China’s economy is relatively closed. The country is re-balancing its focus towards domestic consumption and relying less on other countries for trade, technology, and capital.

At the same time, the rest of the world is increasingly exposed and tied to China for the same things—and such unequal engagement has a ripple effect on everything from financial markets to flows of technology and innovation.

Technology and the Future of Work

New technologies like artificial intelligence are sparking new opportunities, but they also raise questions about the future of work across geographies and gender.

4. Increasingly Digital India

As the costs of devices and data plummet, India’s digital adoption is surging—it closely competes with China for the highest digital population across everything from smartphone ownership to social media users.

As mass adoption of digital technologies continues, it is poised to add significant economic value to the Indian economy.

Digital sectorCurrent economic valueMaximum potential value (2025E)
Core digital services
e.g. IT business process management
$115B$250B
Newly digitizing sectors
e.g. Financial services
<$1B$170B

Companies worldwide are also integrating new technologies—changing the nature of work itself.

5. New Geography of Work

By 2030, talent and investment in the U.S. will be concentrated in a few regions—with 60% of job growth coming from just 25 hubs.

Potential Net Job Growth
These are just some examples of places which see double-digit potential net job growth by 2030. However, all regions will face unique challenges in the next decade.

6. Automation’s Effect on Gender at Work

Globally, women and men are at similar risk of losing their jobs to automation by 2030.

  • Women: 107 million FTEs
    Share of female employment, 2017: 20%
  • Men: 163 million FTEs
    Share of male employment, 2017: 21%

*FTE: full time equivalent. Based on midpoint automation scenario.

While everyone needs to adapt in the age of automation, women face more barriers. They spend up to 1.1 trillion hours on unpaid care work, nearly three times that of men (400 billion hours).

Women are also often in lower-paid roles or male-dominated professions. Additionally, many women have less access to digital technology, and limited flexibility to pursue education. These factors make it harder for women to “catch up” and bridge the gap left behind by automation.

Inequalities and Uncertainties

It’s clear that while technology generates opportunities, it also creates new social challenges. Low- and middle-income households face stagnating incomes, higher debt, and rising basic costs.

7. Declining Labor Share of Income

The U.S. labor share of income has been dropping for years—but ¾ of this decline has occurred since 2000.

Labor Share of Income
According to McKinsey Global Institute, boom-bust commodity cycles and rising depreciation are the main factors behind this trend, more so than commonly-cited automation or globalization.

Stagnating incomes mean less purchasing power, while the cost of basics are sharply rising.

8. Changing Consumption Costs

The global inequality gap has narrowed, but within developed economies, it has actually increased.

Technology and globalization have made many discretionary goods cheaper. However, basic costs such as education, housing, and healthcare have ballooned compared to the rate of inflation over the past decade.

Category Inflation
With wages stagnating, the higher costs for basics have eaten into disposable incomes in many mature economies.

A Changing Business World

Global trends drastically influence how companies compete with one another, transforming corporate dynamics worldwide.

9. Corporate Superstars

In just two decades, the distribution of economic profits has been growing increasingly wider. The top 10% of companies (>$1 billion in revenue) brings in an ever-larger share of total profits, while the losses of the bottom 10% share deepen.

  • Average profit per company, 1995-1997
    Top 10%: $0.85B
    Bottom 10%: -$1.02B
  • Average profit per company, 2014-2016
    Top 10%: $1.36B
    Bottom 10%: -$1.56B

*In 2016 dollars. Considers corporations with ≥$1 billion average sales (inflation-adjusted). Sample sizes: 2,450 companies (1996–1997) and 5,750 companies (2014–2016).

In essence, the bottom 10% destroy as much value as the top 10% create—and it has only intensified in 20 years.

10. Latin America’s Missing Middle

Latin America best exemplifies this corporate trend of companies “thriving” versus “surviving”.

Compared to similar economies, Latin American countries lack mid-size companies with over $50M in revenue. The Latin American average for firms per $1T GDP is 65 firms, while 100 firms is the benchmark average.

While Asia’s share of the largest firms is widely distributed across countries, Latin American enterprises are lagging behind.

What does the Future Hold?

CEOs and leaders will need to adapt to the new age of disruption—and quickly. To become a 21st century company, they must ask 10 crucial questions about how they operate in an increasingly complex world:

  1. What is our mission and purpose as a company?
  2. How far do we go beyond shareholder capitalism? How are we accountable to different stakeholders?
  3. Who benefits from our economic success? How?
  4. What is the time horizon for managing our economic success and impact?
  5. What is our responsibility to our workforce, especially given future-of-work implications?
  6. How do we leverage data and technology responsibly and ethically?
  7. What are our aspirations for inclusion and diversity?
  8. What is our responsibility for societal and sustainability issues involving our business, and beyond?
  9. What are our responsibilities regarding participants in our platforms, ecosystems, supply and value chains and their impact on society?
  10. How should we address the global and local (including national) imperatives and implications of how we compete, contribute and operate?

As the 10 insights suggest, global trends are profoundly altering the course of our future. Their impact varies greatly depending on demographics and region.

Everyone—business leaders, policy makers, and individuals worldwide—will need to adapt to the realities of a world in transformation.

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