The CFO of the Future - "Through the eyes of a CEO"

How to summarize a 1,5 hr Breakfast Session with 10 CFO's together with the CEO of one of the most discussed banks of the past year? Let me try to share some key points that have been discussed.

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First of all the starting point of our discussion was a CFO Dinner moderated by Geert Peeters, CFO Metallo Group, early June around "The CFO of the Future". During that session 4 pillars were identified as Critical Key Areas for the CFO's going forward :

  1. Business Partnering
  2. Strategic Direction
  3. Technology
  4. People Management

Each of these pillars were discussed and evaluated trough the eyes of Erik Van den Eynden and the attending CFO's. On the 1st 2 pillars (Business Partnering & Strategic Direction), the CEO and CFO's were on the same page. The CFO is seen as "an extension" of the CEO, (not as a Support Function), ensuring there are "no surprises" and allowing the business to act/switch rapidly. Although regulation and compliance is a non-negotiable base, it was acknowledged that the profile of a CFO will be different when companies are in Transformation or "Running" modus.

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One of the key tasks for a CFO when entering a new company is to take initiative, get out in the business and "claim" his function by translating the company's strategy into measurable and understandable KPI's. The CFO should be a Chief "Common Sense" was one of the remarks :-)

The example where the CFO designs a dashboard for the CEO with to-the-point metrics was sensed as a clear Value Add. That way a CFO can "navigate" the Company as the co-pilot of the CEO.

"The CFO is the Co-Pilot of the CEO"

As to what type of personality should a CFO have, again this was indicated as being different when in transformation or running modus. Very clear was that a Board of Directors should have complementary and different personalities to be successful and a CFO must say NO when needed (each time avoiding surprises).

Whereas this group of attendees were in sync with the 1st 2 pillars, they tend to not agree that the CFO is owner of Technology. In the earlier kickoff session the importance of CFO's co-leading and embracing Automation, Digitization, Blockchain, ... was highlighted as an important and necessary skill for the Future. Surprisingly during this session, Erik Van den Eynden and most of the other attendees were not convinced that the CFO (Finance) should be driving Technology. The more traditional perspective that f.ex. Blockchain belongs to the IT department gained consensus. Interesting thought...

Finally on the last pillar (People Management), the feedback was dual. On the one hand it was considered as a given that a CFO should be a People Manager.

"You don't become a CFO if you're not a People Manager."

Moreover the term was translated into more "Leadership" iso People Management. A CFO should go out as a Leader, tell the company's story and act beyond his own dimension (Finance).

So, I tried to summarize this inspiring 90 minutes in a short reading document. If you want to stay in the loop on our journey with respect to "The CFO of the Future", stay tuned, more impressions will follow later as we touch each pillar separately.

Moreover we are happy to share with you the moderators/facilitators for our next "The CFO of the Future" sessions. If you're a CFO and want to participate, subscribe here.

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