PracticeAccounting FirmsView from the Board: Putting the ‘oo’ in CFO

View from the Board: Putting the 'oo' in CFO

As more and more CFOs make the move across to CEO - ­ the latest being Ray King at BUPA - ­ I thought it would be interesting to look at the trend and see if there are good reasons for it happening

There is a growing commercial focus that is found in most finance roles and I
thought it would be interesting to explore if there’s a connection.

The role of finance has clearly changed in the view of a business.

One of the reasons why the market in the finance community remains so robust
is because business leaders have realised that a good, commercial finance
partner is as valuable as a good salesperson, or a good marketeer.

This has shifted their perception on the capabilities of the finance team.
They now see that the FD is sufficiently involved in the business to pick up
areas outside of finance.

And so like any good CEO, they look to offload the bits of responsibility
that are not as sexy.

This has traditionally always meant IT ­ and most FDs have had responsibility
for IT since CEOs worked out they were able to palm it off themselves.

However, over the last decade the variety of different functions that sit
under the FD has grown dramatically ­ procurement, HR, Legal, Facilities,
Security, Supply Chain, Logistics.

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for the FD to be given general management
responsibility of a smaller part of the business. Why? Because CEOs are
realising that FDs are able to, are good at doing it and will often exploit the
commercial advantages in running these functions better than a CEO can.

So is the CFO becoming the chief operating officer? Well yes, they often are.
They may not get the title, and they may not get paid for doing it, but they are
picking up the responsibilities that traditionally sit under a COO
specification.

How does this help the increasing group of CEOs who are ex-CFOs? Well ­
if the business sees you running half the company, no matter what half that is,

then it’s much easier for them to give you the other half than if you are just
running finance.

So when your boss comes to see you with a glint in his eyes, and offers you

the chance to take over IT, say yes with a glint in yours, because it’s the
first step towards getting the job you really want in the future.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &
Berndtson

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