Accenture: CFOs now critical in company digital strategy

By Kate Birch
The role of Chief Financial Officer is transitioning as CFOs become drivers of strategic change across digital strategy and ESG performance, says Accent...

Organisational disruptions from the pandemic have accelerated a transformation of the chief financial officer (CFO) role. That’s according to new research from Accenture. 

The research finds that recent challenges, including those brought about by the pandemic, have extended the role of the CFO beyond that of a company’s “economic guardian” to becoming a driver of strategic change across both digital strategy and ESG performance.

While 72% of CFOs report they now have final say on the appropriate technology direction of the business, increasingly CFOs are being asked to ensure that their company appropriately mitigates risk by addressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, in addition to security challenges faced by their organisation.

New challenges give rise to a new role

According to the report, titled ‘CFO Now: Breakthrough Speed for Breakout Value’, increasingly organisations are looking to CFOs to spearhead thinking around future operating models and ultimately drive the technology agenda forward with a focus on security and ESG.

“The role of the CFO has further evolved beyond serving as the finance lead to becoming a ‘digital steward’ of their organisation,” states Christian Campagna , Global Lead of the CFO & Enterprise Value practice at Accenture. 

Faced with new challenges spurred by the pandemic, as well as increased digitalisation, market dynamics and fast-evolving consumer expectations, CFOs have been forced to both broaden and transform their roles and must now “execute their organisations’ strategies at breakthrough speeds to create breakout value and success that can be realised across the enterprise”. 

Successful CFOs straddling three key roles

The report identifies an elite group (17%) of CFOs who have transformed their role effectively, pushing the boundaries of their remit and making a durable difference to their organisations, resulting in positive changes to their organisations’ top-line growth and bottom-line profitability. 

These elite CFOs have transformed their role across three new roles, and as such, according to the report, have had the chance to almost double their EBITDA CAGR from 3.8% to 6.9% over the next three years and increase their revenue CAGR from 2.7% to 30.0%. 

CFOs as ‘economic guardians’

Research finds that more than half (60%) of traditional finance tasks are currently automated, exceeding what CFOs predicted back in 2018 when they said 45% would be automated by 2021. 

Despite this digital transformation, less than half (43%) of CFOs surveyed have used advanced financial modelling in the past two years to identify future risks and opportunities, while few use the cloud to provide insight (23%) or identify new value sources (16%). 

According to Accenture, CFOs can unlock the full benefits of digital transformation by collaborating across the C-suite to provide new depths of predictive insights and identify new sources of value across customers, channels and products

CFOs as ‘architects of business value’

Research finds that the majority (86%) of CFOs have increased the frequency and scope of collaboration with C-suite partners leveraging their visibility, analytics and access to data and insights to organisation risk with 88% having introduced new metrics to better leverage finance’s collaboration with and influence on the organisation. 

According to Accenture, by driving end-to-end insights through real-time data and models, successful CFOs are using technology and data to synchronise information across the C-suite. 

CFOs as ‘catalysts of digital strategy’

According to research, 68% of CFOs say that finance takes ultimate responsibility for ESG performance within their enterprise, although 34% cited concerns about data and privacy breaches as a barrier preventing them from realising their full potential as a driver of strategic change. 

According to Accenture, increasingly organisations are looking to CFOs to spearhead thinking around future operating models and ultimately drive the technology agenda forward with a focus on security and ESG. 


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