Challenging times build great companies, and periods of accelerated change build agile ones.
When the pace of change picks up, it comes down to an organization’s leadership team to navigate and adapt to rapid shifts, remaining at the forefront of strategic decision-making.
“We’ve all been thrown a lot over the past three to five years,” Momnt Chief Financial Officer Mark Satisky told PYMNTS for the “Day in the Life of a CFO” series. “The pace of change has picked up … It forces you to be extremely nimble and extremely agile.”
Factors such as fluctuating (and record-high) interest rates, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of remote work, and shifts in investor attitudes have necessitated a steady but responsive hand for executives tasked with helping steer their company through turbulent economic waters.
“As these changes ripple through the market … companies need to make sure they are sharp, make sure they are running the business extremely well, being efficient with the capital they use, and making sure they’re focused on the areas that drive the most impact,” Satisky said.
That includes creating or adopting newer, more macro-sustainable business models, he added.
In this environment, the role of the CFO becomes increasingly important, as returns on investment, profitability flywheels and financial growth levers become canon to the rest of the business — as does efficiency capture.
No longer confined to the traditional realm of number-crunching and fiscal oversight, the position of CFO as financial custodian and business partner becomes critical to establishing go-ahead forecasts.
“[Our business] has always been collaborative amongst different teams,” Satisky said. “We’ve built dynamic forecasts and models that allow us to change them on a regular basis without making it a heavy lift. Because assumptions, even those made six or three months ago, change, you have to be able to adapt the business and also be able to adapt your forecast to keep up with that.”
He noted the ongoing shift from bean counter to business partner for today’s CFOs can be a challenging evolution at times, with different responsibilities coming into seeming conflict with each other.
“CFOs have to strike a balance between leadership, strategic thinking and financial stewardship,” said Satisky.
The most successful CFOs, he added, are those who can successfully and adeptly navigate the tension between driving the business forward and ensuring efficient use of capital.
“You want to build a wonderful culture, a collaborative environment, and have all the resources needed to support your team members so that the business can continue to build out great products … but you have to be aware of where the money comes from and where it is going to,” said Satisky.
At the same time, the acceleration of economic change requires proactive decision-making that goes beyond reactive financial management. CFOs must collaborate closely with other C-suite executives, providing financial insights that contribute to strategic planning and positioning the company for resilience in a rapidly changing environment.
Collaborating effectively with the rest of the executive team, and building trust across the organization, are pivotal for making sound, impactful decisions, Satisky said.
“Once you have the respect of your peers and investors, that’s when you can have the most impact within the company to drive more value,” he added.
“The CFO’s role is to make sure that the business is prioritizing the investments that give the highest lift and the most bang for the buck,” he said. “There are so many ways you can automate your business processes, but they should all have an ROI, an owner, a project plan and a prioritization.”
“The CFO needs to make sure that the projects being worked on are being prioritized by the impact to the company they provide relative to the lift it will take to implement them,” he added.
The goal of digital transformation, after all, is to create an environment where systems work together seamlessly, allowing teams to focus on higher-value tasks rather than dealing with mundane or repetitive workflows that require manual intervention.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, Satisky said the technology can be helpful to enterprises in several areas.
Constant learning, adaptability and staying at the forefront of technological innovation are key attributes for CFOs aiming to thrive in the current business landscape.
“A lot of companies are seeing the benefit in software development,” he said. “With a similar size team, you can see a lot more productivity and get a lot more done, which lowers error rates and gets projects done faster. I push our team to look for sort of small, medium and large wins through AI and automation. We are always looking to take frictions out of roles and make jobs more dynamic.”