Next Generation of CFOs Tackle New Challenges With Digital Solutions

Tomorrow’s finance leaders are helping redefine the CFO role as they navigate today’s macro challenges.

This, as 64 companies in the Fortune 500 added a first-time chief financial officer to their C-suite ranks in 2022, per a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.

PYMNTS has covered an ongoing changing of the CFO guard at companies including PayoneerIntuit and Visa so far this year, among others, as historical leaders make way for younger and frequently digital-first colleagues.

That’s because as the future-fit tools and digital resources available to CFOs continue to transform the role, a new generation of leaders are stepping up to leverage them.

CFO Transitions Taking Place During a Time of Broader Economic Change

First-time CFOs are stepping up to the plate when the broader business landscape is being battered by volatile markets, rising interest rates, softening consumer spending and historically high inflation.

While the tumultuous macroclimate may provide an opportune time for finance leaders to cut their teeth and gain valuable experience through on-the-job training, corporate CFOs are also now spending less time in their jobs as responsibilities move beyond finance, as reported on Feb. 28 by PYMNTS.

“I feel like I’m a big sounding board,” Leslie Daniel, who joined Genera as CFO earlier this year, told PYMNTS, “not only for the CEO but also the rest of the team. We really work together. There’s a lot of decisions to be made about what we’re doing.”

As economic uncertainty has businesses increasingly looking inward and finetuning operations, the role of the CFO as a strategic leader has only become more pronounced.

Kevin Held, CFO at Hazeltree, told PYMNTS during a conversation at the start of the year that “finance and accounting teams have become much more of a business partner than just the ‘bean counter’ we were before,” as the role responsibilities of the CFO evolves to include providing greater actionable transparency over cash flow and other strategic needs beyond just cutting costs and approving expenses.

“I’ve compared being a CFO to the idea of a navigator on a plane … You’re constantly making adjustments and covering a broad array of both operational issues,” Jerry Fadden, CFO at direct-to-consumer (D2C) insurance provider Kin, told PYMNTS in a separate conversation.

The financial pressures of the economic reality of the past few years have presented an opportunity for up-and-coming finance talent to step up, particularly internal candidates familiar with their companies’ cultures and business models.

PYMNTS has previously written about how businesses increasingly turn to technology and modern digital solutions to help them be strategically proactive with growth in the face of macro headwinds.

Read More: What 500 CFOs Now Say Is Their 2023 Top Payments Priority

What the rising cohort of newly-minted CFOs may lack in terms of experience, they often make up for in digital fluency and other skills such as a background in data analytics.

“As a CFO right now, I’m focused on creating the foundation that will be put in place to allow for the scale that we’re trying to achieve,” Nathaniel Katz, CFO at Rokt, told PYMNTS in a January interview. “And that comes down to data, that comes down to systems, it comes down to processes.”

Research in “Digital Payments: Changing Economy Sparks New Priorities for Systems Spending,” a PYMNTS and Corcentric collaboration, finds that at least three in five CFOs report that their investments in digital payment processes have improved business operations.

More than 90% of all CFOs expect a global recession within the next year, spurring them to invest in improvements to their digital payments infrastructure.

“Since I began to work in this industry, things have rapidly evolved. Five years ago, no one wanted to pick up your call or answer your email, now people are asking what is AI, how can it help?” Raz Ronen, CEO at Wisor.AI, said in a recent discussion with PYMNTS.

Additional PYMNTS research found a growing interest in consolidating non-payroll spend management into an automated system that leverages AI and machine learning tools.

The unprecedented change in recent years has proven that business and macroeconomic disruptions can come from nowhere and happen at any time, making it crucial for internal leaders to be prepared for whatever may come next.

As PYMNTS has written previously, the challenge for CFOs is always managing enterprise growth with spend. In an economic downturn, it becomes extremely important for business leaders to have a transparent, high-level view of their operations that informs where to continue to invest, where to pull back spending, and how to leverage modern technology to provide an optimal ROI.

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