Data, Communication, Empathy: CFOs Embrace Leadership Role

Modern leadership requires data, communication, empathy, and above all a holistic view of the business.

Call these pillars the new drivers of success. Increasingly, it is falling to today’s chief financial officers to synthesize them into a strategy that can optimize the business outcomes of their organizations.

“The finance function is one of the roles that sits with a 360-degree view of everything and is the one, at the end of the day, that’s charged with the performance of the business,” Scott Casey, CFO at Robin AI, told PYMNTS for the series Day In The Life Of A CFO.

While in the past finance leaders have traditionally been viewed as stewards of financial data and compliance officers, today’s CFOs are becoming more integrated into the operational fabric of organizations.

Casey’s own career, including roles at MySpaceZynga and Tumblr, reflects this ongoing shift in the responsibilities of the CFO. The role is evolving to take on more of an operational bent, where finance teams are in charge of strategy formation, goal setting and execution across all company functions.

“CFOs are really getting out now into the business and being a business partner with every function at the company to try to help optimize the overall outcomes of the business,” Casey explained.

“Instead of being a passive participant and getting information from the rest of the business, it is key to get out there and work with and really understand what is happening so you can know if what is being done is going to drive numbers that will actually work,” he added. “It has become more imperative to know about everything and be this kind of polymath about the business.”

This is particularly true within the realm of growth-oriented organizations using modern tools and technologies.

The Evolution of the CFO Role: Navigating Growth and Innovation

The emergence of sophisticated tools and digital technologies has revolutionized finance operations. Automation, data analytics and artificial intelligence have all combined to enable CFOs to streamline processes, gain deeper insights and make data-driven decisions with greater efficiency.

“It’s a lot easier to get up and running quickly now with things that give you a much better view of your business,” Casey said. “And those tools have enabled finance to even accelerate the value that they can bring to the whole company.”

There are also macro drivers behind this evolution, and Casey pointed to the necessity for CFOs to possess a comprehensive understanding of the business to forecast its financial trajectory accurately. At the same time, advancements in technology have streamlined operations, allowing for a more agile and informed financial strategy.

“There’s a whole business-facing side of things that if not properly supported with analytics, the company can go the wrong way and not know it’s going that way,” Casey said.

CFOs are using AI and digital solutions to enhance financial planning, forecasting and analysis. These technologies offer opportunities to optimize processes, improve accuracy and uncover valuable insights, ultimately driving better decision-making and business performance.

“As the CFO, you need to be out in front of where the business is headed,” Casey said. “That takes visibility and thinking and planning ahead to where you want your organization to be in a year, and getting those capabilities in place so that you’re not behind the curve as the company starts to scale.”

Breaking Down Organizational Silos With Integrated Communication

But all the intelligence and analysis in the world means nothing if it can’t be effectively socialized across the organization and understood by leadership.

As emphasized by Casey, CFOs are increasingly required to collaborate across departments, breaking down silos and fostering a culture of integrated decision-making. This multidisciplinary approach ensures alignment toward common goals and enables more holistic business strategies.

“It’s all about helping facilitate a truthful, objective view of what’s happening, which goes a long way toward helping the entire leadership team see things in a common way,” he said. “…It is more imperative for cross-departmental functions to be integrated and communicating with a single language that enables everyone to be aligned about the metrics that matter.”

As organizations continue to evolve, so too will the role of the CFO. Looking ahead, CFOs are poised to become even more integral to the growth and success of businesses. Casey said he anticipates CFOs taking on a more external-facing role, actively engaging with markets, stakeholders and growth opportunities.

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