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CFOs Use Data to Speed Business-Wide Productivity Decisions

Today’s CFOs are tasked with a threefold agenda: maintaining differentiation, attracting strategic partners and managing capital. 

And with annual budget season in the recent rearview mirror, the importance of focusing on initiatives that create the most value is top of mind for finance teams.

“What’s important is to stay focused and support that through analytics and determining what will drive the most value the quickest, and making your decisions based on that,” Anna Brunelle, CFO at May Mobility, told PYMNTS for the series “Day In The Life Of A CFO.”

“In a crowded market, getting to your goal first in terms of utilizing resources is important,” Brunelle said.

“Everyone in the function, whether it’s the executive team, middle management, the finance team, is constantly working to find ways to be as efficient as possible and use our resources to meet those focused goals,” she added. 

The autonomy space, where May Mobility sits, is undergoing a period of consolidation with many companies having struggled to bring their technology to fruition, leading to closures and acquisitions.

Given this ecosystem backdrop, Brunelle highlighted the importance of having differentiated technology and providing products that are ultimately indispensable to customers’ businesses.

May Mobility, she noted, stands out in the autonomy space due to its micro-transit approach within autonomous vehicles (AV).

“We’ve raised 300 million to date versus the billions that the other companies are spending. And I think that’s because we made a decision to invest in a multi-policy decision-making technology versus a monolithic stack, and we’re able to develop better technology with fewer resources,” Brunelle said. 

Activating Advanced Technology to Accelerate Growth 

One of the crucial roles of the finance team is driving efficiency and supporting other departments.

Increasingly, digital solutions are one of the best tools at the disposal of data savvy CFOs.

“Walking into a very technology-forward company that realizes the value of data has just been a blessing for me versus walking into a young company that is maybe under invested in that way,” Brunelle explained. 

She noted the importance of transitioning from data management to providing predictive insights — particularly when helping other organizational functions run scenarios, make informed decisions and achieve their goals more effectively. 

“I believe in our lifetime, not just automobiles, but every piece of moving machinery on the face of the earth will be automated. And the smart infrastructure that oversees it and supports it will also be automated,” Brunelle added. 

Within the finance department specifically, “getting the wheels on the bus is the most important part,” she said. “As a CFO, being on top of current technology is really important structurally for so many areas of the business.”

“Once your basic balance sheet blocking and tackling is covered, you can look forward in other ways and use data to make better decisions and come up with the best way to spend your money most effectively,” Brunelle said, emphasizing that by moving beyond data management to insight-driven analysis, firms can be predictive about both their operating results and investments. 

The Pivotal and Dynamic Role CFOs Play

Steering companies through dynamic macro environments, like the one we are currently in, is never something that should be handled alone or in silos. 

Reflecting on the evolving role of CFOs, Brunelle said she sees their core responsibility as driving value and making other teams successful.

The CFO serves as a truthteller within the company, ensuring transparency, and a storyteller externally, communicating the company’s vision and potential to investors as well as playing a crucial role in strategic decision-making.

“The CFO’s role will always be the same, which is to drive value and to make the other teams as successful as possible with the goal of driving value,” Brunelle said. “Everything that we do has to be with that goal of driving shareholder return … That same formula will always apply regardless of the internal external pressures or the tools that are available to us to achieve those goals.”

When it comes to the potential of generative artificial intelligence (AI) within the finance function, Brunelle highlighted the role AI can play in increasing productivity.

“We want leadership using it to create productivity across the company,” she said, while cautioning against creating unnecessary work.

Brunelle underscored the potential AI has to make individuals significantly more productive and said she sees opportunities for its internal and external deployment. 

“If you win on technology, you’ll win on market,” she said.