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The CFO’s strategic role has never been more important

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 15 Jun 2021

As many businesses begin their recovery from the pandemic, Michael Izza emphasises the fundamental role CFOs will play in driving strategic renewal and reflects on our Business and Management Faculty’s latest research.

The CFO plays a critical role in devising and leading business strategy. They can be a great source of strategic creativity, the provider of strategic analysis and the orchestrator of the strategic process.

As the world emerges from COVID, many companies face a period of recovery and in some cases transformation – caused by changes in customer and employee behaviour, new ways of working and the need to build better resilience for the future. CFOs will be at the heart of this transformation, but they must manage their time and priorities carefully.

ICAEW’s Business and Management Faculty recently published new research into the many strategic roles of the CFO. The Faculty spoke to a wide range of interviewees and distilled the feedback into eight different strategic roles a CFO can take, explaining the relevance and importance of each.

Drivers of the role

How the CFO’s role plays out in practice will depend on several drivers – such as the needs of the organisation and the skills of the CFO and other executives – and understanding these is crucial to crafting the right kind of strategic role.

Many ICAEW members serve as CFOs in a wide variety of businesses, and many others will do so in the future. While they already possess world-leading knowledge and skills and support their organisations in developing and implementing strategy, there is always a need for continuing professional development.

At our recent Financial Controllers’ Conference, over 50% of attendees felt that a mentor would be of most help in developing further their abilities in ‘thinking and acting strategically’. With this in mind, we have developed a number of ideas to help CFOs and aspiring CFOs overcome barriers to taking on a greater strategic role.

ICAEW support

As a CEO, I know how important it is to have the active involvement of a strong CFO in developing and evolving ICAEW’s own strategy. I also know it is not easy. For example, knowing when to support and when and how to challenge, and knowing when to facilitate free-ranging discussions and when to bring people ‘back into step’, requires exceptional judgment and emotional intelligence.

So, we are keen to develop further resources to assist members in developing these skills. You can play your part by contributing to our ongoing research into the CFO and strategy by emailing bam@icaew.com with your thoughts.