Date posted: 02/10/2023 5 min read

Why CFOs have to wear three hats

As demands on senior finance executives continue to increase, embracing automation is becoming even more critical. Brought to you by BlackLine.

The pressures on chief financial officers have risen so much since the start of the pandemic that nine out of 10 businesses are now using third-party, cloud-based finance and accounting (F&A) software to cope, a new survey of global finance decision-makers, conducted by BlackLine, has found.

And, of those still to make the switch, 90% are already planning to implement such software soon, as the crippling skills shortage and an average turnover rate of 26% in F&A roles impact the whole industry.

Chief executives in Australia and New Zealand know they must lighten the workload of their CFOs to have any chance of retaining them.

“Most companies are settling back into a more regular rhythm post-pandemic, but the expectations they have of their CFOs have changed for good,” says Rosie Cairnes, vice president for Asia Pacific at BlackLine. “The average CFO today wears three hats: operational, technological and navigational.”

Maintaining operations

Despite taking on a raft of new duties, a CFO still has to continue executing all the ones they performed previously. “Running a finance team that pays suppliers, collects on invoices and delivers reliable reports to management remains a foundational skill set,” explains Cairnes. “The only twist is that a CFO should be able to manage the team regardless of where they’re located. That could be in the office, at home or offshore.”

Shaping technology

Until recently, CFOs had little say in the rollout of IT platforms or enterprise resource planning (ERP). Fast-forward to today, and finance plays a starring role in the transition to cloud ERPs such as SAP S/4HANA.

“Organisations need the finance team to shape requirements, design critical processes and then test and refine them during implementation,” says Cairnes.

“A CFO also needs to have a good understanding of the technologies available to automate finance and accounting so they can build a business case that demonstrates how automation will allow faster and better decision-making in the boardroom. The pandemic taught us that making judgements quickly substantially improves the bottom line.”

Navigating strategy

COVID-19 also showed that, faced with a sea of ever-changing variables, CFOs have to conduct ongoing scenario analysis to remain competitive. Now, with the market stabilising, CEOs want to use these skills for forward planning in other areas, such as acquisitions.

“The number of buy-outs is at an all-time high,” notes Cairnes. “In 2021, the Asia-Pacific region saw US$1.68 trillion in mergers and acquisitions. Many industries are experiencing surges as companies snap up struggling rivals. Others are looking to stave off competition by adding competencies, product lines and sales territories, or searching for economies of scale.”

Speeding up analysis

In such a fast-paced market, finance chiefs are expected to give the green light for major deals with increasingly short lead times. “Once committed, a CFO then needs to consolidate reporting – and, potentially, finance systems – to give the board a clear picture of the consolidated group’s position.”

But delivering real-time data and speeding up the preparation of projected scenarios can only be accomplished with F&A software.

“Automating accounting tasks in finance also makes it easier for the CFO to recruit quality talent,” says Cairnes. “In this tight labour market, automation is absolutely essential.”

Find out more

Download the results of the fourth annual survey of global F&A leaders by independent research firm Censuswide here.