Financial leadership, redefined

In a changing world, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are changing too. They are acquiring non-traditional skills as companies fast-track investments in new systems and solutions to accommodate new ways of living and working, and while also responding to customers who are increasingly gravitating towards digital services.

A comprehensive research project conducted by Sage in 2022 interviewed finance leaders from organisations located all over the world, including Australia, and found that 78% of them believe that a new breed of CFO is needed to build a successful digital future.

New variations – or personas – of the traditional CFO role are emerging that each deploy unique skillsets to help guide their organisations in meeting the demands of a rapidly changing world. Three key CFO personas have become apparent: Chief Facilitative Officers, Chief Fairness Officers and Chief Future Officers.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these, and the attributes exhibited that finance leaders may already have, or else aspire to.

“Financial leadership today is the most diverse it has ever been. As they evolve, CFOs must blend attributes that allow them to engage in cross-functional decision-making, operate with purpose and future-proof their organisations.”

Jonathan Howell, CFO | Sage

Chief Facilitative Officers

These finance leaders are responsible for making difficult decisions and getting the job done. They can drive change across their organisations, leveraging the influence they have across a range of business units to break down silos and lead impactful initiatives.

They are expected to champion digital transformation, and believe that technological, global and internal issues are holding their organisations back.

The finance leaders who currently possess traits associated with Chief Facilitative Officer are often relatively young, with 21% of them aged 25-34 years. They also tend to be employed at mid-sized organisations with 500-749 employees, which benefit from their versatility.

They are also more responsible for digital transformation (81%), strategy and future planning (80%) and IT and technology purchasing decisions (78%) than those who identify with the other CFO personas.

Chief Fairness Officers

This persona understands that a business is defined by its people, not its profits. Chief Fairness Officers are empathetic and take steps to nurture their organisations’ employees.

Finance leaders with these traits are, not surprisingly, often shouldering the responsibility for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy of their organisations. They proactively seek out ways to improve and measure equity in their organisations. For instance, they are more likely to have removed compensation differences based on employee location (48%) compared to Chief Facilitative Officers (37%) and Chief Future Officers (32%).

More than two thirds (68%) of CFOs aged 25-34 years aspire towards the Chief Fairness Officer persona, compared to less than one third (31%) of those aged 35-44 years. This perhaps reflects increased awareness of employee wellbeing and equality in recent years, coinciding with a new generation of CFOs entering their current positions.

Chief Future Officers

The Chief Future Officer is focused on business continuity, propelled by the awareness that today’s fast pace of business means companies cannot simply react.

These CFOs plan for new technologies, market changes and world events that could impact the operations of their organisation. They tend to think the issues holding their organisations back are the ability to integrate new and emerging technologies, as well as a lack of diverse talent.

Those with Chief Future Officer traits feel ingrained within their organisation and executive leadership team. In fact, over half (58%) say they feel embedded into nearly every facet of business operations, compared to 42% of Chief Fairness Officers and 38% of Chief Facilitative Officers. They generally enjoy consultations with executive leaders at a regular cadence.

Interestingly, 32% of CFOs globally believe their industry is most in need of Chief Future Officers, while only 17% of them currently identify with this persona.

The redefined finance leader

CFOs have embraced non-traditional skills and responsibilities to meet the demands of today’s constantly evolving business landscape. From diversifying their expertise and recruiting the right talent to ensuring they implement emerging technologies and purpose-driven programs, there are a range of ways that finance leaders can ensure their organisations stay ahead of the curve.

One way CFOs are adapting is to nurture the skillsets of new CFO personas, namely Chief Facilitative Officers, Chief Fairness Officers and Chief Future Officers. Which persona do you most relate or aspire to?

To find out more about The Redefined CFO – poised to disrupt and prepared for disruption, visit: www.sage.com/en-au/cp/the-redefined-cfo