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Why CFO should move away from numbers?

Varun Hariharan

| Updated: Apr 04, 2020 | Category: CFO Service

Why-CFO-should-move-away-from-numbers

CFO is an abbreviation for the Chief Financial Officer.  CFOs are more commonly known as Chartered Accountants (CA), Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA), or the Heads of Finance in different countries. They play a pivotal role in an organization.  As a key executive of an organization, their objectives must be in line with the success of an organization.  They act as consultants and provide a wide variety of services for an organization to carry on its business operations.

From the traditional perspective, a CFO/CA performs functions related to accounts keeping and book-keeping.  The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has defined the meaning of CFO/CA as an individual who performs the functions of Management Consulting, Auditing, Book-keeping, Accountancy, and other related works. Over time, these functions have evolved rapidly due to digitization and urbanization.  Apart from the above functions performed by a CFO, they act as a management executive.  According to the Companies Act 2013, the responsibilities of a CFO include management and governance functions in the organization, which is performed by managerial persons. The Act requires a company to have a whole time CFO performing functions relating to finance.

The following are specific responsibilities played by a CFO:

  • Book Keeping
  • Cost Control and Planning
  • Signing off Balance Sheets
  • Auditing- Internal and External Audit
  • Risk Consulting Service
  • Advising management on finance strategies

The above roles and responsibilities are not exhaustive as a CFO has more tasks. Technology has impacted how CFOs work. Various CFOs use traditional methods such as paper-based accounting and number crunching. Using these methods are time-consuming and not productive. Therefore there is a requirement of a CFO to move away from numbers. The need for a CFO to move away from numbers benefits the organization in multiple ways. Some of the methods are as follows:

  • Using Advance Accounting Methods allow CFOs to prioritize their Tasks- Advance systems in place would assist the CFO in concentrating on essential functions of the organization. Having this will ensure that unnecessary time is not wasted. Advance Accounting can make a CFO to move away from numbers.
  • Software methods adopted by CFO can be used anywhere –Using software’s reduces the burden of responsibility on a CFO.
  • Advanced Accounting Methods is comprehensive- An Advanced system provides complex information in a simplified manner. This will help a CFO to move away from numbers.
  • Availability of Real-time information – There is also an added advantage that these advancements provide market statistics and information about changes in the law. Using this process would allow the CFO to move away from numbers.

Hence using advanced systems benefit a CFO to move away from numbers.  There would be a significant shift from traditional accounting methods to modern based practices. With advancement, CFOs have to face a lot of challenges, such as technology and business disruptions. CFOs have to ensure that there is continued compliance with the laws of the land. Apart from this, there is the requirement of a CFO to take part in operations, which will allow reaching specific organizational objectives. Planning and analysis are required for this purpose. These goals will help the CFO to move away from numbers.

As per the requirement of the present era, the expectations of the market have increased. Some of these market expectations are as follows:

  • Risk Analysis
  • An increased amount of monetary compliance
  • Stakeholder Awareness
  • Industry Response
  • Customer satisfaction

India Perspective- CFO to move away from numbers

The Companies Act, 2013, has taken consideration of all the above market expectations, and the responsibility of a CFO has transitioned from the earlier traditional role as per the previous company law. According to the present set of circumstances, a CFO has more responsibilities just than handling accounting and bookkeeping.  A CFO is also responsible for activities such as resolutions taken by the company, stakeholder interests, and corporate social responsibility. These new roles which have emerged with the developed markets allow a CFO to play a more crucial role in the organization. These methods, which are adopted from the legal perspective, would make way for a CFO to move away from numbers.               

However, the above changes, which make the CFO move away from numbers, will not be in line with the trends in the market. Therefore for CFO to move away from numbers there is a requirement of constant innovation, which can be supported by strategic planning and continuous development. 

Challenges faced by a CFO to move away from numbers

Technological Challenges- With the emergence of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Enterprise Resource Planning, and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is a requirement for the CFO to think from a practical perspective of the company. These technologies can be a boon for the organization. However, from a traditional standpoint, CFOs relying on conventional methods are reluctant to use technological processes and software.  From this aspect, it can be seen that the emergence of technology can be a significant challenge to various organizations. The use of technologies is an advantage to the CFO of an organization.

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Lack of Innovation- Organisations are reluctant to adopt new technologies. They are complacent with using traditional methods. Innovation in an organization is required daily. Without change, an organization cannot compete in the present market. Due to this, CFOs are reluctant to adopt new processes. This would be a barrier for a CFO to move away from numbers.

Team processes- It is not just the CFO who needs to be updated with technological and virtual processes of an organization. His employees would also have to be updated with all the methods. Without streamlining the technologies, employees would not have any knowledge regarding the use of this technology. This will pose a significant challenge for the business. Updating the team with relevant technologies is crucial.  Hence there is a requirement to know about analytics, information technology, and other business processes, which make the department more efficient. Using this will help a CFO to move away from numbers.

Knowledge of other departments of the organizations- CFOs not only need to be updated virtually to face market challenges, but they need to have relevant expertise with the operations of other departments in their organization. When coming to Mergers and Acquisition (M & A), Informational Technology (IT), and the introduction of services, a CFO would have to liaise with the respective departments.  A complex M & A would require advice from the CFO on the financial impact of the transaction. Similarly, a CFO learning a new technology would have to liaise with the IT department. Hence apart from the other challenges faced by a CFO, there are departmental challenges also. This is another process that has to be taken into consideration for a CFO to move away from numbers.

Even though an organization faces the above challenges, it is beneficial for a CFO to adopt new trends in the market. This would help the CFO prioritize goals and move away from the traditional aspect of managing finance. These techniques will allow a CFO to move away from numbers.

Advantages of CFO to move away from numbers

Though there are challenges faced by a CFO to adopt technologies such as predictive analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Enterprises Resource Planning processes, there are far-reaching benefits of using such techniques in the market.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The emergence of AI has made humans life simple. Artificial intelligence is a program which is installed in a machine to carry out automated processes. Artificial intelligence is used in many service sector industries. For example, many International law firms use AI for contract management.  AI can review the entire contract and collect crucial information. This would take an individual a lot of time to review.  Similarly, by using AI processes by a CFO would considerably improve the individuals’ performance and management of time.  This would help the CFO prioritize essential tasks and work on them.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – ERP software is used to handle various business processes of an organization. The use of ERP is for collecting information processes on the organization. Such information can be used and managed by the organization.  By using ERP software, a CFO can efficiently manage the business processes of an organization. A CFO can manage information such as finances, payroll, accounting, and cash deliverables with the use of ERP software.

Predictive Analytics Software– Predictive Analytics software is more like behaviour software, which determines the behaviour pattern. This software is beneficial to a CFO for payment and collection processes.  By using this, a CFO can move away from numbers.

Emerging Technologies– Using the above technologies would keep the CFO updated with current trends in the market.

Making Business Decision- Software such as the above would help an organization in the planning process and budgetary control. By adopting this, a CFO can make financial and business decisions that will directly affect the growth of an organization.

Assessing of Risk- Risk Assessment mechanisms would also be available if a CFO adopts various measures. Information regarding market volatility would allow the CFO to analyze the risk posed against the business.

Corporate Governance- Corporate Governance is the relationship between the shareholders, directors, and stakeholders of an organization. Having transparency in an organization is one of the keen factors which thrive in an organization. By using ERP software, a CFO would be able to analyze and manage good governance practices in an organization. Reporting compliance would also be possible with technologies.

Using the above technologies would allow the CFO to move away from numbers. Though there are a lot of challenges in adopting modern accounting and technological practices, the benefits outweigh the challenges. Thereby considering the above current methods will allow a CFO to move away from numbers.

Conclusion

From the traditional perspective, a CFO/ CA carry out processes such as accounting and bookkeeping. Over a period, CFOs faced different challenges, such as regulatory, technological, and market challenges. This has increased the purview of the role played by a CFO in an organization. Company Law in India has taken several considerations regarding the role played by a CFO in an organization. Apart from managerial responsibilities, there are other responsibilities related to reporting and compliance. To add to this, technologies such as AI, ERP, and Software play a significant role in the way a CFO works. The above will help a CFO to move away from numbers, and the role of a CFO does not just deal with number crunching.

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Varun Hariharan

Varun Hariharan has completed the Legal Practice Course from BPP Law School, Manchester. He has a Masters in Commercial and Corporate Law from the Queen Mary University of London and LLB Honours from Bangor University, UK. He specialises in law related to corporate, artificial intelligence and technology law.

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