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The role of Australian CFOs has changed



86% of business leaders believe it’s the responsibility of the CFO to select the best business resources & technology, including those to effectively execute on ESG strategies

Once perceived as the guardians of company funds and in charge of financial reporting and forecasting, 43% of Australian business leaders feel that today’s CFOs are placing greater emphasis on solving business problems, reveals data from Anaplan, the leading cloud-based planning platform.

Over the last year, CFOs have been crucial to helping organisations navigate the pandemic and recovery. This has been recognised by their colleagues, with 70% of business leaders saying over the last 12 months CFOs played a key role in keeping up with regulatory changes and 67% felt they were key in meeting customers’ changing needs as well as facilitating hybrid work.

When reflecting on the past twelve months, almost half (46%) of CFOs found that keeping up with regulatory changes proved to be “extremely challenging” while 36% and 31% thought the same of addressing supply chain shortages and meeting customers' changing needs, respectively. 

This data was revealed in a report commissioned by Anaplan, in partnership with Deloitte, to explore the evolving role of the CFO, and the opportunities that come with this transition. Conducted by The Harris Poll, the survey respondents included more than 100 senior departmental leaders and CFOs across Australia, and 700 total participants globally.

CFOs key to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives

As companies place greater emphasis on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives, business leaders in Australia have high expectations of their CFOs.

86% of business leaders in Australia believe that it’s the responsibility of the CFO to select the right resources to effectively execute on ESG strategies. In the same vein, 85% of Aussie business leaders expect their CFOs to play a key role in setting the business’ sustainability and ESG strategy. 

However, Australian CFO’s self-reflections about the role they’ve played on ESG to date are not aligned with the rest of their leadership teams. While almost four in five (79%) Australian CFOs feel that they have played an essential role in managing their company’s ESG initiatives, only half (52%) of their fellow C-suite team felt the same.

Planning crucial to CFO’s evolving role 

The current business environment requires leaders to be confident in their ability to quickly adjust plans according to ever changing realities. However, planning – and therefore, strategic decision-making - has historically been a siloed and highly manual process. It’s therefore unsurprising that a majority (89%) of CFOs and their senior colleagues agree that recent challenges – such as the transition to hybrid work and supply chain volatility – could have been improved with stronger communication.  

Business leaders must revamp their approach to planning to be more collaborative, agile, and real-time, but the research revealed CFOs and senior colleagues both realise this requires an improvement in people dynamics (89%), technology (79%) and processes (86%). 

In terms of what Australian business leaders hoped to see their CFOs doing, 32% of business leaders said they’d like to see them spending more time collaborating with other business units. 

Commenting on the findings, Andy Thiss, Area Vice President, Anaplan, said, “The role of the CFO has changed immensely as businesses grapple with the many challenges that have been thrown at them these past few years. While their role used to be centred around company finances,      these findings show that there is an expectation for CFOs to stretch beyond that focus, and help the company drive long term goals. From breaking down silos, to navigating uncertainties and meeting ambitious ESG goals, the role of connected planning in assisting CFOs with these challenges is paramount.”

To learn more about the global findings, please visit: https://www.anaplan.com/resources/research-report/awaken-the-potential-of-the-modern-cfo/

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