The role of a CFO is evolving beyond traditional financial oversight and management. CFOs are embracing a more strategic, holistic involvement in driving organizational growth and enhancing operational efficiency. Modern CFOs are leveraging technological advancements, like big data and analytics, to optimize financial processes, inform strategic decisions, and contribute to discussions on customer experience and product development. Fintech Review asked a few questions to Claire Bramley, CFO at Teradata, about the role in this new era.
How can today’s CFO do more with less?
As a functional CFO, I think about the people, processes, and technology. That means ensuring we have the right people with the right experience on the right teams, and ensuring they are getting the support and development opportunities they need. It’s also looking at how we can leverage automation technology and improve our processes end-to-end to make sure we’re doing things in the most efficient way. I focus my priorities within these three areas so that we can enable the business.
Also – have confidence in your team. In my role at Teradata, I not only oversee our finance operations, but I’m also responsible for our security and IT functions, as well as procurement and real estate. Coming into the role, the biggest initial hurdle was shoring up my subject matter expertise in IT and security. In this situation, not being the most knowledgeable person in the room can be a good thing. It both humbles you and sharpens your confidence in your team. One of the biggest benefits of having end-to-end responsibility in a big organisation is that it’s much easier to operate since there are fewer people to influence and involve in the decision-making process as it’s all within one team. And with time and hard work, you can add enormous value as the overall decision maker.
Finally, it’s great to have ambitious 6-to-12-month plans, but also recognise it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do everything you set out to. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and prioritise the three or four things that will have the highest impact.
How do you show value impact across the business?
Let data tell the story. You need to intimately understand the business and its financial fundamentals to add value. But don’t rely on assumptions or explanations for why something didn’t turn out as expected. Dig down to the next level of detail and make sure there’s data to support it.
It’s important for me to have a dashboard to ensure that we base all our assumptions and forecasts on data and analytics. A dashboard enables me to get an accurate picture of the financial health of the business every week, month, and quarter. Understand and answer questions such as: What is in the pipeline? Where’s growth coming from? How can we expand with our existing customers? How can we attract new customers? What do we need to do to ensure that we’re not losing existing customers?
However, one area people tend to underestimate early in their financial careers is the importance of communication. I’ve seen situations where the message didn’t land or people didn’t quite understand the impact, and important information wasn’t understood or used. Ultimately, if the audience doesn’t “get it,” then it’s wasted.
CFOs are instrumental in decision-making and are a catalyst for change when it comes to key strategic business decisions.
Where is the role of a CFO headed in 2024?
Of course, as a CFO, my primary task is to manage financial operations. But it’s increasingly important to also be a strategist and partner who contributes to overall company direction.
I strongly believe that we, as CFOs, must develop strong relationships with our business partners to accomplish tasks effectively. I’m spending more time talking to my team and the business about the value that we bring together. How we collaborate, and making sure that we’re both focused in the right areas with the mindset of continuous improvement.
A key part of that mission is to instill a healthy financial mindset throughout the organisation that helps the whole business perform better and to develop our cross-functional relationships so we can work more efficiently.
In today’s global – and virtual – business landscape, the modern CFO enables people to thrive in whichever working environment they are in, whether they are working remotely or in the office.
The way we work has fundamentally changed, what do CFOs need to do to optimise those connections and relationships?
Over the last couple years, so many people are reflecting on their careers and what kinds of people and company they work for. They are factoring in flexibility, company culture, diversity and inclusion, and ESG more than ever. Understanding and believing in the company’s mission and values link to engagement. When people understand how their role contributes to the overall mission and purpose of the company, it’s really motivating.
As a leader, the people are everything to me. It’s not a one-person show. I’ve genuinely felt the power of the team, and that nearly anything is possible when we’re all moving forward together. To get there, people need to feel valued, supported, and engaged in their work.