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Study: Facing Forward – The Evolution of the Modern Finance Leader

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4 Trends on the Emerging Finance Leader’s Shifting Role

The role of the finance leader is evolving — with the last few years in particular seeing a clear shift from financial guardian to strategic partner, and key adviser, on the future direction of the business. More and more, finance leaders find themselves alongside business leaders at the heart of the organisation — not just monitoring and reporting on revenue, but actively seeking out opportunities to grow it.

But are they willing participants in this shift? And do they feel supported to embrace it fully? Finance leaders are not handing over financial guardianship; they are instead being asked to add "business growth" to their increasing list of responsibilities. Their role may have become more integral to the success of the business than ever, but expectations about what the finance leader can achieve seem to have grown accordingly.

To learn more about the role of the modern finance leader, we gathered views from 200 CFOs and financial directors from across the UK, exploring everything from the roles they perform, to the issues that cause them concern. The results were decisive, providing a clear indication not only as to the mindset of the modern finance leader, but the potential impact that the evolution of their roles could have on the wider business. 

The Forward-Facing Finance Leader: 4 Trends Uncovered from the Study

  1. Great Expectations—The face of finance is changing at a rapid pace. Ninety-seven percent of the finance leaders we consulted believe their roles have changed within the past three years.
  2. Under Pressure—Finance leaders are pressured to do more with less. Fifty-three percent of respondents think their business will make a major mistake due to strained resources.
  3. Smarter Decisions—Finance leaders must fuel growth with data. Eighty-four percent felt technology solutions were critical to fulfilling their responsibilities.
  4. High Risk—Finance leaders face the danger of conflicting priorities. Ninety-one percent of the finance professionals consulted think their job is more difficult than it was three years ago.

The results of this survey allowed us to derive three key insights about the future of finance organizations:

1. Financial leaders must be armed with the right tools and talent

If organisations want - and need - their finance leaders to do and achieve more, they also need to arm them with both the skilled professionals and the analytical tools they need to make the most advantageous decisions. We see clear evidence that mounting pressure on Finance Leaders could lead to significant issues if left unchecked, but this pressure cannot be relieved without investing in the insight and expert analysis needed to provide them with the certainty that they are making the best choices for the business.

2. Business growth and protection are not at odds, but data is key

Finance leaders are clearly concerned that they are being pulled in two directions at once, serving not just as a defender against risk, but as an ardent seeker of new opportunities and revenues as well. Contrary to appearances, these goals are not diametric opposites, nor does the pursuit of one make an impossibility of the other. Protection and growth can go hand-in-hand, but only when they are underpinned by educated, fact-based decision-making. If finance leaders are to fulfill this twofold objective, they must gain support for the data and analytical capabilities needed to empower their insight.

3. Data must be used to manage risk via smarter decision making

Too many finance leaders stress their concern about their organisation’s exposure to risk as new deals and revenue streams are chased down. Risk itself is not the issue; any transaction carries some degree of exposure. But when so many senior finance professionals say that they are uncomfortable about the levels of liability resulting from new or, even worse, existing business, some readjustment is clearly required. Risk is merely the inverse of certainty, and certainty can be built by eliminating the unknown. Many finance leaders speak to the importance of smart decision-making, and establishing an environment in which exposure to risk is limited by informed and strategic choices is essential.

No one else can offer quite the same degree of strategic insight as the financial leader. However, the challenges they are now facing, such as being able to respond quickly to local and global events that may impact their businesses, require unique and data-inspired solutions. To read more about these findings, check out our infographic or download our Facing Forward study.

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