Chief Executive Insights

CFOs of the Future Need to Hone These 3 Skills Today

CEO and CFO

The pandemic has altered everything about how business is done. To fully reap the benefits of the new digital financial landscape, CFOs need to refresh their current skill sets. Reeducating yourself and adapting to the changing business market starts with brushing up on these three skills.

COVID-19 permanently changed how companies do business. At the C-level, the CFO role has shifted dramatically. Companies expect today’s chief financial officers to serve critical roles in driving financial strategies and optimizing organizational workflows.

These shifts have increased demands on post-pandemic CFOs: 54% of CFOs surveyed by Deloitte stated their CFO job duties have become more involved since March 2020. As a result, many CFOs have begun leveraging technology to eliminate mundane and time-consuming tasks to understand their CFO responsibilities better.

It’s important to note that many of these responsibilities require new and revised skill sets. For example, CFOs tasked with contributing to digital transformation may find themselves in uncharted territory, now looking to solve pain points and streamline financial operations on a technical level with which they are unfamiliar.

CFOs are used to being seen as problem solvers, but the projects they’re assigned don’t align with their past experiences or the experience on their teams.

A recent Gartner survey showed that more than two-thirds of finance industry leaders feel that their teams have a skills gap and that finance employees are underprepared for their new roles in an increasingly digitized world. The fastest way to rectify this issue is for financiers to concentrate on reeducating themselves to meet the evolving role of CFOs.

Why Should CFOs Improve Their Knowledge?

To fully reap the benefits of the new digital financial landscape, CFOs need to refresh their current skill sets. They can make real-time decisions based on live real-time data provided by the technological solutions implemented across their finance departments and teams.

Getting the most value out of data and having that data accessible is pertinent for CFOs being asked to step up to the plate during uncertain times, such as a recession, pandemic, or volatile marketplace.

Additionally, CFOs on top of digital transformation tools are familiar with the most productive finance tech stacks available. The right tech stack can assist with optimizing workflows, integrating directly within current finance and ERP solutions throughout the company, and providing finance employees with unparalleled visibility and access to information.

Employees benefit as well. Employees whose CFOs decide to reeducate themselves gain the advantage of learning from their leaders. This allows them to evolve from finance employees into financial strategists as CFOs proactively share their newfound knowledge and confidence. When employees feel empowered and confident in their skill sets, they’re more likely to be engaged and less prone to leave.

What Skills Do Today’s CFOs Need?

Knowing how important it is for CFOs to reeducate themselves and adapt to the changing digital landscape is one thing, but knowing the best place to start is something else entirely. Exploring essential skills is an excellent place to start for any post-pandemic CFO looking to lead their finance teams into an increasingly digitized and connected world.

Today’s CFOs should possess the following:

  1. Pragmatism
    Being pragmatic is vital for long-term success among post-pandemic CFOs. When COVID-19 hit, CFOs faced enormous pressure to ensure stability in bold yet thoughtful ways.

    That same sense of pragmatism — and the accompanying ability to not jump into impractical solutions out of panic — is just as warranted. Great leaders don’t let ambition or desperation cloud their understanding of what’s realistic. They look for answers based on the information and data they’ve received.

    How can a CFO be more pragmatic? According to Deloitte, learning to ask critical questions is an excellent starting point. Knowing the answers to questions about everything finance, such as related risks and financial controls, can help CFOs offer wiser, more calculated advice. For example, a CFO might decide to replace inefficient, error-filled manual processes with automated alternatives after discussing with team members about workflows and processes that contain needless repetition and redundancy.

  2. Emotional intelligence
    Great leaders need to have social and emotional sensitivity. By being empathetic and making employees feel valued, finance leaders can increase trust and boost productivity.

    It’s worth mentioning that social sensitivity is essential within companies that implement advanced fintech tools, such as AI-enhanced automation software. Many workers often worry that software and systems designed to streamline their workflows and processes will take over their jobs. Therefore, it’s up to CFOs to empathize and keep up team morale by educating employees on how automation and technology can benefit their day-to-day workflows.

    As with other so-called soft skills, practicing emotional intelligence appropriately and effectively takes time to develop for many people, but it’s worth it. This soft skill became especially important after the COVID-19 pandemic, creating room for more human connections between CFOs and their staff members.

  3. Forecasting
    Because other leaders see CFOs as business partners, financial leaders and their employees can also expect to be tapped as economic forecasters. The best way to forecast is by accessing real-time financial data and predictive technology tools that extrapolate and interpret large data pools.

    There’s no question: Real-time financial data makes digital business innovation and transformation happen because it fosters competitive intelligence. Being able to anticipate competitors’ moves immediately, as in the case of price changes and marketing shifts, gives a company a real advantage over its competition. After all, any hiccup or delay can directly hit profitability, particularly in digital environments. Early knowledge of competitor behavior, such as purchasing habits and corporate structuring, can strengthen accurate forecasting.

Figuring out how to forecast means learning how to use modern tech systems properly. Consequently, CFOs should take the time to find out how to customize reports and otherwise tailor the software they use.

The future looks very bright, albeit very different than before, for CFOs ready to rise to the occasion and embark on a mission of reeducation.


Written by Alex Cedro.
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Alex Cedro
Alex Cedro is the senior finance executive at Tipalti, a payment automation software that streamlines the AP and payment management workflow in one holistic cloud platform.


Alex Cedro is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.