The CFO Is The Voice Of Reason In Business

George T. Taft

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Some CFOs say that Accounts Payable should merely be processing transactions but I say it is contributing to the value creation in the company and should be considered a profit center. Watch me debate this with Ernie Humphrey on 27 January from 17-18 CET. You can sign up for free here.

Lately, I have been writing and sharing a lot about the evolution of the CFO role. There is one word that keeps popping up in the comments. That is “Integrity”. In an attempt to become a strategic business partner, it seems that many people feel this word and fiduciary responsibility is often forgotten. Nothing could be more wrong but rather it should be table stakes for even holding the office of the CFO. 

That means when we list the main qualities of a CFO such as being financially savvy, transformational, influential, and social, integrity is often left out. That is by design though since cannot be a CFO (let us not even mention a good one) of you do not have integrity. You can tour some of the reactions to a recent CFO post of mine here.

Still, while we talk about the evolution of the role let us once and for all agree that having integrity, being ethical, and contributing with objectivity in decision-making is a fundamental responsibility of the CFO and by extension the finance function. We will therefore explore this topic in-depth in this article. 

What CFOs bring to the table 

The CFO role is in constant evolution and often we discuss all the added elements that CFOs need to deliver on. Recently, I published my latest article on CFO types now depicting eight specific types. However, at the core, CFOs still bring financial expertise to the table. After all, this is the CFOs unique strength. In addition, CFOs have the advantage that they often do not make any direct business generating decisions. In some ways, this allows them to step out of the decision-making process and consider the decision from a different perspective. They can look at any given decision with objectivity using the below model.

Any decision made in the company should come with options that each have risks attached. Discuss the options available and identify all associated risks. Once done, start to maximize the likelihood of the options materializing and mitigate the key risks. In this way, CFOs ensure that their companies will always make better decisions. 

CFOs must go further though than simply considering decisions from an economical perspective. They must also ask and question if it is “the right thing to do”. Here are some of the things to consider.

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Ideally, everyone else in the C-suite and the rest of the company will act with these considerations in mind as well. Still, we know that when the pressure to perform comes around some people will just cut corners. CFOs and by extension the finance function are there to see it through it. We must be the voice of reason in the business! I know it can sound boring and potentially destroy some value in the company. The alternative is worse though as we have seen through numerous accounting and business scandals. 

What are you bringing to the table? 

CFOs play a very important role in the company and so does any finance professional by extension. We must always consider carefully what it is we bring to the table and how can we contribute to making the best possible decision in the company. It is not an easy role and often we might feel we are not being listened to. In that light, becoming a true business partner becomes much more important. If we build strong relationships with business stakeholders, they will listen to us even they do not like to hear what we have to say. 

What are you bringing to the table and are you remembering your responsibility of being the voice of reason? If you are a trusted partner you will gain more respect by bringing up the tough topics so, do not hold back. It is so easy to always say “Yes” but do understand that saying “No” in the right way helps you to develop an even stronger influence on the decision-making process!

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You can read previous articles in my CFO series below.

Agility And Sustainability And The 8 Types Of CFOs

CEO AND CFO – The Most Dynamic Duo In Business

If you want to become a better business partner you should consider taking our online course “Business Partnering Explained – Value Creation Unlocked” to get a better handle on the role. It’s accredited for 5.5 CPD hours.

You can read a lot more articles about FP&A, Business Partnering, and Finance Transformation below. It all start’s with “Introducing The Finance Transformation Nine Box” where you set the ambition for your transformation. You should join the Finance Business Partner Forum which is part of the Business Partnering Institute’s online community where we will continue to discuss this topic and you can click here to follow me on Twitter.

All Successful Business Partners Are “Leaders” (the last article in the series about our new capability model)

Should We Keep Talking About Business Partnering? (part of a 17-article series where we deep-dive on the WHY, WHAT, and HOW of business partnering by putting it on a formula)

Your Journey To Successful Business Partnering Explained

How To Create Value Through Business Partnering

Everyone Can Adopt A Business Partnering Mindset (part of a six-article series about FP&A Business Partnering)

From Business Partner To Working Within The Business (part of an article series where I interview finance professionals about their careers in FP&A and Business Partnering)

Is Your Product Optimized For Value Creation? (part of a toolbox series where we look at wha
t tools FP&A professionals should leverage to drive value creation)

How Business Partners Turn Analysis To Insight (part of case study series where I interview business partners about how they drive value creation using real cases)

The Future Of FP&A: Two Ways To Take The Reins

What Is The Accounting Profession Paradox?

What Defines A Finance Master?

The New Career Path For Finance Professionals

How Finance People Can Be More Successful

The CFOs Roadmap To Transforming Finance

How To Become A Finance Business Partner

Financial Analyst vs. Finance Business Partner

Finance Business Partner Is A Bullshit Job

How Business Partners Keep A Plan On Track

Anders Liu-Lindberg is the co-founder, COO (Chief Operating Officer), and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) at the Business Partnering Institute and owner of the largest group dedicated to Finance Business Partnering on LinkedIn with more than 9,000 members. I have ten years of experience as a business partner at the global transport and logistics company Maersk. I am the co-author of the book “Create Value as a Finance Business Partner” and a long-time Finance Blogger on LinkedIn with 50.000+ followers.

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Anders Liu-Lindberg

Anders Liu-Lindberg

Leading advisor to senior Finance and FP&A leaders on how to succeed with business partnering | Interim Business Partner and Controller who drives value creation through role modelling

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In an attempt to become a strategic business partner, it seems that many people feel this word and fiduciary responsibility is often forgotten. Nothing could be more wrong but rather it should be table stakes for even holding the office of the CFO.

That means when we list the main qualities of a CFO such as being financially savvy, transformational, influential, and social, integrity is often left out. That is by design though since cannot be a CFO (let us not even mention a good one) of you do not have integrity.

Still, while we talk about the evolution of the role let us once and for all agree that having integrity, being ethical, and contributing with objectivity in decision-making is a fundamental responsibility of the CFO and by extension the finance function.

We will therefore explore this topic in-depth in this article. Do you think you can be a CFO if you are not the most objective person in the room?

#finance
#accountingandaccountants
#financemaster

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