CFOs coping with more tasks nowadays, conference told

PETALING JAYA: The role of the chief financial officer (CFO) has evolved, with more companies looking to cut cost and CFOs having to do more compared to before, said Mabel Lau (pic), Standard Chartered’s country finance division CFO.

“The scope of what falls under the CFO has gone very much wider. Some functions outside finance are also now reporting to CFOs due to synergies and partly due to the absence of the chief operating officer’s role in some organisations. So, the mandate has actually gone wider,” Lau told StarBiz at the Finance Transformation & Shared Services Conference, which is organised by Star Media Group Bhd.

“The role of a CFO today is about driving the business forward as a co-pilot together with the CEO to make a difference to the organisation. It is not just about the numbers anymore, but really about giving the right insights to the business, measuring it in the right way,” she added.

Lau also said that a CFO in a bigger organisation had the role of an independent party to ensure that all decisions were made in the best interest of the organisation.

“To be independent is to ensure that the right decisions are made for the firm and not just short-term decisions to meet the budget. It is all about ensuring the long-term sustainability of the business,” she explained.

With this evolution, CFOs and their teams would, thus, not only have to be well-versed in finance but be cross-functional at all times, Lau added.

“You have to be a highly respectable cross-functional leader to drive the firm’s agendas forward. This could be very powerful. The CFO’s voice is powerful, so one has got to use it wisely. A person needs to be fair to identify the reasonable and the unrealistic. You can only be reasonable if you understand the business momentum and drivers,” she elaborated.

This sentiment was also echoed by Microsoft Malaysia’s CFO Patrik Stalberg, noting that the role has evolved for a number of years now.

“I see the CFO as really being the leader of any company. We are the only objective party to provide precise answers. We have a good insight into the numbers and we can ask the right questions,” Stalberg said.

“We see the need to help run the business, to ensure they take the right deals and make the right decisions. To be the objective person in the room and to ask the right person. This is a huge difference from being the numbers guy or girl to being a business partner with the business. To help, ask questions and hold people accountable,” he added.

With this change, Stalberg said finance staffers would need to also be able to bring clarity to issues to challenge the business to move ahead.

The Finance Transformation & Shared Services Conference is organised by Star Media Group in partnership with AGOS Asia, Esker Document Automation (M) Sdn Bhd and SAP Malaysia as sponsors. ICAEW, i2m Ventures Sdn Bhd and the Federation of Public Listed Companies Bhd are the working partners.

Source: The Star Online