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The CFO role is bigger than ever before, with 82% noting that they have taken on additional responsibilities, including environmental, social, and governance (ESG); mergers and acquisitions (M&A); and corporate development duties in the past two years.

Which, if any, new responsibilities have you taken on in the last two years? 

Around half have taken on ESG or M&A and Corporate Development roles in the last two years.

There are some variances by industry:  

  • CFOs in the industrial sector were the most likely to have added ESG responsibilities to their remit (62%).  
  • Cybersecurity is more likely to be a recent addition to the remit of a healthcare and pharmaceuticals CFO’s responsibilities than other industries.  

Going forward, do you think that any of the following areas should be excluded from the CFO remit?

CFO insights by industry

Which one of the following statements best aligns with your perspective on the CFO role? 

Interestingly, Latin America is the only region where CFOs say the role hasn’t significantly grown (45%). In contrast, in the Middle East, zero CFOs believe the role hasn’t notably expanded, as well as in North America, where only 5% say the role hasn’t significantly grown.

Which competency, if any, is most likely to increase in importance over the next five years for CFOs?

CFOs have also undertaken risk management duties and co-leadership of the enterprise with the CEO, among other mandates, making the role truly multifunctional. Looking to the future, the trend of increased responsibilities will only continue. When asked about the competencies that will matter most over the next five years for the role, CFOs ranked driving change, shaping strategy, and developing talent as the top ones. In particular, female CFOs were adamant about driving change—57% named this the key competency compared to 40% of male CFOs. 

Change management is most likely to grow in importance over the next five years 

Going forward, do you think that any of the following areas should be excluded from CFO remit?

CFO insights by industry

CFOs were also clear about areas they would like to see come off their remit. A majority of CFOs in the Services sector (57%) would like to exclude HR/talent from their responsibilities, while IT is what many CFOs in Financial Services (57%) would opt out of.  

Who are your top two team members that you rely on the most?

There were also some different answers from a gender perspective on HR/talent and ESG: 43% of male CFOs would like to exclude HR/talent from their scope compared with 17% of female CFOs. Similarly, in terms of ESG, 12% of male CFOs would choose to exclude it versus 6% of female CFOs.  

To help shoulder some of the workload, CFOs don’t act alone. They rely on their Head of Financial Planning & Analysis (57%) and their Controller or Chief Accounting Officer (49%) the most. These two roles are particularly important as the path CFOs take to the role has shifted. Many CFOs most recently held divisional or regional CFO posts, making those with corporate finance spikes an important part of the team.

Around half of CFOs rely most on their Head of FP&A and Controller/COA

Variations by industry and region in the extent to which CFOs rely on their Controller/CAO

There are some industry and regional differences. Financial Services CFOs were less likely than other industries to rely on their Controller/CAO.

At the regional level, the Controller/CAO was highly relied upon in North America (67%), compared to lower levels globally.

As a CFO, what aspect of the role would you like to spend more time on?

Reflecting on the actual and desired time they are able to allocate to core financial aspects of their role, CFOs told us there is a gap: strategy, developing finance talent, partnering with other business leaders, and capital allocation were the top areas they would like to spend more time on.

Which new and emerging technologies will have the greatest impact on the performance of your finance function in the future?

In addition, CFOs believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will have the greatest impact on the future performance of the function, underscoring the need for finance leaders to be able to experiment in these developing areas. 

AI and ML are predicted to have the greatest impact on future performance of the function

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