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13th Aug, 2023

Connor Pike
Connor Pike
Job Title
Executive Business Manager

The emergence of financial officers from behind the scenes to become front-facing influencers has been part of the transformation of workplaces since the pandemic began. Forced to make fast, strategic decisions during Covid lockdowns – from furloughing staff to finding creative solutions for growth – the traditional Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role surfaced into a public-facing one as senior leaderships teams worked together in unprecedented conditions to keep their organisations afloat.

The additional responsibility of the role has been a double-edged sword but one that ambitious leaders have embraced, realising the full potential of their role.

Corporate communicators

While the intense challenges of the pandemic are over, the positive legacy of the crisis lies in how it altered many careers for the better. CFOs, whether they liked it or not, were given a stage to present their plans direct to the workforce at a time of great stress and uncertainty, testing their communication skills and risk management as well as their specialist knowledge. Their spotlight moment has continued as CEOs continue to call on their CFOs when presenting key issues to the workforce – humanising internal financial decisions that might otherwise feel a bit remote and intangible.

Strategic role

Today’s commercial decisions are increasingly steered by the new-look CFO – a role that encompasses great people skills, an ability to bring numbers to life and be a visible presence in the workplace, willing to advise and discuss opportunities that shape business development. This ‘soft’ skill set may have been underused pre-pandemic but is now seen by employers as highly desirable.

Soft finance skills – which include negotiation skills, empathy and flexibility – are increasingly drawn on to forge relationships with new partners and nurture relationships with investors, always with an eye on the future and survival in the event of any new crisis. With strategies for Environment, Social and Governance practices uppermost on leaders’ to-do list, the CFO can lead on data collection, reporting and setting standards.

Tech advocates

The transformation of the CFO role comes at a time when financial teams are obliged to join the tech revolution, updating their systems to meet standards only dreamt of five years ago. For young, recent graduates just starting their careers, this must be a relief, with technology a ‘natural’ extension of their lives, but older generations can find these changes unsettling after decades of working in a set way. For CFOs, this presents another opportunity to use their newfound voice to lead confidently – rallying troops to embrace tech while overseeing support through the transition – being an ally for older workers as well as those who live and breathe tech use.

Final thoughts

Anyone who thinks a financial role is one-dimensional should look again. Career development in this sector relies on the application of a diverse range of skills and acumen, which could spark new personal interests or be a stepping-stone to whatever comes next in the financial world. This once slow-moving sector has been whipped up by circumstances few thought would occur so soon – CFOs need to stay on the pulse, and be gregarious leaders, to be successful.

Looking to hire a financial professional to your organisation, or searching for your next role? Contact one of our specialist consultants today.