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CFOs are likely to have a greater role in business plans and development for 2014, thanks in part to an increase in their overall influence in recent years. Research from American Express Company (NYSE: AXP) and CFO Research showed that 65 percent of finance executives from around the world say CFOs have become more influential as a result of the economic downturn. This is especially true in the U.S., where 85 percent of CFOs report seeing an increase in influence, according to the sixth annual
American Express/CFO Research Global Business and Spending Monitor.[Infographic: The Changing World of CFOs]
CFO Role Has Definitively Changed
CFOs’ roles are growing along with their influence. CFOs recognize that to be effective today, they must look for new ways to apply their financial expertise – in fact, only 13 percent of respondents say that role of the CFO has remained the same since the economic downturn. According to survey respondents, finance executives are looking beyond the traditional tasks and taking on the following business management roles:
29 percent became strategists, analyzing and interpreting financial data to guide decision-making;
29 percent became catalysts, spurring necessary changes across the entire organization;
24 percent became stewards, overseeing organizational assets and directing risk-management efforts.
These new roles are also reflected in the skills that finance executives identified as necessary for success in today’s business world. Strategic thinking led the list of top skills identified by half of all respondents as key to their work over the next two years. This was followed by skills such as risk-management acumen (41 percent), analytic thinking (32 percent), and international business acumen (30 percent).
CFOs Contribution to Growth
The majority (84 percent) of finance executives believe they will be providing even more input than ever on how to improve their company’s ability to deliver value. When it comes to how CFOs can best contribute to that value and to business growth, finance executives were more likely to focus on business improvements rather than market changes. Half of all respondents feel that advocating for breakthroughs on new products or services is one of the greatest contributions CFOs can make to drive business growth. Following closely behind, 46 percent say that encouraging innovation by improving existing assets would be another way that CFOs could enable growth.