The Golden Age of the CFO: Advice for Finance Leaders

We’re moving quickly into 2022 yet the impact of the past two years continues to create uncertainty and force leaders in Finance to reevaluate their approach to business, recruiting, and technology. Finance and accounting are no different. But as the Office of the CFO was tasked to do more and do it faster during the pandemic, CFOs are now entering a golden age of progress and advancement that relies on their embracing of technology to do more while keeping teams happy.

This topic and more were discussed by Planful CEO Grant Halloran and Trintech President Darren Heffernan on a recent episode of DisrupTV. They were hosted by R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst and Founder of Constellation Research and author of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World: Surviving And Thriving In A World Of Digital Giants,” and Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist for Salesforce. Here’s a quick recap of their conversation.

Watch this episode of DisrupTV.

Finance and The Great Resignation

The start of a new year forces organizations into a planning cycle and then quickly executing on that plan. Planful partners with Trintech to compress this entire cycle, helping customers achieve faster, more confident planning and decision-making with a complete integrated solution that accelerates the end-to-end FP&A, financial consolidation, and accounting close processes in a smooth-flowing environment.

After two years of nights and weekends working for accounting and finance, organizations that haven’t employed financial process automation, modernized systems, or increased collaboration with the business continue to feel the strain. It’s unsustainable, and has been for quite some time.

“Attracting the right talent and keeping the right talent, that’s been a factor (for CFOs) over the last number of years,” explained Heffernan, Trintech President. “We all hear of ‘The Great Resignation’ and now people are reevaluating their lives and lifestyles.”

Finance and accounting teams, however, have always faced the monthly and quarterly pressures of close and consolidation, reporting, and other deadlines. It was difficult enough before the pandemic, but forcing teams into remote work has exacerbated frustrations with processes and technology.

“Absolutely, people are leaving (finance and accounting) because of (old technology),” added Halloran, Planful CEO. “If they’re stuck in spreadsheets and being asked to work 70 hours per week, they’re quickly going to reevaluate their situation. Only now, I don’t even need to leave the location I’m in to work for another company anywhere.”

For CFOs, Halloran recommends “a healthy paranoia” about the impact of The Great Resignation on finance and accounting teams. Otherwise, you’re going to be a victim. Financial technology helps take the strain off of teams, helps them work faster and more effectively, and gives them time to focus on strategy and work more closely with every corner of the business. And they get to do it no matter where they live or work.

It’s the Time to Shine for Leaders in Finance

The pandemic created a significant demand for business technologies. Studies by McKinsey and KPMG have found that the transition to remote work and shifting consumer patterns accelerated the adoption of digital technologies and AI by several years. For business leaders in finance, especially CFOs, this transformation has pushed them to modernize.

“We’re entering a golden age for CFOs,” said Halloran. “They’re being mandated to drive smarter, faster, more financially-intelligent decisions across the whole company. Having the right tools and technology at your fingertips means you could be a victor in The Great Resignation.”

Halloran equated today’s opportunity for CFOs with that of sales and marketing leaders a decade or more ago. CRM and marketing automation technologies transformed those teams completely and nearly overnight. The promise of automation and AI for finance and accounting teams is unprecedented, both in its ability to drive deeper business insights and in its potential to keep finance and accounting professionals happy, engaged, and thriving.

“The pandemic pushed people home, and legacy, manual systems were slow and cumbersome,” added Heffernan. “But those processes still have to be done. We’ve seen an unbelievable takeup (of finance and accounting technology) over the past 2 years and it’s still in its infancy.”

CFOs who drag their feet, however, are at risk of falling even further behind. AI and predictive analytics have become a secret weapon for progressive finance and accounting teams. And while these technologies may seem daunting, modern, cloud FP&A solutions make it easy to put them to work.

“A lot of people don’t realize they’re using AI already,” said Halloran. “Planful is populating numbers for people, predicting signals, and they don’t realize it’s AI, they just think it’s cool. AI and ML are scary words for CFOs so it’s incumbent upon us technologists to make it easy.”

To hear the entire conversation and why we’re in the golden age of the CFO, watch this episode of DisrupTV.

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