By Ramona Dzinkowski, economist and business journalist
Twenty years ago, the CFO was a finance, accounting and control expert. Today, most research points to an expanded CFO role as business partner and strategist. More specifically, beyond the finance role three other typical CFO types have evolved, according to a recent study by McKinsey: the generalist, with high honed operational skills; the performance leader, with a strong track record in business transformation and business analytics; and the growth champion, with significant experience in M&A, external networks, independent thinking and strategic insight, often gleaned through working in professional services firms. Each company places a different weight on the value of these skill-sets.
But have regulators, standard setters and other accounting/finance-related organisation recognised that the CFO’s purview has expanded beyond financial compliance and control? According to the ACCA/IMA report released in October 2012, they have not. It says that CFOs will continue to be challenged by the tug of war between their role as senior strategist and business partner and the increasing demands placed on them by greater compliance, control and regulatory complexity.
Six major International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) came into force this January – IAS 19 Employee Benefits, IFRS 9 Financial Instruments, IFRS 10 Consolidated Financial Statements, IFRS 11 Joint Arrangements, IFRS 12 Disclosure of Interests in Other Entities, and IFRS 13 Fair Value Measurement. There will also be a host of exposure drafts amending major standards, including financial instrument impairment, hedge accounting, insurance contracts and leases, as well as the appearance of interim standards for rate-regulated activities and revenue recognition.
In the EU, the Committee of Sponsoring Organisations of the Treadway Commision (COSO) released a major update to its risk management framework which many SOX 404 filters have adopted. It is now under revision and is expected to be ready for implementation in 2013.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) will be launching its fourth generation of guidelines for sustainability reporting and the final version of the Society for Human Resource Management’s guideline for reporting human capital metrics will also be likely forthcoming in 2013.
Meanwhile the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) has released the integrated reporting framework. The prototype is out, a formal consultation draft will be released in April, and the aim is for a final version in December.
These are just a few examples of the compliance and control-related initiatives that will land on the CFO’s plate in 2013.
Sure improving standards and the regulatory environments in crucial, and forward thinking in many important areas of disclosure and control is necessary for business management to evolve, but how is it possible for the CFO, particularly in SMEs, to remain strategic under the weight of all this new direction?
McKinsey echoes the sentiments of many CFOs today in asking where it will all end and pointing out that ‘It’s unproductive to stretch the role too far and unreasonable to expect a CFO to be good at everything’.
This post first appeared in Accounting and business, February 2013