CFOs are ‘building new muscles’ to become strategists and change catalysts, says report

Author: Kate Whitehead | Date: 13 Apr 2016

Finding the right talent has become easier but the real challenge is keeping it

Securing high-performing talent is one of the most important factors for the success of chief financial officers, but two-thirds of CFOs surveyed across south east Asia are not confident they have the talent they need.
This is the standout finding of Deloitte’s report The CFO as the Talent Champion, which polled 91 CFOs in the region.
Nicky Wakefield, Deloitte’s south east Asia human capital advisory leader, says that while finding talent has actually become easier thanks to social media, the real challenge is in keeping it. This is especially true for CFOs, who have seen their roles change significantly over the last decade.
“The finance function is playing a bigger role in organisations and the role of the CFO is shifting from being more of a steward and operator to a catalyst and strategist. CFOs are beginning to build new muscles,” says Wakefield.
As the role evolves, so do the critical skills to do the job, moving from more technical skills to a focus on people skills, innovation and collaboration. Wakefield is a firm believer that good leaders are made not born, and says many of the key skills can be learned in the classroom, on the job, and with the support of a coach.
“We get a lot of feedback about coaching and mentoring. I think it’s a core skill of a good CFO and good leader, and makes a big difference to retaining high talent,” she says.
Deloitte found that almost 70 per cent of ‘performance leaders’ (those who rated their organisation’s performance as successful or very successful over the last three years) practiced mentoring and coaching.
“These aren’t necessarily the big multinationals: sometimes they are small organisations or medium-sized ones. It’s the ones that focus on talent that tend to be the ones that outperform those that don’t,” she says.
Concerned about a potential talent shortage, many CFOs said they were working hard to compete for top graduates and young professionals by improving their employer value propositions, upgrading their development opportunities and even revamping HR departments.
Wakefield sees a lot of similarities between the way the roles of the CFO and HR directors are evolving; both are moving away from an administrative focus to more of a strategist, involved with change inside the organisation.
“There is a big role for HR to play supporting CFOs in mentoring programs, performance management programs, helping to develop career paths and supporting informal learning and development programs,” says Wakefield.
She says her team has found a very significant increase in the outcomes of learning and development programs when the CFO is really involved. This doesn’t mean just launching the initiative and cheering from the sidelines, but actively participating in designing and delivering the leadership programs.