A Look at How the CFO’s Role Has Been Transformed

by Jim Jerving

The crisis of 2007-2008 brought profound changes to the financial services industry as well as to the American consumer’s habits. One change—albeit more subtle—is that this event served as a catalyst for the chief financial officer’s transformation, a process that has been in the works for a number of years.

Influence and its consequence, more in power in the workplace, have shifted to the finance area; in the past its residents were often dismissed as bean counters.

“The CFO used to be the guy in the room waving hands and saying, too much risk, while other folks saw opportunity,” said Scott Waite, CFO for Patelco Credit Union, Pleasanton, California. “Today, the whole world is more aware of risk questions and chief financial officers don’t feel as lonely in the risk game. The CFO is being used and viewed as a strategic advisor for the CEO and board.”

The chief financial officer’s transformation is the subject of a white paper just released by CUNA’s CFO Council.

Background of Transformation

While there are obvious reasons and others less so for this transformation, the prevention of another financial meltdown is at the top of the list. Because of the heightened tensions within the financial services industry, the board and CEO are demanding more from their CFO. While in the past the monthly reporting of numbers and meeting targets were thought to be sufficient. Today the data need to be interpreted and put into context for tactics and strategies.

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