There was an article in Forbes Insights last month titled “The Renaissance CFO.” It caught my attention for a few reasons and I thought it might be of interest to many of you. It’s relevant to CPAs in business and industry of course, but also to CPAs in public accounting who serve CFOs as their clients.

RolesThis article references a study done by KPMG and Forbes insights. “The Renaissance CFO” is defined as “an individual who builds on the wisdom of the past, embraces the technology of the present and imagines the innovation of the future. Any senior finance executive must assume many roles — from comptroller to technology evangelist—but the Renaissance CFO is an individual who embraces and transcends all of these roles to be a leader within the organization and beyond the finance function.”

In other words, the perspective of time-honored CFO responsibilities is going by the wayside. No longer are CFOs boxed in by their traditional finance role. Today’s CFO (and the CFO of the future) are going outside that box as they are being asked to transform themselves into a true business partner in the organization. Those CFOs are moving into a leadership position for the organization that extends the finance role into one of a strategic, innovative and collaborative business advisor.

I found this article and its definition of the Renaissance CFO very interesting, particularly because it ties very well to a section of INCPAS 2025. That future-oriented document was developed by INCPAS’ Board of Directors and volunteer leadership in 2014-15 and identified what the CPA’s expanded role in business will be looking ahead 10 years into the future:

  • Multi-disciplinary skill set and knowledge
  • Providing real-time information
  • Complex business transactions
  • Data analytics and interpretation
  • Continuous reporting and auditing
  • Integrated Reporting
  • Corporate decision making
  • Define new markets
  • Developing new business models
  • Strategist
  • Leading business advocate

If you read through that list, it’s a lot of new roles – bold things that maybe CPAs have not been generally known for in the past. It’s a whole lot more than sitting around preparing financial statements, budgets and payroll. Many of us in corporate accounting are beginning to take on some of these tasks now, but we’ve got a long way to go before we have fully embraced our expanded role in business. In the future we are going to be business strategists, leaders and analysts, not “bean counters.”

The KPMG/Forbes study is available for download at this link. Nearly 550 business executives from six continents participated in the survey, which was conducted over two years. About a third of the survey respondents were once CFOs themselves. The results are both intriguing and enlightening.

Do you have what it takes to be a Renaissance CFO? Are you already on your way? If not, are you ready for the challenge?