I keep seeing headlines, articles, blogs and other news about how the role of the CFO is changing. CFOs are going to need to become strategists, data analysts, risk managers, technology experts, and have the ability to navigate a complex regulatory environment. On top of all of that, we’re supposed to have strong people skills, too. You know, those nontechnical or soft skills we hear about all the time.

transformationAs a CFO or, in my case, OFO (only financial officer), that’s a lot to digest. How do we become all of those things on top of everything else we do? Well, it may not be easy to do, but it’s essential. If we don’t change and expand our role, we face the consequences of becoming obsolete or irrelevant.

Most of the articles I’ve seen address the what of the CFO of the future will look like, but not the steps that it will take to show how to get there… Earlier this week, I stumbled across an article from CGMA Magazine titled “What makes a CFO great” that offered up some of those “hows” that I’ve been looking for.

The list came from an EY report and they identified five critical areas to focus on to help tackle the challenges of the expanded role:

  • Support innovation and new business models
  • Develop and deliver agile strategy
  • Drive sustained, long-term growth
  • Inspire and lead the way with strong purpose and ethics
  • Support digital

Having a short list makes the “how” seem easier, but those things aren’t easy. As CFOs, many of us are not big fans of risk and change, so now we’re supposed to be all gung-ho for new business models and innovation, and we’re supposed to be agile and embrace technology. However, I do personally look forward to the challenges of being in a position to be recognized as a leader in my company and to help guide us to the future.

I was also glad to see on the list “inspire and lead the way with strong purpose and ethics.” It’s easy to forget that so much of what we do as CFOs sets the tone for the rest of the organization, and that we, along with our CEOs, are the moral and ethical compass for our organizations. Of course, we all know how important ethics is to the CPA profession itself.

Today, the Indianapolis Business Journal held their annual CFO of the Year awards breakfast and honored some of the top financial leaders in the Indianapolis area. Seven of the 15 CFOs honored in five categories are CPAs and members of the Indiana CPA Society. They have embraced the challenge of the expanded role of CFOs, will you?

If you’d like to start to develop your skills to enable you be a great CFO, INCPAS can help. The Society is hosting The Renaissance CFO Conference on December 16, an all-new conference designed to address the changing role of the CFO. Sessions will include Driving Outcomes, Delivering Value & Building Careers with Financial Data, The Case for Integrated Reporting, and The Transformational CFO: From Compliance to Performance.