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Breaking tradition: Why the CFO stereotype deserves a refresh

Craig Charlton, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Operations, Epicor | Feb. 17, 2016
Here’s a look at 6 groups of CFOs, and how their working styles vary the outcomes of their jobs.

2.       Revolutionaries

The opposite of the traditional stereotype are the revolutionary CFOs who are charismatic by nature and are not afraid to think outside the box. In our scenario, if the CFO is a revolutionary, they will be happy to take a less structured approach and work outside of formal systems and processes to make the new business opportunity possible. These CFOs are risk-takers - 58 per cent of revolutionaries will make decisions based on instinct if they don't have the empirical data they need. Their drive and innovative attitude make the revolutionary the most likely CFO group to facilitate business growth - in our research nearly three-quarters of revolutionary CFOs (72%) had experienced profit increase.

3.       Politicians

Although revolutionaries are powerful working styles, in our survey, CFOs most commonly fall under the category of politician (27%). These are more cautious leaders, with a methodical team-based approach. They like to consult widely and build consensus before making important decisions. In fact, 27 per cent of these CFOs believe collaboration is a challenge that needs addressing.

4.       Conductors

By contrast, conductor CFOs have a tendency to make decisions alone. They are strong defenders of corporate culture but are more likely than average (54% compared to 46% of their peers) to make decisions based on gut-feel rather than hard data. In our scenario, this could easily lead to fast-paced work but the potential of mistakes is increased.

5.       Carers

Carers on the other hand might miss the new business opportunity all together - they are cautious CFOs and 52 per cent of them worry about a lack of accurate data when making decisions.

6.       Visionaries

Visionaries however, are unlike their carer colleagues. These creative CFOs gloss over details when exploring a new business proposition - perhaps because a quarter of them (23%) are worried about not having the time or resources to produce meaningful insight.

Considering the CFO stereotype, we can be forgiven for expecting just one, rather traditional, rather rigid, outcome to our scenario. However, our research demonstrates that the outcome might in fact vary considerably depending on the working style of the CFO in question.

No matter which working style a CFO adopts, their ability to provide other members of the C-suite with relevant empirical information, at the right time, can help their business make better, informed decisions. By using intelligent technology to streamline day-to-day financial tasks, this becomes possible. Imagine the scenario now - with accurate insight, traditionalists might be more prepared for change, revolutionary risk-takers might need to base less on instinct, and, carers might spend less time stuck in intricate detail.

The age-old image of a process-driven, strict CFO might be somewhat engrained in our psyche, but it's long overdue a refresh. With the right technology delivering the right information, a CFO has the power to help businesses be more strategic, more flexible and adapt to change.


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