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What does a CFO do?

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

The Role of a CFO in Business Success

In the dynamic world of business, success hinges on a multitude of factors, and one pivotal role that plays a significant part is that of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In this article, we delve into the key responsibilities of a CFO, shedding light on how they navigate the complex financial landscape to steer companies towards prosperity.

Financial Planning and Analysis

At the heart of a CFO's role is the art of financial planning and analysis. A CFO is the financial maestro who orchestrates the company's fiscal strategy in harmony with its goals and objectives. They are the custodians of financial data, meticulously dissecting it to provide valuable insights that empower the executive team to make informed decisions.

The CFO's analytical prowess helps decipher market trends, assess risks, and spot growth opportunities. Armed with this knowledge, they chart a course that keeps the company's financial ship sailing smoothly through turbulent waters.

Budgeting and Forecasting

Budgets serve as the financial roadmap of an organisation, and it is the CFO who takes the wheel. They meticulously prepare and manage budgets, ensuring they align seamlessly with the company's strategic plan. A well-crafted budget not only keeps spending in check but also paves the way for effective resource allocation.

In addition to budgets, CFOs are masters of financial forecasting. By gazing into the crystal ball of data and trends, they provide the company with a glimpse of the future. This invaluable foresight allows businesses to prepare for various scenarios and make proactive decisions.

Risk Management

The business landscape is riddled with financial pitfalls, but a CFO is the vigilant guardian who identifies and mitigates these risks. They craft comprehensive risk management strategies that safeguard the company's operations and financial performance.

Regulatory compliance is another cornerstone of their role. CFOs ensure that the company adheres to the ever-evolving landscape of financial regulations, minimizing the risk of legal entanglements that can be detrimental to a company's reputation and bottom line.

Financial Reporting

CFOs are the architects behind the scenes, crafting financial reports that offer a window into the company's financial health. These reports are not mere spreadsheets; they are intricate narratives that tell the story of the company's financial journey.

Accuracy and timeliness are non-negotiable for a CFO in this realm. They ensure that financial reports are not only factual but also provide actionable insights. These reports are crucial not only for the executive team but also for the board of directors, offering transparency and accountability.

Capital Management

Capital is the lifeblood of any company, and a CFO is the steward of this precious resource. They navigate the complex terrain of debt and equity financing, ensuring that the company has the necessary capital to fuel its operations and growth initiatives.

Effective capital management involves striking the right balance between risk and reward. CFOs evaluate investment opportunities, assessing their potential returns against the associated risks. This strategic allocation of capital is instrumental in driving business growth.

Building a Top-notch Finance and Accounting Team

While the CFO is the financial conductor, they rely on a symphony of talent to create harmony. Building a top-notch finance and accounting team is one of their key responsibilities. They recruit, mentor, and nurture financial professionals who share their commitment to the company's financial success.

A cohesive team ensures that financial operations run smoothly, and everyone plays their part in achieving the company's financial goals.

Ensuring Revenues and Expenses Stay in Balance

Financial equilibrium is a delicate dance, and it's the CFO's responsibility to ensure that revenues and expenses remain in harmony. They oversee the financial gears of the company, making adjustments as needed to maintain stability and profitability.

Overseeing FP&A Functions

Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) is the heartbeat of sound financial decision-making. CFOs oversee this critical function, working closely with department heads to analyse financial data and craft budgets that align with the company's strategic objectives.

Making Recommendations on Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions can be transformative moments in a company's journey. CFOs play a pivotal role in these transactions, conducting financial due diligence, assessing risks, and making recommendations that help the company navigate these strategic moves successfully.

Related Resource: SHRM - CFO Job Description

Obtaining Funding

Whether it's securing a loan, issuing bonds, or seeking venture capital, CFOs are the financial architects who obtain the funding required to propel the company forward. Their financial acumen and strategic thinking are vital in attracting investors and lenders.

Consulting with Boards of Directors and the CEO on Strategy

The CFO is not just a numbers cruncher but also a strategic advisor. They collaborate with boards of directors and the CEO, providing financial insights that inform the company's strategic direction. Their recommendations are based on a deep understanding of the company's financial landscape and its potential for growth. Qualities of an Exceptional CFO

In our previous section, we explored the fundamental responsibilities of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and how they are integral to a company's financial success. Now, let's delve deeper into the qualities and attributes that distinguish an exceptional CFO, drawing insights from industry experts and thought leaders.

Financial Expertise

At the core of a CFO's role is their financial expertise. They must possess a deep understanding of accounting principles, financial regulations, and market dynamics. This expertise enables them to make informed decisions, identify financial opportunities, and mitigate risks effectively.

Exceptional CFOs are not only adept at interpreting financial data but also at translating it into actionable insights. They can spot trends, anomalies, and potential areas for improvement within the numbers, allowing them to guide the company towards financial growth.

Strategic Vision

While CFOs are often seen as guardians of the company's financial health, the exceptional ones go beyond mere number-crunching. They possess a strategic vision that aligns the financial function with the broader goals of the organisation. This strategic orientation enables CFOs to play a pivotal role in shaping the company's future. They actively participate in strategic planning, offering financial perspectives that help the executive team make decisions that drive sustainable growth.

Strong Communication Skills

Effective communication is a hallmark of exceptional CFOs. They are not just numbers people; they are also adept communicators who can translate complex financial concepts into understandable language for non-financial stakeholders. CFOs interact with various departments, the board of directors, investors, and external partners. Their ability to convey financial insights, present financial reports, and articulate the financial implications of strategic decisions is crucial for fostering transparency and trust within the organisation.

For more insights, check out this article on The Art of Effective Communication for CFOs.

Leadership and Team Building

Exceptional CFOs understand that their success is intertwined with the success of their finance and accounting teams. They excel in leadership and team-building skills, creating an environment where talented professionals can thrive.

They recruit and retain top talent, mentor emerging leaders, and foster a collaborative culture within the finance department. This not only enhances the effectiveness of financial operations but also contributes to the overall success of the organisation.


In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, adaptability is a key trait of an exceptional CFO. They are open to change and innovation, willing to embrace new technologies and methodologies to improve financial processes.

The ability to adapt also extends to navigating economic downturns and crises. Exceptional CFOs have the resilience to steer the company through turbulent times, making tough decisions when necessary while preserving the company's financial stability.

Ethical Integrity

Integrity is non-negotiable for a CFO. Exceptional CFOs uphold the highest ethical standards in their financial practices. They are transparent, honest, and committed to compliance with financial regulations.

Maintaining ethical integrity not only safeguards the company's reputation but also fosters trust among stakeholders, including employees, investors, and partners.

Dig deeper into ethical considerations for CFOs in this LinkedIn article.

Technologically Savvy

In today's digital age, CFOs must be technologically savvy. Exceptional CFOs leverage technology to streamline financial processes, enhance data analytics capabilities, and improve decision-making.

They stay updated on the latest financial software, tools, and trends to ensure that the company remains competitive and efficient in its financial operations.

Risk Management Expertise

The ability to identify, assess, and manage risks is a critical quality of an exceptional CFO. They proactively identify potential financial risks and develop strategies to mitigate them, protecting the company's assets and financial stability.

Exceptional CFOs strike a balance between risk-taking and risk aversion, making calculated decisions that align with the company's risk tolerance and strategic objectives.

For a comprehensive overview of risk management, refer to this McKinsey article.

An exceptional CFO is not just a financial guardian but a strategic partner who contributes significantly to a company's growth and success. They possess a unique blend of financial expertise, strategic vision, communication skills, and leadership abilities.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

One of the most significant changes in the CFO's role is the increasing reliance on data-driven decision-making. In the digital age, data is abundant and easily accessible. Exceptional CFOs leverage data analytics tools and technologies to gain deeper insights into financial performance, market trends, and customer behaviour.

Data-driven decision-making empowers CFOs to make more accurate and informed choices, leading to better financial outcomes and strategic planning. They not only provide historical financial data but also use predictive analytics to anticipate future scenarios, enabling the company to stay ahead of the curve.

Cybersecurity and Risk Management

With the rise of digitalisation, cybersecurity has become a paramount concern for CFOs. They are responsible for safeguarding sensitive financial data from cyber threats, ensuring that the company's financial assets and reputation remain secure.

Exceptional CFOs work closely with IT and security teams to implement robust cybersecurity measures and develop incident response plans. Their ability to manage cybersecurity risks is critical in today's interconnected world.

Sustainability and ESG Initiatives

In recent years, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors have gained prominence in the business world. CFOs are increasingly involved in sustainability initiatives, as stakeholders demand greater transparency and responsibility from companies.

Exceptional CFOs integrate ESG considerations into financial decision-making, aligning the company's values with its financial strategies. They assess the financial implications of sustainability efforts and communicate the company's commitment to stakeholders.

For further insights into ESG initiatives, refer to this SHRM resource.

Digital Transformation

The CFO's role has evolved alongside the digital transformation of business processes. They champion the adoption of technology to streamline financial operations, automate repetitive tasks, and improve efficiency.

Cloud-based financial systems, data analytics tools, and AI-powered forecasting are just a few examples of technologies that modern CFOs embrace. These advancements not only enhance financial accuracy but also free up time for strategic thinking and decision-making.

Strategic Partnerships

Exceptional CFOs are not confined to their finance department silos. They actively seek to build strategic partnerships within and outside the organisation. They collaborate with other C-suite executives, such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO), to align financial strategies with broader company goals.

Externally, CFOs engage with investors, lenders, and stakeholders to foster trust and confidence in the company's financial stewardship. Their ability to communicate the company's financial story is instrumental in attracting investment and securing funding for growth initiatives.


The role of a CFO in today's business landscape is multifaceted and dynamic. Beyond financial acumen, exceptional CFOs possess the ability to adapt to change, leverage technology, manage risks, and embrace sustainability.

Ascern Advisers recognises the evolving nature of the CFO role and offers CFO Advisory services tailored to meet the challenges and opportunities of the modern business world. Our team of experts collaborates with CFOs to navigate the complexities of today's financial landscape and drive success.

In conclusion, the CFO's journey is one of continuous evolution, and those who embrace change and innovation are best positioned to lead their organisations towards financial excellence in the 21st century.



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