CFOs not up to scratch, say a-third of Asia Pacific CEOs
More than 70 percent of Asia Pacific chief executives (CEOs) surveyed in a new KPMG study said they see a powerful future for their chief financial officer or CFO. Yet, a-third, or 32 percent, felt their CFOs are not helping enough with the challenges they face running their organizations.

Titled “The View from the Top”, the study surveyed 178 CEOs, managing directors, business owners and chairmen of large companies based in Asia Pacific to find out more about their changing views and expectations of the finance function. Some 39 percent of respondents are from the ASEAN region.

Said Martyn van Wensveen, Global Leader of Financial Management: "This report contains good and bad news for CFOs. The good news is that CEOs believe the CFO’s role will increase in importance over the next three years, compared to other C-suite roles. The bad news is that almost a third of the surveyed CEOs don’t believe their CFOs understand or assist enough with the business challenges they are facing."

"When KPMG asked global CFOs a year ago about their roles, 60 percent said they were happy with the overall performance of their finance function, and on average less than 10 percent of CFOs rated any of their finance processes as a weakness. So there is a clear disconnect between the actual performance of the CFOs and the expectations of their bosses.” More than half – 58 percent – of CEOs also said they see performance and growth as the CFO’s greatest opportunity to contribute to the organization.

"CEOs want their CFOs to focus on growth but the current typical CFO is too mired in costs and compliance issues, wading through the numbers,” added Mr. van Wensveen.

The report also shows that CEOs envision a future in which data analytics generate more powerful business intelligence. They are looking to their CFO to take an investor's perspective while providing business support and strategic input, examining decisions through a value lens and challenging strategy from a risk perspective.

CFOs must focus on the key areas of concern – taking a more strategic approach; improving their leadership and talent management skills; leveraging technology and data better; and lastly streamlining reporting and control tasks so that they are not bogged down in compliance and regulatory issues. CFOs must focus on the key areas of concern – taking a more strategic approach; improving their leadership and talent management skills; leveraging technology and data better; and lastly streamlining reporting and control tasks so that they are not bogged down in compliance and regulatory issues.
Other key findings:
  • CEOs have set a high bar for CFOs
    Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of CEOs from high performing organizations believe that the CFO's role will increase in importance over the next three years, as compared with other C-suite roles.
  • CEOs put a huge value on people skills and see their CFOs as lacking in them
    Eighty percent of CEOs from high-performing organizations say that nothing is more important than talent management, but many also believe their CFOs can and should do a better job of managing their teams.
  • CEOs value growth-oriented initiatives the most, and traditional areas of the finance function the least. Big-picture thinking and strategic approach are the most important attributes for a CFO, say 49 percent of CEOs.
  • Technology will be a make-or-break test for CFOs
    Sixty-three percent of CEOs from high performing organizations believe that technology will have the greatest effect on the future role of the CFO.
  • CFOs need to transform the regulatory burden into an opportunity
    or at least avoid getting mired in the detail to the detriment of big-picture thinking. Forty-three percent of respondents believe that the stringent regulatory environment is impeding the CFO's ability to focus on other areas, while 42 percent see the regulatory environment as an opportunity to derive competitive advantage.
Concluded Mr. van Wensveen: "CFOs need to broaden their game, add big picture thinking and take a more strategic approach. In short, be more of a business leader and less of a finance executive."

"Talent management skills, the ability to leverage data and technology assets, and being able to focus on performance and growth amidst a more stringent regulatory environment are all areas the CFO of the future must work on. Doing so will allow him or her to develop into the trusted right-hand person of their CEOs.
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