When CFOs Are More Than Number Crunchers

This article originally appeared in The Business Times (subscription required).

There is a revolution brewing in finance departments. Activist investors are pressuring companies on costs just as digital disruption and mounting complexity take their toll. These forces are causing companies to rely even more heavily on their finance teams.

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And with artificial intelligence and other advances enabling them to make speedier, better-informed decisions, the stage is set for chief financial officers (CFOs) to step up their game as proactive internal challengers and identifiers of new opportunities.

But this is not happening often enough.

CFOs get high marks for using technology and top talent to satisfy business units with better-than-agreed-upon service-level metrics for key transaction and accounting processes. They produce thousands of reports faster as they gain access to real-time data.

But the trouble is, too many CFOs know they are not creating as much value for the company as they can. For example, while the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) function is facilitating the budgeting process, many CFOs are not really challenging those plans.

When finance functions fail to fully deliver on their potential, it is often because they cannot divert focus away from areas that are not adding value—reconciling reports and closing the books, for example. By overinvesting their time and energy in those areas, CFOs have little left to devote to more important activities, based on the company's chosen strategic priorities, such as supporting performance management, business planning, or mergers and acquisitions (M&As).

Read the full article at The Business Times (subscription required).

Henrik Poppe is a partner in Bain's Oslo office and global corporate finance leader. Usman Akhtar is a partner in Jakarta and member of the firm's M&A and Corporate Finance practice.