Finance executives may differ on the specific ways they handle the challenges of the organizations they work for, but a recent industry event called 600 Minutes CFO showed just how aligned many of them are on the fundamentals of their job.
600 Minutes CFO gathered an invitation-only audience of global finance executives in Helsinki, Finland just a few weeks ago. In between sessions, a videographer caught up with about half a dozen of the most senior attendees, who answered questions in three major areas:
- What are the attributes of a successful CFO today?
- What are the top skills needed in finance departments of the future?
- How is the finance function changing overall?
The clips can all be seen online, and most are only a few minutes long. But if you’re short on time, we’ve watched them all to bring you some of the most insightful comments.
How Successful CFOs Behave
“The CFO has to understand bigger and bigger pictures,” said Petri Härkönen, whose firm Ponsse Oyj manufacturers forestry vehicles and other machinery. “You have to be able to prioritize and guide your colleagues and your team at the right time.”
According to Jan Montell, CFO with Finland’s national electric utility Fingrid Oyj, a big part of doing that is with harnessing data.
“As always, it’s about safeguarding shareholder value, which is about optimizing cash flows, capital and risk. That is always our most important task, I think,” he said. “It’s also about business intelligence — analyzing data and information, but within the company and outside the company as well, so we can challenge the business in their decision-making and support growth.”
The Finance Function of the Future
Czerny Reinhard, CFO of IBM Austria, sees technological expertise as an inevitability, and not just at high-tech organizations like his own. From using Excel as an enterprise platform to more niche budgeting or financial close management solutions, tomorrow’s CFOs are expected to be as versed in finance technologies as they are with GAAP standards.
“The finance team of the future needs to be able to take innovative tools and applications and use analytics,” he said. “First to drive cost efficiencies; second to identify emerging business opportunities; and third to sound the alarm if something goes wrong and of course, to take course correction.”
This is particularly important as finance departments become more niche-oriented and specific in what they are tasked to do, suggested Jussi Siitonen, CFO of Amer Sports.
“Now you have very clear functions for compliance type of topics, one function for business support, and then finance functions just to develop processes within finance,” he said.
The Most Sought-After Skills in Finance
Regina Sippel, financial leader at travel firm Tjäreborg Oy Ab, put it bluntly:
“I’m looking for excellent Excel skills,” she said. “You need to be proficient, and then you need excellent language skills to cope in the ever-changing business environment. And you need to have a sense of adaptation, that you can adapt yourself to a changing environment.”
The social aspect of the finance team was brought up by many of the speakers interviewed by the 600 Minutes team.
“Even if you don’t have the skills, the attitude and the willingness to develop yourself continuously makes the difference,” said Riitta Vahter finance director at Canon’s Finnish operation. “(It’s about) listening, understanding the business and proactive in contributing to the business.”
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