As we come through the pandemic, we know there are different and evolving demands for senior finance leaders, and it’s valuable to look at the world of the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation through the lens of adapting to a new world.
In a recent #FutureReadyLive session, I spoke with two of my colleagues at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). Ash Noah is vice president and managing director of education and development and Barry Payne is the director of external relations, management accounting. Together, they are at the forefront of the changing dynamic of the CFO and senior finance role within organizations. They have been involved in research on which competencies, skills and mindsets are most in demand and how employers can help their finance teams grow and develop.
Ash said the key finance capability needs are driven by the changing role of the CFO, which is now expected to be the co-pilot. Especially over the past year, he explained, businesses have really relied on CFOs to be the eyes of the business – when visibility went from low to zero and leaders didn’t know which direction they were headed, CFOs were the lifeline. I’ve always loved this metaphor because it really highlights how leaders are changing their views of the finance role, from someone who’s stuck in the back room helping navigate to, as Ash said above, the co-pilot. That’s a huge paradigm shift.
What we’re seeing is that co-piloting through a turbulent crisis requires different skills than co-piloting in stormy skies or simply uncertain weather. Our joint whitepaper with AICPA, “Adapt and Thrive: Accountants and Finance Professionals Are the Center of Economic Stabilization,” dives into these challenges and changes and what we’re looking at for the rest of 2021. An excerpt:
“The CFO role is also expanding, and there is an accelerating trend for CFOs to offer strategy as a key business partner to the CEO. Additionally, the number of functions reporting to the CFO is growing, including corporate strategy and board engagement.
There is a great opportunity for management accountants to be recognized as trusted advisers, going beyond the traditional role of providing accountancy work. Continue developing your project and change management ability, and soft and technical skills to drive the transition from being a number cruncher to a strategist.”
Barry went even further and said that CFOs need to take a step back and really think about the different dynamics and how to analyze, blend and visualize data for real-world scenarios. There’s a big gap between technical skills and high-level skills, like strategic and critical thinking, on the finance team. While availability of talent is among the top concerns again, there is a growing concern among finance leaders that the skills gap is widening maybe too much.
I remember a survey that said less than 10% of finance teams have the right skills to keep up in this new, post-pandemic world. They’re struggling between two different roles. Now, the CGMA designation is worldwide and basically designed to help keep finance teams up to speed with the changing CFO role.
Ash and I agreed that it’s really the combination of management knowledge and accounting acumen that make these kinds of designations really compelling. At a high level, he said, it’s the skill of understanding your business and the levers that move your business, and also the core accounting skills. That’s sort of where the CGMA sits.
Barry has seen a lot of great stories of companies deploying the CGMA Finance Leadership Program, which enables people to develop their management accountant skills – and closes the gap between what’s needed now and how to chart a course for the future. As he said, the program is based on the ability to amplify your experience and make a difference tomorrow.
Another topic that Ash and I spoke about was the concept of the CFO as chief value officer. We agreed that this shift is also calling for a different skillset, and what’s emerging more and more is that the partnering-type activities are being taken over by analytics and automation. What’s left is a very important piece of the puzzle: the need for CFOs to be plugged into the whole business model. We need to use the human dimension alongside technology and offer judgment, professional skepticism and the ability to connect the dots across the entire business. CFOs are shifting toward owning the whole end-to-end process and driving value with data. They need to become problem-solvers and problem seers. Guiding the business through turbulence and opportunities are what create value.
And that’s the strategy value curve we’re talking about here. One thing we hear CFOs ask for consistently for their teams is strategic thinking capability. CGMA is one option to get there.
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