We asked CFOs: What will be IN and OUT in 2023?

With economic headwinds ahead for many, finance chiefs look to tighten budgets while holding onto long-term growth
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Photo Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Source: Getty Images

· 5 min read

As you ponder your own New Year’s goals, resolutions, hopes, and dreams, we turned to finance chiefs (and one lucky CEO) for their own thoughts on what the year ahead holds. An overarching theme? Tight budgets, but the kicker is that growth is still on the horizon…with the anticipation that we might have to wait the full year to reap the benefits.

Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.

Kristyn Reed, CFO at MarginEdge

In: Just acknowledging that the time you show up at the office shouldn’t count for more just because you’re there.

Out: I’m tired of talking about working remotely. It’s passé. We are in our new state. It happened two-plus years ago, when many, many folks went on remote, and then some have come back on a hybrid way. But at every CFO forum, it’s a major question: “How is your company doing remote?” versus, “We found our new normal and it is generally hybrid, unless you’re the government.” We know that hybrid is working for most people. And by the way, if it’s not working for you, as a company, you’re not getting the best recruits. So let’s just stop talking about it.

Steve Vintz, CFO at Tenable

In: More selective investments. We’re in a much different market now: rising rates, a long and protracted recession. Cash flow and earnings matter.

Out: Growth at all costs. Investments that have a long-term payback and an unclear ROI. We’ve seen capital consumptive model businesses that have been focused on growth on all costs. And the more you spent, perhaps the higher the valuation, the more successful investors thought you would be. This whole enterprise value-to-sales charade is over.

Christina Ross, CEO at Cube

In: Transforming numbers into narrative. What good are numbers without context or meaning? Invest in automation to free up more time for analyzing and communicating the story behind the numbers. This will allow the finance team to have stronger communication and a greater impact.

Out: Budgeting with actuals instead of benchmarks. Rolling budgets are out; zero-based budgeting is in. Using internal priorities to guide investment strategy is the better way to ensure the most efficient use of funds. Leveraging industry benchmarks will help you make sure you stay on track.

Barbara Larson, CFO at Workday

In: Increased trust between the CFO and CIO. CFOs have traditionally been focused on digital transformation within finance. But today, they are more broadly focused on enterprise-wide innovation. Over the next year, IT and finance will need to work together to harness new technology effectively.

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Out: CFOs will prioritize agility and reinvention in response to the fast-changing macroeconomic environment. In this environment, CFOs will be expected to lead the company through challenges, outmaneuver the competition, and emerge stronger on the other side. This requires finance leaders to be agile, prioritize in new ways, and rethink what is possible in terms of technology and processes.

Sally Johnson, CFO at Pearson

In: In 2023, there will be a continued emphasis on diversifying the finance industry by breaking the standard hiring model, seeking experience that differs from the norm, and prioritizing reskilling and upskilling to drive innovation and transformation.

Out: Revenue growth at any cost. Companies will look to transform and grow through both product and cost innovation alongside flawless execution.

Tucker Marshall, CFO at The JM Smucker Company

In: A continued focus on investments in technology, automation, and analytics to enhance financial decision making, streamline reporting and processes, and maximize output.

Out: ESG as an area of focus for only certain segments of the investment community. Today, investors are as knowledgeable as ever and they expect companies to deliver strong financial results ethically and responsibly. This increasing focus will help us all become stronger while doing more to support our society and world.

Ramesh Narasimhan, CFO at ECARX

In: As the auto industry accelerates its transition to an all-electric future, it will rely on a full stack computing platform that combines multiple ECUs into a single central computing platform. Investing in R&D is increasingly important to stay ahead of the technology curve and support sustainable revenue growth.

Out: Short-term thinking. The conventional “growth at all costs” mentality won’t work anymore; the new economic reality is long-term growth and a focus on a path to sustainable profitability.

Ellen Snow, VP and principal accounting officer at Pear Therapeutics

IN: Staff retention. We are only as good as the people we have. Financing for the smaller non-revenue generating or pre-commercial, early commercial companies. Cost controls. Strategic partnerships, making sure we’re ready to scale.

OUT: Trying to make do with the current systems that you have just due to the cost constraints. I think you’re going to see with the inflationary, rising costs everyone’s having to monitor budgets more closely. A lot less shiny objects, less bells and whistles for employees in terms of where HR is spending their money.—KT, DA

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CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.