Changing definitions: How CFOs think the role will change next year

CFOs expect the nature of their roles to continue evolving next year.
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· 4 min read

Ask a CFO to describe their job in 2023, and you’d get radically different answers. Some would say they’re primarily storytellers, translating data to investors and board members; others would stress their interpersonal skills.

CFOs had to take on an increasingly wide range of responsibilities in 2023, and that’s showing no signs of stopping next year. Here’s how some top CFOs expect the role to change in 2024.

Interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Kelly MacDonald, CFO at Dynavax

The CFO role continues to evolve at a very rapid pace—transforming from “historical storyteller” to true strategic leader focused on value creation. This will continue to require significant adaptability and agility across our profession.

Specifically in 2024, I expect CFOs to focus on embracing technology and automation, as well as sustainability and ESG requirements and the integration of these requirements into their financial planning and reporting. Beyond the table stakes of reporting and financial planning requirements, I’ll also expect the CFO role to continue its evolution as core strategic leader during a complex economic environment.

Ben Taylor, CFO at Exscientia

In recent years, the CFO role has evolved to be much more of a strategic partner rather than a gatekeeper for cost control. Historically, CFOs relied very heavily on subject matter experts to determine what data are most relevant, but that is a heavily biased process. As technology has advanced, the tools we use for monitoring and measuring our businesses have improved dramatically.

Since we sit at the center of operations, we are best positioned to see company-wide leading indicators. In 2024, with more transparent data and analytics at our fingertips, CFOs can have a much more active role in understanding holistic data and shaping strategy. The CFO role should be about maximizing impact and value creation through appropriate allocation of resources.

Shannon Nash, CFO at Wing

The CFO role in 2024 will continue to shift towards a more dynamic and multifaceted role, transcending traditional financial management. To succeed, CFOs will need to showcase a diverse skill set that goes beyond finance expertise. This includes gaining real-world experience in critical business areas, such as global market expansion and enterprise risk management, while staying abreast of trends.

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To be a CFO, you need to be a lifelong learner, particularly as the pace of innovation picks up. Seeking out education opportunities to hone technical skills as well as building a network, where you can learn from each other and ideate together, has personally been a major key to my own success.

Bea Ordonez, CFO at Payoneer

As industries continue to navigate the rapid pace of digital transformation and globalization in 2024, the CFO will play an even more critical role as an agent and enabler of change and must adapt to today’s digital-first economy. The CFO must serve as an innovation ally to the enterprise—this includes allocating resources that drive sustainable, enduring, and capital efficient growth.

While the core responsibilities of a CFO will remain rooted in financial stewardship and risk management, in 2024, a critical part of the CFO’s role will require even more people management. CFOs will need to work closely with their teams to hire talented individuals with diverse skill sets and capabilities, including the talent necessary to drive and enable digital transformation, but also ensuring that the finance team has the necessary support and resources to execute on a broad range of objectives.

Sean Brecker, CFO at Oura

The role has already changed in a big way throughout my career, and I expect it to continue. I expect that we'll see a continuation of the evolution of CFOs operating as strategic advisors to their CEOs (and the rest of the management team) around how to make optimal capital allocation decisions in what has been a very challenging environment.

The modern CFO has to be able to dissect the macro environment, be an expert in the capital markets (and especially understand the cost of capital and the various instruments with which you can finance a business, not just equity), understand the variance in outcomes of a given company in this environment, and ultimately advise on what bets to make—and how to size them. This skill set will become even more valuable in 2024.

News built for finance pros

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