The Case For Bringing CFOs And Customers Closer Together

A recent report says financial executives need the right exposure, technology, and team members to take on a larger organizational role.

Even if you’re a fan of the whole “open concept” office space, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see a CFO’s desk set up in a company’s reception area. Still, let’s just pretend for a minute.

What would customers who walk to the CFO say? After realizing the person they’re talking to was not, in fact, an admin assistant, might they wonder why someone historically considered a “bean counter” was manning the front lines? Or would they start to appreciate a senior leader who saw a direct link between customer experience and financial performance?

Something almost as radical is contained deep within a report from the CFO Alliance which sums up a series of roundtable discussions the association held over the course of 2016. Acknowledging that it was a new frontier for many financial leaders, the report suggested the time has come to get closer to the action:

Historically, CFOs have had limited interactions with customers, most often times only engaging them when there are issues to be resolved relative to accounts receivable. The good news is that CFOs recognize that they need to develop relationships with customers in order to better serve customer needs, manage customer perceptions, deliver value, and identify opportunities to deepen and strengthen relationships.

Investments In IT (And People)

It’s not just about shaking hands or schmoozing with those making purchases, however. The report goes on to recommend a series of investments that may not obviously have a tie-in. It’s about “ensuring the right systems are in place to optimize the visibility into all actions that impact the customer experience across the enterprise,” the CFO Alliance says. This includes, “integrality of business systems-ERP, CRM, CPM systems which can include social features that allow real-time chatter within these systems.”

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The third element in all this is working with the people who can make sure those systems can meet those needs. This may not be those who have traditionally worked in a finance department. They may, in fact, be from entirely different functions or even third parties.

“[CFOs are increasingly] not constrained by capital, they’re constrained by engineering resources and they’re constrained by time,” John Gaybrick CFO at payments provider Stripe, recently told Business Insider, which went to say, “It’s in the best interest of the CFO’s office to help ensure discipline and focus, making sure that the company is spending those resources on things that will turn into revenue for the company. It adds a ‘new dimension’ to the job.”

That dimension, however, may be one that brings CFOs the most fulfillment in the long run.