The Virtual CFO Services & CFO Trends Shaping Up Finance
- July 27, 2023
- 10 min read
- By Soham Roy
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The appointment of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a vital milestone in the journey of any business organization. This is because CFOs are a key pillar when it comes to the strategic financial operations of a company. Different companies have different needs related to CFOs, depending on what stage of growth they are at. Virtual CFOs are becoming more popular due to the growth of the start-up economy. For a new firm, virtual CFO services can offer the necessary financial advice with reduced costs, helping start-ups to operate in a lean way while not compromising on financial compliance. This blog will delve deep into the nitty-gritty of the current CFO landscape and how it is evolving.
How CFOs Are Bracing for Multidimensional Demands of Finance?
Today, the ways in which CFOs interact with organizations are manifold and businesses must decide which option best suits their needs.
As technology advances and responsibilities increase, many CFOs are preparing for more changes and realize that they must adapt to be effective. Finance leaders say that they (CFOs) have new tasks on their plate, such as digitizing key business activities and managing cybersecurity, besides traditional finance duties.
These new responsibilities offer opportunities for finance leaders to stand out, but many CFOs think their companies are not yet ready to handle these challenges. Most CFOs understand that they cannot rely on their conventional role. Instead, to create value as their duties change, they must develop skills in other areas of the business, play a more active leadership role, and reconsider their usual methods to overcome external pressures and find new investment opportunities.
The CFO Trends Paving the Way for 2024
Here are the top 5 CFO trends to look out for!
#1 A Bigger Role of CFOs in Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) with Digital Tools
Companies seek mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as a way to create value, but, for various reasons, the final outcome may not always match expectations. Given the growing range of digital tools available to address the M&A process, modern CFOs have the chance to not only play a bigger role in an M&A strategy but also steer such efforts toward favorable outcomes.
New-age CFOs are approaching M&A from a holistic perspective by getting involved in the initial stages, identifying acquisition targets, explaining the strategic rationale behind proposed deals, and overseeing the whole process in an integrated manner. As deals advance, they are deeply involved in ensuring they stay on course, supervising anticipated synergies, and taking ownership of the whole integration process. The digital tools they can leverage include Digital Target Screening, Interdependency Accelerator tools, Divestiture Financials Processing tools, etc.
For instance, the Interdependency Accelerator tools rely heavily on databases of comparable industry roadmaps to minimize the time it takes to initiate discussions about interdependencies. Utilizing these tools, a business gearing up for global acquisitions can deploy CFOs to map hundreds of milestones, identify gaps, and develop mitigation plans to resolve them.
#2 SEC Demands More Disclosure in the United States: CFOs at the Forefront
A staggering 40% of CFOs say that they are prioritizing procedures and mechanisms for climate data collection.
Since he took office as SEC chair in April 2021, Gary Gensler has set ambitious goals for augmenting disclosure by public companies. He has said that investors must have more information about companies' workforce diversity, cybersecurity, and exposure to crypto-assets.
Some of Gensler's proposed rules have already had a significant impact on how CFOs and other C-suite executives manage their businesses. For example, two of the proposed rules would require companies to provide more detailed information about their employee demographics.
Gensler has also proposed a 490-page rule that would require publicly traded companies to furnish detailed disclosures on carbon emissions and related climate risk. This proposal has been met with widespread criticism from some businesses and industry groups.
To deal with the new SEC disclosure rules, a majority of CFOs are now focusing their ESG efforts on collecting the right data and developing consistent reporting frameworks.
By establishing procedures, policies, and rules for climate data collection, CFOs are adding rigor to aid businesses in achieving investor-grade ESG reporting. They are also considering how the companies can progress on decarbonization measures by leveraging the incentives offered by the Inflation Reduction Act.
#3 Navigating Economic Uncertainty
A whopping 47% of CFOs agree that the top priority should be developing scenario analysis capabilities & predictive models.
CFOs are facing prolonged market headwinds and this has propelled them to prioritize the development of predictive models and strengthen scenario analysis capacities to assess the effects of volatile business metrics on their bottom line. Despite economic woes such as high inflation and rising interest rates to contain it, CFOs are optimistic that they can strengthen enterprise resilience and stay on course to achieve long-term growth objectives.
This also presents an opportunity for them to play an active role in steering business agility via collaborations and partnerships across business functions to position the enterprises to comply with the new laws and increasing regulations.
In this context, virtual CFO services can prepare companies for potentially tricky risk scenarios, which include a looming recession, geopolitical unrest, and increasing cybersecurity susceptibilities. By adopting agile, data-driven scenario planning, they can model the potential impacts and ways to mitigate them. Many CFOs have reportedly said that they are balancing price increases in tune with long-term customer demand, evolving their compensation strategies, and focusing more on selective and strategic hiring.
#4 Accelerating Digital Transformation
Over half of CFOs (53%) are planning to accelerate their digital transformation efforts by leveraging data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and cloud solutions.
The new normal in business is disruption. Companies that want to stay ahead of the curve need to be constantly innovating and finding new ways to solve problems for their customers. CFOs are assuming leadership in standardizing and digitizing business processes across the organization, including finance functioning.
This requires a deep understanding of data and analytics, which is why CFOs are increasingly investing in these technologies. But data is only as good as the people who use it. A finance team with strong analytical skills can quickly unlock insights from financial data and aid in strategic decision-making. This is critical in today's fast-paced business environment, where companies need to be able to adapt to change quickly. New-age CFOs are increasingly involved in blueprinting the cost of digital assets, mentoring, and digital upskilling as staff functions must blend with tech seamlessly.
#5 Trust & Purpose: The New Business Currency For CFOs
There is a significant gap between how executives perceive customer trust and reality. While 87% of executives believe that customers highly trust their companies, the reality is that only 30% of customers feel the same way. This disconnect can have a number of negative consequences for businesses, including decreased sales, increased customer churn, and decreased employee engagement.
Trust has become the newest business currency for CFOs. It influences customer loyalty, buying decisions, and employee retention. But trust is not a thing to be taken for granted. Today, CFOs have to develop trust with the stakeholders like never before to deliver sound and sustained outcomes while leading both on business and societal fronts.
When the senior leadership of a business is willing to align with the top priorities of customers and employees, they can carry out defining trust initiatives. CFOs are increasingly seen as the guardians of trust within their organizations. They are responsible for ensuring that the company finances are transparent and that all stakeholders are treated fairly. To fulfill this role, CFOs need to be familiar with the latest regulations and best practices in areas such as cybersecurity and data privacy.
Common Services Provided by Virtual CFOs
1. Strategic Financial Planning
The CFO is a key player in strategic financial planning. Virtual CFOs can provide financial analysis and insights that help the company set realistic goals and objectives. They also help to identify and manage risks and ensure that the company has the financial resources it needs to achieve its goals.
Here are some specific ways by which a virtual CFO can help with strategic financial planning:
- Analyze the company's financial performance: A virtual CFO can use financial statements and other data to analyze the company's past performance and identify areas where it can improve.
- Develop financial projections: A virtual CFO can use financial models to project the company's future financial performance. This information can be used to help the company set realistic goals and objectives.
- Identify and manage risks: A virtual CFO can identify and manage the risks that could impact the company's financial performance. This includes risks such as economic downturns, changes in regulations, and competition.
- Ensure that the company has the financial resources it needs: A virtual CFO can help to ensure that the company has the financial resources it needs to achieve its goals. This includes managing cash flow, debt, and investments.
2. Facilitating & Interpreting Financial Reporting
CFOs facilitate financial reporting by overseeing the collection, analysis, and preparation of financial statements. They also interpret financial reports by explaining the meaning of the data to stakeholders, such as investors, creditors, and management. This helps stakeholders to make informed decisions about the company's financial health.
Here are some specific ways that virtual CFOs use to facilitate and interpret financial reporting:
- Overseeing the collection and analysis of financial data: The CFO ensures that the company's financial data is accurate and complete. They also analyze the data to identify trends and patterns.
- Preparing financial statements: The CFO prepares the company's financial statements in accordance with accounting standards. They also ensure that the statements are clear and easy to understand.
3. Raising Capital
Virtual CFOs can help in raising capital by preparing the company's financial statements, developing a strong pitch, and connecting with potential investors. They also help to negotiate terms and conditions with investors.
Here are some tasks that a virtual CFO can perform to help in raising capital:
- Preparing financial statements: The CFO ensures that the company's financial statements are accurate and complete. They also highlight the company's strengths and potential to investors.
- Developing a strong pitch: The CFO helps to develop a strong pitch that highlights the company's value proposition and growth potential. They also help to identify the right investors for the company.
- Connecting with potential investors: The CFO connects with potential investors and builds relationships with them. They also help to answer investors' questions and address their concerns.
- Negotiating terms and conditions: The CFO negotiates terms and conditions with investors on behalf of the company. They also ensure that the terms are fair and in the best interests of the company.
4. Going Through a Transition? Interim CFO Services Can Be the Answer!
Remote interim CFO services can be the answer for businesses going through a transition, such as a CFO vacancy. An interim virtual CFO can help to ensure that the business's financial operations continue smoothly during the transition period. They can also provide guidance and support to the management team, and help to identify and implement solutions to any financial challenges.
Here are some specific ways that an interim CFO can help a business tide challenges posed by CFO vacancies for a few months:
- Maintain financial stability: The interim virtual CFO can help to maintain the company's financial stability by overseeing the collection and analysis of financial data, preparing financial statements, and managing cash flow.
- Identify and implement solutions: The interim CFO can identify and implement solutions to any financial challenges that the company is facing. This could include things like improving financial reporting, reducing costs, or raising capital.
The Big Debate: Virtual CFO Services vs In-House CFO
As expanding companies reach a certain size and scale of operations, they often face a difficult decision - whether to outsource their CFO services (opt for virtual CFO services) or hire an in-house CFO. This can be a tricky decision! There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the best approach will vary depending on the specific needs of a business.
Nevertheless, outsourcing CFO services comes with several perks. It can provide access to experienced and qualified financial professionals, without having to invest in hiring and training an in-house CFO. It can also be more cost-effective (whether hiring a virtual accounting expert or a virtual booking expert or a virtual CFO) as companies only pay for the services they need.
Here are some of the advantages:
1. Finance and Accounting Costs
Keeping a full-time CFO can be a drain on a company's resources.
For instance, the cost of hiring and training new CFO recruits is very high. Besides this, selecting and implementing a digital accounting platform can increase the cost for businesses.
Therefore, having high ROIs (return on investments) with an in-house accounting strategy is difficult, more so for small and medium-sized businesses. Virtual CFO services offer businesses a much more cost-efficient model. It covers all the processes, people, and system costs, which remain predictable over time and offers stability.
It is important to note that in-house CFOs involve costs like CFO’s salary, benefits, and other onboarding costs. Outsourced CFO services offer flexibility.
When you are a brand new company, you might need accounting and book-keeping services, but not full-time. When running on a tight budget and you’ve got a full-time head doing a 50% job, it’s painful. Virtual accounting and virtual bookkeeping services can readily deploy a 50% professional until you grow.
2. Enhanced Security
A typical business is susceptible to embezzlement and fraud and deploys a small team, often less than 5 finance professionals. The whole control of finance remains with the limited number of finance professionals.
Outsourced CFO services enable small and medium-sized businesses to mitigate this challenge. Companies like Office Beacon deploy a dedicated team of virtual accounting professionals who work within a well-defined framework that limits fraudulent instances. They provide reliable and accurate data reporting in addition to data analysis to business executives.
The outsourced CFOs can also maintain a high level of integrity in terms of reporting and analysis since their reputation is at stake. Moreover, these professionals smoothly implement the latest processes and software. As a result, enhanced security with prudent technology and financial management fosters confidence and peace of mind for business executives.
3. Access to Expertise
As discussed above, the role of CFOs is undergoing a sea of change in terms of the multidimensional domains they have to look after. The fast-changing business models and market dynamics demand business owners be on their heels and have unrestricted access to adept financial management. The 2023 Global EY DNA CFO Report demonstrates that senior finance leaders and CFOs willing to push bold and innovative agendas in finance have the potential to unlock additional value today and are better prepared to deliver better results in the future.
Nevertheless, businesses find it difficult to hire CFOs who are the real Jack of all trades! Even if they find the right candidates, the hiring costs can easily deflate the pursuit.
Opting for virtual CFO services is one way to address the challenge. Outsourced CFOs deliver reliable service irrespective of the rate at which a business scales or grows. Moreover, the talent hunt becomes easier since a suitable candidate might actually be waiting to be onboarded at a lower cost, albeit at a different corner of the world.
This implies that CEOs do not have to cave into the rising CFO salaries. Cherry on the cake? Such a service eliminates the need for maintaining internal infrastructure to support the accounting staff!
Tracking and understanding the financial numbers is a crucial aspect for any business in order to analyze historical and real-time data and strategize growth initiatives. Hiring a skilled and professional Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is necessary at some point of time for any business, regardless of size. Virtual CFO services (or virtual accounting services as a whole) can drive profitability by allowing access to elite finance talent at a cost that does not break the bank. They can be the bridge between the need for top-notch finance expertise and an affordable budget to hire them.