Liberated By Tech, CFOs Find New Purpose As Chief Value Officers

Automation has revolutionised the work and responsibilities of finance professionals. Relieved from repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as bookkeeping, invoicing and tax compliance, they are discovering new, more fulfilling roles within their organisations. This transformation is especially apparent at the top, where chief financial officers (CFOs) are transitioning into chief value officers (CVOs).

Beyond automation, businesses are moving away from a laser focus on the “bottom line” as they ride the waves of global crisis after global crisis. The pandemic-induced acceleration of digitisation disrupted work the world over; geopolitical instability has sent shockwaves through supply chains and financial markets; and the climate emergency requires fundamental changes to consumption, resource use, and manufacturing.

In such a world, there is not going to be a “back to normal” and CVOs will be instrumental in leading companies through the difficult and necessary transformations required to succeed at a time when the very definition of success is in flux.

Why are CFOs becoming CVOs? And what’s the difference?

The financial C-suite is adopting the new role of CVO to expand its organisation’s measures of success beyond financial capital. So in addition, they are looking at human capital, such as staff wellbeing and fulfilment, and social capital; thinking in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), and societal impact. This evolving CVO role also takes in intellectual capital, including innovation and digitisation, and environmental capital; considering aspects of their business such as sustainability and ecological impact.

 Clearly, that’s a lot more responsibility to take on than in a traditional CFO role, but the underlying skillsets are the same. CFOs are experts at defining, creating, delivering, and sustaining value; the role of CVO takes those skills and stretches them across new value categories that are better fit for a 21st-century attitude towards success, leaving the “constant optimisation for short-term shareholder profits” mindset in the past where it belongs.

As a result, CVOs have a more hands-on role in wider organisational governance and strategy. Rather than being siloed in the financial department, CVOs identify and nurture value opportunities across the entire organisation, from the introduction of new technology and the improvement of data literacy to the reduction of carbon footprints and cultivation of more inclusive company cultures. CVOs then measure this wide array of value categories and report them to stakeholders, both within and outside of the organisation.

What’s next for CFOs and CVOs?

In the Enterprise 4.0 world, traditional financial departments will shrink and become more specialised, while entirely new value departments will expand and be led by CVOs. There will likely be plenty of overlap between HR departments and DE&I groups, as the cultural aspects of the workplace become a higher priority.

Tech-savviness and data literacy will continue to be a focus as the rapid pace of digitisation continues. CVOs will be instrumental in guiding workplaces towards new ways of working, maximising opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration, and supporting the new roles that will emerge with the increasing democratisation of data.

New hires to value departments will be entering a workplace almost unrecognisable from when the current crop of CVOs started their careers, and it will be the responsibility of CVOs to ensure that the new generation of finance professionals are supported and excited about their opportunities. This is likely to lead to entirely new paths of career progression, with the role of CVO at the top, while intuitive new tools will provide entry points for people outside of traditional financial backgrounds.

As for the CFOs looking to become CVOs, there will be increasing developmental and educational resources as the role becomes more formalised. Currently, Audencia provides the world’s first CVO EMBA programme, and we can expect that many more will be launched in the future.

Organisations equipped with experienced and empowered CVOs will have a tremendous advantage in an unpredictable world undergoing seismic changes. By redefining value so that their company’s eggs are in many baskets, CVOs will help businesses grow sustainably, absorb shocks, and adapt to futures that we have not yet imagined.

About the author: Rodolphe Ardant is the Founder and CEO of Spendesk.

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