The challenges of the modern CFO

Today’s CFOs are expected to play a diverse role within their organisations, breaking the mold of the traditional expectations to encompass more than ever before.

We sat down with David Marr, Chief Financial Officer of the Woolworths Group to discuss his insights into the complex role of the modern CFO and the key challenges that comes with the title.

Some key challenges in your role as CFO?

CFOs face a number of key challenges. In my role, one of those is effective time prioritisation across the areas that really matter. Woolworths has a number of large

businesses, all with unique customer propositions, trading

performance, competitor sets, and challenges. Prioritising time to identify and address major current or potential issues is critical.

Another key challenge is talent retention and development. We strive to have a highly motivated and valued team, where members have the tools and training to do their jobs effectively and are able to prioritise value-adding work. We also want them to have opportunities to continue to develop their careers within Woolworths, which is increasingly important in today’s competitive environment.

Describe the role of the CFO and how it’s changing?

The CFO role is multi-faceted. It includes making sure we have an effective financial control environment; providing objective, strategic business partnering and advice to the CEO, Board and leadership team; building a strong, integrated, and highly valued finance team; effectively engaging with key external stakeholders; and ensuring we focus on both today’s and future priorities.

Changing customer expectations and increasing competition from current and new competitors means we also need to continue to evolve in order to succeed. We must have the right plans in place, so knowing how to capitalise on new ways to deliver these plans is critical, including determining what role new technologies can play.

To what extent should a CFO be a driver of the broader business strategy?

Regardless of where the strategy function reports within a company, the CFO needs to play a key role. This comprises the development and objective assessment of business strategy, the quality of the plans to deliver it, and both the financial investments and outcomes of the strategy.

How important is the connection between the CFO and the C-Suite executives, and between your finance team and the rest of the business?

A CFO cannot be effective without building strong working relationships with the rest of the leadership team. Likewise, it’s critical the finance team is well integrated within our businesses, both supporting and objectively

challenging others to make sure key issues are considered and addressed.

Key challenges facing the future of the finance function?

We are focused on understanding how new technologies can help the finance team be more effective – whether that be predictive analytics, visual reporting, automation, or robotics.

We’re also highly focused on diversity and inclusion. We nourish an environment that includes a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures and opinions, and we ensure everyone feels included. Respecting all views increases engagement – but most importantly, it’s the right thing to do for our team.

For more CFO Insights, please click here to view our most recent edition of CFO Sentiment – Solid on outlook, positive on risk.


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