The changing role of the CFO

By Pete Settles

As companies become increasingly focused on technology and managing disruption to propel them into the future, leading chief financial officers (CFOs) have an opportunity to reinvent the finance function to take on a considerably broader and deeper set of strategic responsibilities, according to an Innovation Leader report, Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020, sponsored by KPMG.

KPMG’s Ron Walker, who leads the U.S. firm’s Financial Management Service group, says that successful CFOs are rapidly designing a more nimble and data-driven finance organization to address disruption. 

With a clear line of sight into the impact of disruption on both the business model and the operating model, the CFO has the chance to turn disruptors into opportunities for competitive advantage and growth.

Walker says the most successful CFOs will think like a venture capitalist (VC), building a strategic investment portfolio that can be continually adapted to changing needs. This mindset requires new approaches to budgeting, measurement and governance of innovation investments.

A VC approach to innovation strategy means enabling investment in the right project, at the right time. Accordingly, savvy CFOs can advise business leaders on agile ways to deliver projects – by developing hypotheses and monitoring results. There are ways to invest a little and learn a lot.

To stay ahead of the curve, leading CFOs are changing the means by which they deliver products and services to their stakeholders.  Some of the areas they are focused on include:

  • Extreme automation, which will dramatically change finance’s size, structure and delivery model.
  • A shift from descriptive to prescriptive analytics, enabled by advanced automation.
  • A much simpler, more streamlined organization.
  • The business disruptors that are impacting their organizations the most.
  • Where do we go from here?

Business as usual is not an option for finance. The scale and speed of transformation required to stay ahead of the curve is unprecedented. The key to success is proactively taking the first step by developing a blueprint for how finance organizations can turn disruptors into opportunities for competitive advantage and growth. 

During this week’s Oracle OpenWorld conference, Walker and KPMG will further explore this transformation journey and what c-suite executives should be thinking about.

If you would like to speak with Walker to get more of his insights on the changing roles of the CFO, please contact Pete Settles @pgsettles or


Pete Settles

Pete Settles

Director, Corp. Comm., Financial Services, KPMG US

+1 201-505-6065

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Ron Walker

Ron Walker

Finance Transformation Service Network Lead, KPMG US

+1 858-750-7057