4 Miseries of the Modern CFO and How to Tackle Them

Dimitri Raziev29 Jun 20224 mins
4 Miseries of the Modern CFO and How to Tackle Them

Is it stressful to be a CFO? Let’s think: great and growing business expectations, increasing workloads, shorter deadlines, the difficulty of hiring new talent with Brexit and great resignation. The question should rather be; what’s not stressful about being a CFO? Not so strangely, the Golden Age of the CFO coincides with its most acute distress. Recruiter Robert Half’s survey on CFO around the world reveals that the four issues mentioned above are the main stress factors in the industry. Finance workers in the UK are among the most stressed in the world, and they are not optimistic about the future. Moreover, three out of four expect their stress levels to rise in the next few years. 

1. The core of the problem: great and growing business expectations 

Since 2008, CFOs’ role has gone through a significant evolution, pressuring them to increase their skills. CFO’s role still consists in overseeing the financial statements, interpreting data, taking care of compliance and regulations, and providing financial report analysis. Nonetheless, stepping out of their back-office role, they became the CEO’s strategic partner and a key leader in driving growth and efficiency within the company. The most significant change in their position is technology. The CFO’s main priority is staying at the top of the newest technologies. Digitalisation made CFOs disruptors and innovators within their business. 

According to Accenture’s latest global study on the role of the CFO, CFOs are essential actors in the digital trend. Furthermore, 81% of CFOs identify innovation as one of their primary responsibilities. Additionally, 77% see accompanying business in their digital transition as their responsibilities. What’s problematic is that Robert Half’s survey revealed that 41% of chief financial officers believe staying current with changing technology is the most significant pressure their accounting and finance teams face. 

Instead of being reluctant to take on this new responsibility, why not embrace it? 

2. Work Overload: the art of automating 

Is the pressure to keep pace with the newest technologies what keeps you awake at night? Turn it to your advantage and make the most of new technologies. To tackle work overload, you can delegate some work to your team. However, the chances are that your team is already overwhelmed with work. Having your all staff burnt out is not the best strategy. However, automation is. 

Automating routine and manual tasks like Accounts Receivable could save you some precious time. Focus on more complex but rewarding tasks, and help your Finance and Accounting team work smarter, not harder. 

Streamlining core finance processes like AR management through automation and software-as-a-service technologies is essential to CFOs. It provides critical, real-time data to support their cash flow previsions and, as a result, guides the CEO’s decision-making. 

3. Shorter deadlines: anticipate 

Working with tight deadlines puts you at risk of burnout. Forecasts, budgets, tax declaration, closing, and your calendar is rhythmed by time-sensitive tasks. You can’t deviate from them, but you can alleviate that stress by managing your time better every day. 

This tip directly results from the previous one; automation can lighten your schedule, giving you more time to work efficiently daily. 

Mapp your day-to-day operations transparently and set up new initiatives in advance for each quarter. It is your best chance to anticipate challenges and overcome obstacles when year-end is coming. No more panicking because of additional and unexpected workload. 

4. Talent shortage: developing counter-strategies 

Having a solid finance and accounting team is key for a CFO. 

Before Brexit, Robert Walters, totaljobs and Jobsite had surveyed almost 1,000 accounting and finance professionals across the UK to analyse recent shortage trends and the potential impact of Brexit on a global market. At the time, the research already showed how badly companies sought after high-calibre accounting and finance experts. Brexit made things worse as accounting and finance employers rely on international students coming to the UK to study a sector-related degree. 

You can implement three strategies to tackle this shortage :

  •  Recruiting temporary or contract workers and working with recruitment agencies. According to the study, 52% of employers partner with recruitment agencies to access this talent pool.
  • Upskilling your junior staff. 43% of companies are using internal training to upskill their employees
  •  With efficient training, move the relevant employees into senior finance roles. 

Take away 

The four stress factors identified by Robert Half’s survey are challenging but not impossible to overcome. Modern CFOS have to embrace their ever-changing role and develop counter-strategies to adapt. Evolution is inevitable; stress and burnout are. 

Do not let stress at the workplace get the best of you, and do not hesitate to take time off the job to recharge. Lunch away from the office, reading or a quick walk can do wonders for your wellbeing. And remember, you are not alone. When a CFO suffers from stress, a whole team suffers backstage. Alleviating their stress is another way for you to feel better. There are plenty of wellbeing initiatives to implement at work: from healthy lunches to yoga classes, neck and back massages or walking meetings, you have endless possibilities.