Increasingly, the remit of the finance chief includes a greater role in shaping corporate culture — anything from a company's dress code or its social media presence to key values such as integrity and transparency. All that, in addition to setting the standards for the finance team. Two key areas in which CFOs can have strong influence on organisational culture are ethics and hiring.
Central to the CFO's sphere of cultural influence in an organisation should be ethics. CFOs should assist the CEO in establishing the company's code of ethical conduct so that employees in all departments follow the C-suite's lead.
If there is a lack of emphasis on ethics, "it can spin the organisation into trouble" in the eyes of employees, shareholders, customers, and regulators, said Mark Biersmith, CPA, CGMA, a partner at Andre + Associates PC in Dallas, Texas.
Hiring the right fit
CFOs who want to uphold and grow a company's culture can use strategic hiring to accomplish that goal, according to Duncan Brodie, FCMA, CGMA, managing director at Goals and Achievements, a career consulting firm for accountants near Brighton, England. He said finance chiefs should not be afraid to hire people who might someday ascend to the CFO role.
"If you hire people who are better than you, hire people who have got high expectations, it raises the standard right up the line," Brodie said. "Hire people who are smart and driven, and they'll keep you on your toes."
The benefits of being a culture leader
Building culture can also help better position a CFO for a CEO role. And that demonstration of nonfinancial acumen is critical for those looking to ascend to top finance jobs. Showing support for employees, treating them with fairness and respect, and communicating how their work matters go a long way in modelling culture.
"You get to a senior level because you've got good people skills," Brodie said. "You can manage, you can lead, you've got strong interpersonal skills and can build relationships, and you understand how businesses work."
Neil Amato (Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com) is an FM magazine senior editor.