Clash of views: More CFOs ask, should I stay or should I go?

Finance leaders from midsize companies are relatively optimistic and looking to increase investments to drive growth, but some burnt-out CFOs are considering career moves.

The role of the CFO continues to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of organisations today, but recent findings suggest that many CFOs don't have enough time or money to build the business they want. Because of this, some feel they are burning out and are looking at new ways to redesign their role and the role of finance teams to do more with less, according to a new report.

The global survey report from The CFO Alliance found that the majority of CFOs surveyed are looking to realign priorities this year as lack of funding has more CFOs burning out despite good company performance, the report said.

The report, 2023 Global Mid-Market CFO Sentiment Study, found that while CFOs are always looking to the future, things need to change in the present to keep them in their jobs. Many express they are being stretched thin by too many activities. According to the report, they say: "If I am staying, we need to do things differently in [the future]".

Optimism is not enough to keep CFOs from considering career moves in 2023. "More CFOs than ever are asking themselves: 'Should I stay or should I go?'," the report says. Eighteen per cent of CFOs surveyed are making a job move this year, 13% are considering consulting opportunities, and 5% are changing careers.

The report came from the responses of more than 450 CFOs from more than 20 industries, mostly from the US but also from Canada and Europe from December 2022 to mid-January. The size of companies ranged from those with fewer than 50 workers to some with staffs of more than 1,000.

Recession fears mean doing more with less

Despite economic concerns, many finance leaders see this year as an opportunity to rebalance priorities and increase spending to drive growth. The report says that 38% of CFOs say their business is currently thriving, and 66% anticipate revenue growth in 2023.

Here are some ways CFOs are pursuing a redesign, according to the report:

  • Quickly redesign the work by applying technology to drive better outcomes and value, better match critical skills to the work that needs to be done by their finance teams, and rigorously upskill the workforce;
  • Proactively strengthen culture by meeting their finance team's needs for collaboration, adapting physical and remote preferences, and contributing to a more consistent work environment; and
  • Dramatically transform finance into a more resilient and integrated function that better navigates the ongoing volatile environment.

Investing to tackle risk

Recession fears have not stopped mid-market CFOs from planning to increase investments as a solution to concerns they face this year, the report says, with "75% of the participants making double-digit increases in sales and marketing, technology, talent, and capital expenditures" in response to inflation, talent, and cybersecurity risks.

They also intend to address talent gaps within their existing finance teams in house, rather than from outside recruitment, with an increase in skills training, the report said.

Even though recession concerns have caused CFOs to re-evaluate their roles and priorities, the report said that most mid-market leaders surveyed have a brighter outlook on the year ahead than CFOs from larger enterprises.

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