It is late in the night, the lights in one section of the office are on (no prizes for guessing which function this is), the CFO and his team are busy with the year end closure, getting ready for audits and there is also a budget exercise looming ahead.Budgeting is an annual feature in every company’s itinerary and is quite an elaborate process if its done well. Most large organizations have robust processes and better quality talent to be able to pull this off with relative ease. The issue lies with mid corporate organizations who are neither too large to have the processes and people nor too small to ignore this, especially those who have an investor on board or where the accountability rests with the board. Having seen many such organizations, I have put together my thoughts on how can organizations get the best out of a budgeting exercise. This is in no way comprehensive nor do I claim to be a ‘guru’, this is purely experiential and has come from my exposure of having dealt with such companies. Continue reading
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The author examines the evolving role of a modern day CFO and believes that for the survival of the CFO ‘breed’, its essential to move out of the comfort zone.
Atul Kumar Agarwal is the Chief Financial Officer of MedPlus and has more than two decades of experience in Finance and Accounting in organizations like Tata Steel, PT Texmaco Group (Indonesia), Genpact, AB-InBev India. He has worked in the areas of Business and Corporate finance that included business planning, capital structuring, budgeting, creation of business support system (ERP implementation), corporate funding , working capital management, M&A, financial process outsourcing. Atul has hands-on finalization experience of accounts, financial audit, cost accounting, building cost systems and activity based management. Amongst other activities, he has been responsible for HR and commercial activities. He has chaired performance committees and advised boards on matters of corporate performance and governance.Besides being a permanent invitee on boards of various organizations, he also worked as CFO and member of board of Ab-InBev (India Operations) group entity.
Worldwide, the profession of CFO has not just undergone a change but is dynamically changing on an ongoing basis that can be witnessed in our daily lives as a CFO. This is due to constant changes in the economic & regulatory scenario worldwide and the uncertainty of the impact this would have on the organisational performance. The CFO’s role therefore is important not only as the custodian, but as a successful change manager who has the ability to ensure sustainability and effect business goals at minimum risk. The CFO has also moved on from a person just reporting to the company head or CEO to the mainstream and is the prime resource for shareholders/ boards/ other stakeholders who rely on this person to take decisions and take the organisation forward.
The CFO is required to have pre requisite skills and these are not just being good at numbers but as a strategic action implementer who is required to focus on key areas like sustained organisational performance, proactive de- risking of organisational challenges, ensuring corporate governance and being futuristic about technology. Some of these skills are as discussed as below:
Having access to right people and right information resource that can be strategic business enablers. Quality and timeliness of resource can hugely benefit the organization.
o Relationship & change management skills
Ability to influence internal and external stakeholders to get initiatives implemented. A good amount of negotiating skills & clear communication skills is of great importance especially with stakeholders whenever there is a need to work on change- management.
o Strategic Planning skills
Plan organisational future well ahead and be ahead of time. Create thought process that emulates strategy into action in various challenging scenarios and document it to enable future successors to build upon.
o Analytical and forecasting
Forecasting is not just playing with numbers. It has also to do with gut feeling of the CFO that can be relied upon. Besides having a good hand on the numbers, a CFO also needs to have a few core team members who can build on a dynamic business model that can keep improving over a period of time. This business model should be used to play with different scenarios that can aid the CFO to decide.
o Understanding of present and future technologies
Understanding technology is not just to know the present and future hardware and software requirements to take care of information management but to understand the ever changing dynamics that would support scalability, dilute human intervention in operations that allows them to focus on analytics and other high value-add domains. He should also look at promoting acquisition of intelligent systems that can build strategic edge over competition. At this point, I must say that the CFO is without doubt an inevitable part of information management of the organisation.
The CFO has to cut across boundaries in the organisation to push certain initiatives. For instance, lets take an example of an organisation that is low on performance and is in a high growth. The CFO knows that the best and the quickest way of turnaround of performance can happen with implementing KPI’s (metrics) and then bringing in a discipline that can monitor those KPI’s. The CFO constructs a list of performance based KPI’s related to sales, profitability, liquidity, HR, logistics etc., creates benchmarks, circulates & monitors them. I had the opportunity of doing this and it showed tremendous results in the employee morale especially when organisational performance parameters started improving. At times, the CFO may not get support at times from various stake holders in an organisation, but he should cut across boundaries to ensure that certain time tested ways of performance improvement exercises should be implemented to improve organisational performance.
Communications is an important attribute and soft skill for a CFO to have, since the metrics and expectations that are set for the Internal (employees, board and shareholders) and external (auditors, regulatory bodies, government agencies) are relationship based and require buy-in from all to succeed.
The CFO needs to constantly acquire new skill sets with an aim to create sustained value as the CFO is a powerful engine that not just designates the person as a custodian of shareholder wealth but as a value addition tool with sensors to predict organisational challenges, mitigates risk and factors them in his plan to ensure continuity, growth and a zero surprise environment.
Today’s CFO is highly stressed and pressured to constantly improve the results. Cost control, banking relationships, raising capital, financial restructuring make today’s CFO’s position at the centre of business as the CFO holds the key to company’s financial security. Hence the CFO also needs to ensure that a good work life balance is maintained.
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