IT’S FAIR to say former FRC chief executive Paul Boyle made himself a hostage to fortune when, in 2008, he said “auditing has had a good crisis”. That changed, of course, as time progressed. This process included some fairly excruciating Lords and Commons committee evidence sessions with heads of the big firms, and led to enhanced transparency and market regulation for the profession.
But have finance directors and CFOs had “a good crisis”? There are certainly plenty that seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth during that time, with more than a few kicking around in ‘consultancy’ roles.
But many others found themselves thrust to the fore: managing financial restructurings, divestments, cost and cashflow control, and key investor comms. They often became the face of the business, particularly where the CEO and/or chairman had moved on after their promises of grand returns proved unfounded. It has been a period where more finance chiefs than ever have stepped up to lead their business, where the skills I outlined above have proved to be core in such constrained, uncertain times.
But the climate is changing. Growth is the new buzzword. The vast majority of sentiment and hiring indices are reaching pre-2008 heights, and economic indicators are generally positive.
So where does that leave FDs? Well, doing all the things they were before, as well as helping explore new markets and territories, or managing much of the process behind M&A deals. As the Secret FD writes this month, this can be a tiresome, expensive and frustrating process, so you must be robust and keep management on track by reminding them what they are trying to achieve.
Ironically, while the ‘offensive’ part of the FD role gives scope to again broaden the skillset where so many have, for so long, been occupied by ‘defence’, it will be interesting to see the impact on FD careers. Will they remain the CEO-to-be? Or will stakeholders question their ability to be expansive? A sentiment index on this would be fascinating.
Kevin Reed is editor of Financial Director and Accountancy Age