Leadership, Finance and Empathy in the Post-pandemic
“The CFO’s role in risk management can be compared to that of a catalyst in the cultivation of the right risk-intelligent environment…but whether the CFO should be the only owner of that risk management strategy is another matter”. This quote, from Paul Mok, the Group Financial Controller of Orient Overseas Ltd, was written in 2013, in the ACCA Focus on Finance Leadership industry paper.
Much has changed since the heady days of the early 2010s and few functions have spent as much time in reflection as that of the finance function. The core message has remained relevant, even more so post-pandemic, that of financial leaders needing to know when and how to take responsibility for risk, to delegate and to decentralise decision-making.
This may not be considered easy for those occupying the senior realms of finance, accounting, auditing and banking. But where tradition and modernity now intersect, notably with the rise and rise of fintech and tech-based solutions and innovation, it is clear that the wider finance world has been an outlier in incorporating new thinking, change management and novel ideas as to what leadership should be.
Financial leaders are famed for their incredibly focused, detailed and analytical eye. They’re communicative, results driven, confident, multi-functional and incredibly numerate and logical (generally).
But has the pandemic shifted some of the priority settings for CEO’s looking for a new CFO? Does the modern financial or accountancy leader need to change? Could the modern financial leader pick the brain of leaders from parallel industries to be able to make timely, risky decisions in a post-pandemic world?
In short, yes to all the above.
CFOs and their staff are not aloof back-room staff members crunching numbers any more (if ever they really were). If anything, they’ve become more like tech leaders, sitting alongside CEOs and Board Members providing data-led decision-making that is central to business and client health.
There are however a whole swathe of new “skills” our financial leaders do need, to traverse what is expected of a modern business leadership team.
Translation and transparency
- Being able to translate complex financial regulations into layman’s terms is in itself a skillset, but it will need to be done in a much more open and transparent way. For example, as edge computing moves into customer finance, communications will be essential to preparing a customer base for changes to their finances, investments, pensions and more.
Empathy and mental health in finance
- It goes without saying that a leadership team with zero empathy is not a leader. But an essential caveat of modern leadership will be to adjust continual performance management to meet the demands of remote work forces, flexible working and that of a hybrid working/social/home life.
The changing face of stewardship
- Alignment, alignment, alignment. From BlackRock announcing their commitment to eco-friendly investments through to the changing nature of the FRC Stewardship Codes in the UK, there is a tangible benefit to making sure both the senior team, wider company staff, and customers and clients understand what it means for the company’s community, company, investments and wider society when the company defines stewardship.
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