Data and Integration Push Evolving CFO Role

Holistic business planning and digital tools are increasingly evolving the responsibilities of finance teams.

This, as macroeconomic-driven headwinds create friction points and prompt organizations to turn to more centralized and streamlined strategies for their working capital and spending needs.

PYMNTS recently sat down with Kevin Held, CFO at cloud-based treasury and liquidity solution management company Hazeltree, to talk about the importance of finance and accounting teams taking, and acting upon, a big-picture view of their organization’s needs, as well as the changing responsibilities of the CFO office he’s witnessed throughout his career.

“You know,” Held said to PYMNTS, “finance and accounting teams have become much more of a business partner than just the ‘bean counter’ we were before.”

And Held has had a front-row view of the industry’s evolution. His current role at Hazeltree is Held’s eighth time taking the CFO seat in a successful career spanning more than three decades.

“Accounting and finance have changed so much over the years, and it’s really important to stay on top of the changes taking place with the industry,” he told PYMNTS, adding that, “getting systems in play that talk to each other and improve workflows is very key to what’s happening across the industry.”

A Sweeping Digital Transformation

An integrated approach to business growth planning is only becoming more important for the CFO office, as the responsibilities of finance teams more broadly shift to include providing their organizations greater actionable transparency over cash flow and other critical business roadmap needs.

“It’s really a matter of keeping your eyes open and understanding what affects your company, and being able to plan ahead and have these discussions on the needs of the company in order to create a plan across all departments that satisfies those needs and makes sure that everyone is aligned and informed,” Held told PYMNTs.

As 2022’s digital transformation fuels 2023’s data-driven growth, CFOs are increasingly leveraging emergent tools that streamline workflows and provide automated support functions to gain a stronger hold of cash flow management, cash flow forecasting, and management of working capital.

When Held first started out in the industry, everything was primarily manually driven. In the years since, things have dramatically changed from the standpoint of how the CFO office and the finance group itself operate, he said, with a lot of the changes being driven by workflow automation and other operational modernizations.

“From the standpoint of being able to pull information from [one system] and get it into the accounting system, we shouldn’t have our accounting team manually entering and reconciling that information. Automating the movement of data and information from one system to another is key to making the company as efficient as possible across all areas,” Held said.

Read more: As Businesses Crave Efficiency, Will 2023 Be the Year of Embedded Finance?

Automation encompasses a number of different areas as far as Held is concerned, and he sees the benefits of automated accounting solutions offer as evolving in-step with the growing demands on the CFO office and finance teams.

“How do we get information that’s faster, cleaner, and more useful? As companies have evolved, data is king,” Held said, “and every decision is made based on what the data output from the finance department is, or systems that finance has connections with, whether it’s a Salesforce CRM system or something that’s tracking the ARR that’s there when our contracts are renewing.”

Recession Insulation

Some businesses are more recession-proof than others, and Held counts himself lucky that Hazeltree, as an ingrained software system counted on by its clients, is comparatively safe in the face of rising interest rates and historic inflation, among other macro factors.

Still, the advice he offers for other businesses that may not be so fortunately buttressed against economic downturns is to make sure their workflows are integrated in a way that leverages affinities and allows the CFO and their finance team the operational transparency and insight necessary to make appropriate business decisions in the face of challenging times.

“It’s working with the whole business to make the company better, creating efficiencies and bringing in the appropriate knowledge and actionable information,” Held said.

Every day is different, he adds – but that’s a part of what makes a day in the life of a CFO so exciting.

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