The New Finance Mandate - But Can the Leopard Change his Spots?

It's wrong to generalise. And stereotypes are very much out of fashion these days. So forgive me if I generalise for a moment about a stereotype! The FD.

The traditional FD is an accountant who focusses on the past performance of the company - as defined by numbers - tax liabilities, compliance requirements, and cost efficiencies. They're intelligent, numerate, meticulous with an eye for detail, but also err on the introspective side. And can be positively shy and retiring when it comes to speaking and presenting.

Over the last few years, the role of Finance has been changing.

While retaining the traditional areas, there is now a growing list of new, less familiar, responsibilities such as the digitalisation of the business, the development and deployment of solutions which drive business transformation - and the need to build relationships and cross-functional talent and teams in the process. All of this is reframing the Finance function as a key driver of future business development and corporate strategy.

The change of emphasis is putting the finance leader into a central leadership role in promoting, articulating and enabling growth, and how the company creates and preserves future value. But there's a problem.

The Finance lead may have a new focus but can the leopard change his spots?

The transformation from a finance function which focuses on historical performance to one which is all about future performance is neatly summed up in a CGMA report of the Changing Role and Mandate of Finance as:

"Information to Impact"

The traditional finance building blocks of the finance function of "Information" and "Insight" are being extended to include ''Influence" and "Impact'.

But according to McKinsey in the New CFO Mandate,"Changing responsibilities, unchanged perceptions", 47% of executives outside of the finance function think that the CFO contributes most to the traditional roles of accounting, controlling and analysis, rather than the role being pivotal to the future success of the organisation.

The FD/CFO titles go some way to distinguishing the old and new roles of finance - but they don't go far enough. A personal rebranding exercise is required to change people's perception of the Finance head as having a lead role in change management and strategic development whilst still maintaining credibility and integrity.

In addition, key soft skill changes are required to meet the new challenges. The Finance leader needs to develop higher impact communication skills to initiate, drive and maintain company-wide transformation. Getting buy in to change, motivating cross-functional teams to embrace ongoing transition, becoming a role model for new mindsets and behaviours - and coaching and mentoring team members to do the same - are just some of the new challenges.

Most finance heads have not played an integral part in doing this historically and haven't developed these broader skills. Excellent communication skills and brand management have traditionally not been high on the FD's list of strengths. Typically it was the CEOs, Marketing and Sales directors that were the engaging ones, the so-called 'best speakers' and perceived as the 'most dynamic' directors.

It is not a comfortable transition that the finance leader has to make. What is certain is that time spent investing in self-development and upskilling will be time well spent.

Professional Voice has developed a new program to support the Finance leader through this transition. And it is appropriately named: Speaking as a Leader. The program focusses on helping senior finance executives to develop presence and optimise their communication skills to increase their impact. It builds on the executive's strengths as well as building new skills. Work is applied to every day business challenges, typically enabling the executive to:

» Command attention

» Project a positive ethos

» Distil the ‘Big Picture’

» Table new concepts with ease

» Turn round negative perceptions and create a positive working culture

» Give clear purpose and direction

» Motivate others and shape behaviours adeptly

» Align performance to organisational goals

» Move the business forward on a constant basis

This happens through small incremental changes over a period of months. But with focus and application executives will:

» Improve their personal impact

» Strengthen their image and style

» Become more effective communicators

» Maximise their value to their company AND their company's value.

So perhaps it's not a question of IF the leopard can change his spots but HOW.

To discuss how we can help YOU to step up to the challenge, please contact Simon Cannon, business development director at Professional Voice, on:

+44 (0)208 579 6662