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Canadian CFO insights

A roadmap for finance transformation as CFOs navigate a ‘perfect storm’ of change

At a glance

  • CFOs are facing rising expectations for what the finance function can deliver even as they grapple with emerging challenges like a fierce race for talent, a changing world of work and an evolving role around ESG reporting.
  • These forces of change are stretching finance teams’ capacity, requiring them to accelerate the transformation momentum they’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While the challenges are significant, CFOs who embrace finance transformation opportunities that increase capacity to deliver critical business insights can elevate their role and build a brighter future for their teams.
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Taking the pulse of Canadian CFOs

It has been an invigorating yet challenging time for many of Canada’s chief financial officers. They’ve successfully navigated the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic only to face a new set of changes, from a shifting workplace amid a fierce race for talent to the increased urgency around the role their finance functions will play in their organization’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) journeys.

Despite the challenges, these changes are also creating new opportunities for CFOs to further increase the relevance of the finance function to the organizations they serve by accelerating their transformation journeys. Yes, finance transformation has been on the agenda of many CFOs for some time. But with recent events having upended assumptions about the pace of change and expectations continuing to evolve, CFOs need to take even bolder steps to reinvent their finance functions. 

To understand how they’re responding, we took the pulse of CFOs at leading organizations across Canada. In recent months, we interviewed more than 20 CFOs to explore how they’ve been handling the latest wave of change and the key trends uncovered in the CFO survey we conducted recently with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. While our interviewees had a range of perspectives on the challenges they face, one thing became clear: How they navigate these changes and pressures will be key to their success now and in the future. Explore below to learn more about the priorities of Canadian CFOs and how you can turn today’s challenges to your advantage.

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Key priorities for Canadian CFOs

The pandemic forced finance functions to quickly rethink how they operate as they put a pause on in-person work and had to use digital tools for almost everything they do. While many have successfully adapted, other forces of change are putting further pressure on finance functions. As one interviewee told us, it all adds up to a “perfect storm” for CFOs as they navigate emerging challenges amid changing expectations from the business.

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Top concerns for interviewees were challenges related to people and talent. They’re clearly feeling the impacts of the great resignation as key employees leave and hiring new people to replace them becomes harder. They’re also assessing the best ways to build high-performing teams in a hybrid working environment. Overcoming these challenges will be key to building capacity to perform the finance function’s evolving role.

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For many CFOs, the shift to remote working has highlighted opportunities to free up capacity by streamlining processes. While process improvement may have already been on a CFO’s agenda for some time, the pandemic has shown what’s possible, leading many interviewees to look for ways to continue the journey.

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One of the positive trends we’ve seen recently is the finance function’s growing role in helping the business drive performance excellence. On top of new demands to deliver real-time insights to the business, CFOs are preparing to be key players in the emerging area of ESG reporting. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for finance functions. How can refining the approach to technology and digital transformation help CFOs rise to the occasion?

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A changing role for finance leaders

What do these trends and priorities say about the future role of the CFO? While not all interviewees agreed that the role is changing very much, many felt that it is, at the very least, evolving. We can see this in the changing landscape around ESG performance, which is just one example of the ways external forces are impacting the role of the CFO.

It became clear from our interviews that with the pace of change accelerating for the business as a whole, the CFO of the future will be an even better strategic partner in helping organizations navigate new and emerging trends. But to shift towards these big-picture issues, they need to drive more change within the finance function itself.

One interviewee had an interesting way of describing the CFO of the future: chief balance officer. In their case, the balance is about translating the data expected by key external stakeholders, like investors, into insights the organization can use internally on the operational side to improve performance. Those internal and external stakeholders have different needs and perspectives, and it’s increasingly the CFO’s job to bridge the two.

This CFO’s description of this balancing act in many ways encapsulates the challenges and opportunities ahead for finance leaders. The good news is recent experiences have shown that the changes needed to balance new demands are indeed possible.

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Building a brighter future for the finance team

With the pandemic having highlighted the critical role of the finance function, you now have a chance to build on the momentum by connecting the changes you’ve made so far to a bigger transformation journey. You’ll be on the path to not only becoming the transformational CFO your business increasingly requires but will also be building a brighter future for your finance teams at a time when you need them more than ever.

 

Contact us

Adam Boutros

Adam Boutros

National Assurance Markets Lead, Future of Finance Leader, Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 905 815 6432

Marino Fremis

Marino Fremis

Partner, Finance Transformation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 815 5196

Samir Bishara

Samir Bishara

National Finance Transformation Consulting Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 814 5730

Lee-Anne Kovacs

Lee-Anne Kovacs

Partner, Technology, Media, Telecom & Consumer Markets, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 9206 | C: +1 416 918 8753

Kyle Snyder, CPA, CA

Kyle Snyder, CPA, CA

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8300

Stephen Atherton

Stephen Atherton

Partner, SAP Consulting, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 613 782 2984

Philip Hagel

Philip Hagel

Partner, Energy, Utilities & Mining, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8131 | C: +1 416 737 1200

Manisha Chen

Manisha Chen

Assurance Director, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 905 418 3440

Laura Wood

Laura Wood

Partner, Government and Public Sector ERP transformation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 8153

Benoit Auger

Benoit Auger

Partner and Finance Transformation Leader for Quebec, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5021

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