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What will be important to CFOs in 2022?

Six topics that will shape the finance leader agenda

Decisive agendas help CFOs create value amid disruption

Facing a myriad of disruptors, companies in every industry are making strategic decisions to remain competitive in the market and with their people. While digitization is critical, it’s important to recognize that technology isn’t the only way to break away from the pack. Businesses that focus on solving problems for their customers in innovative, lasting ways will be the ones that create sustainable value.

To stay ahead, value-minded CFOs can help their businesses stop chasing the disruptors and instead focus on making a few big-picture decisions now that will reshape their business models for the long term. Thinking of these decisions in terms of “the 5 Cs” – challenges, capabilities, configuration, cloud and culture – can help reimagine work and your company’s role in a digital era, showing the way to a lasting competitive advantage.

For more insights on other topics important to CFOs in 2022, see our analysis and resources below.

What does 2022 look like for today’s CFOs?

Here are six topics that will likely be high on CFOs’ agendas in 2022, based on our PwC Pulse surveys and our roundtable conversations with CFOs across the country. This list offers a starting point for where CFOs can focus in 2022. Click through to learn more about each area.

Accelerating transformation

Investment in digital transformation has been a top priority for CFOs throughout the pandemic, as many kept digital investments safe from cost cuts, reallocating resources and even accelerating some investments. Still, CFOs want to transform even faster: a vast majority are investing in digital transformation, including in technologies like cloud and analytics, to drive growth. In sharing the company’s cloud value story, the CFO can play a leadership role alongside the CEO. Finance leaders can pinpoint capital commitments, helping drive strategies for long-term growth.

The pandemic also revealed the myriad issues inherent in linear supply chains. Fledgling technologies were not equipped to address the cascading disruptions that resulted. As continuing supply chain issues demand attention alongside continued concerns about high turnover and competitive wage growth, CFOs need to recognize that transforming business processes is the clear path to growth for the future.

Looking ahead:

With a growing focus on business process standardization, long-term strategies for using and protecting data require enhanced digitization. Enterprise digital transformation needs advanced analytics, artificial intelligence applications and cloud technology, the backbone of advanced financial tools. CFOs may also need to plan for the cost of hosting cryptocurrencies as more investment flows into digital currencies. As people functions combine with tech, finance leaders should include digital upskilling, apprenticeships and mentoring.

An eye on supply chains

Addressing and optimizing fractured supply chains will be a priority for executives, and success means transforming linear supply chains into autonomous supply chain ecosystems. A more diverse supply chain, switching to close-to-home sources and a buildup of inventory as a stopgap can help protect against future disruptions.

CFOs can focus on these issues to help prepare their people and themselves for the future. Finance leaders can use this list to understand what’s key to help bring success to the finance function and ultimately the company’s success.

ESG

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues continue to dominate the list of priorities for business leaders. Seen by stakeholders as a window into future business performance, companies that emphasize their ESG strategies as a business imperative will lead the way.

As ESG gains momentum and attention at the C-suite level, CFOs are focusing their ESG efforts around consistent reporting metrics and frameworks. They know it’s important to tell a cohesive and compelling story of their company’s impact; achieving investor-grade reporting can represent a major step forward.

Looking ahead:

Businesses can take their ESG strategies to the next level by differentiating between their environmental, social and governance components. In the year ahead, CFOs should examine and carefully consider how each informs the enterprise’s overall strategy, operations and reporting.

They should also consider how their company’s ESG program can instill workplace trust, as well as help attract and retain talent. While diversity and inclusion initiatives have gained traction, pay equity and social mobility access are also becoming more in focus.

CFOs can focus on these issues to help prepare their people and themselves for the future. Finance leaders can use this list to understand what’s key to help bring success to the finance function and ultimately the company’s success.

Building trust and purpose

Business leadership is more complex than it’s ever been. Today’s CFOs are expected to build trust with their stakeholders to deliver better, sustained outcomes—and lead on both business and societal issues. When senior leadership aligns around their customers’ and employees’ top priorities, they can help focus the entire organization on the most important trust initiatives. CFOs also have a unique opportunity to tie fiscal responsibility to transparency.

Looking ahead:

When it comes to transforming trust into action, CFOs have found themselves at the intersection of purpose and practice. Company-wide efforts—particularly regarding transparency, assurance, accounting and reporting insights—are now considered to be within the CFO’s expanding domain of accountability. Areas like cybersecurity and data privacy need funding to provide preemptive action. Finance leaders should carefully evaluate their customers’ and employees’ top priorities and be deliberate in tying their company’s trust strategy to their business strategy to ensure an effective and coordinated approach.

CFOs can focus on these issues to help prepare their people and themselves for the future. Finance leaders can use this list to understand what’s key to help bring success to the finance function and ultimately the company’s success.

Taxes, risk and regulation

When it comes to the ever-changing tax policy, risk and regulatory landscape, CFOs are facing a challenging task: anticipating and preparing their businesses for the unexpected.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the speed at which risk events occur and the extent to which they influence regulatory change. This increasingly turbulent risk environment, coupled with ongoing tension in Washington and tax policy uncertainty, means that CFOs will need to take a proactive approach to planning for potentially complex scenarios. The key to a finance leader’s success? Working with their tax leaders to educate other business leaders, the board and the rest of the company and position their enterprise to respond to new laws and increasing regulations.

Looking ahead:

Significant tax policy change is once again on the horizon. Businesses are preparing for these proposed changes, which could be substantial, including a proposal to increase the top US corporate tax rate. Likewise, companies should assess the impact of the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Continued supply chain issues and rising inflation may also affect a company’s growth outlook. Businesses can use predictive analysis to get a jump on the potential impact on productivity with modeling scenarios.

Learn more about taxes, risk and regulation:

CFOs can focus on these issues to help prepare their people and themselves for the future. Finance leaders can use this list to understand what’s key to help bring success to the finance function and ultimately the company’s success.

The future of work

In 2021, the realities of a tight labor market, new working models and changing workforce expectations—from an employee’s perspective—demanded CFO attention. Recognizing that people want more purpose in work, finance leaders collaborated with CHROs to show workers they matter, stemming potential productivity losses. In the face of the ‘Great Resignation,’ CFOs were able to highlight the importance of trust, becoming drivers of culture and purpose, while keeping a close eye on their growth agenda.

Looking ahead:

In this new era of work, CFOs are both optimistic about growth and focused on people, according to the latest US Pulse Survey. As new hybrid models continue to emerge, collaboration between the CFO and CHRO is key to embedding workforce strategy into business strategy. To return to growth, CFOs will need to understand what employees want and need and create an employee experience that differentiates their companies.

CFOs can focus on these issues to help prepare their people and themselves for the future. Finance leaders can use this list to understand what’s key to help bring success to the finance function and ultimately the company’s success.

Enabling growth

As finance leaders turn their attention to the year ahead, prevailing concerns have turned to meeting and sustaining customer demand. Solving issues of constraint—such as navigating strangled supply chains, talent management and digital and finance transformation—will all be considerations.

Merger and acquisition activity is also thriving as companies pursue value. While some companies in distress sell businesses to generate capital, others are seizing the opportunity to reshape their business, focus their portfolio and drive transformation. Forward-looking strategies—acquisitions, divestitures and IPOs—all have the potential to ease the transition to growth.

Looking ahead:

Strategic planning should encompass partnering across the business with all functions. Forecasting future revenue amid multiple variables requires accurate data to provide a guide through turbulent times. Get the most accurate data your firm has at hand and be nimble when it comes to change; good planning means leveraging data effectively, focusing on operating model standardization and positioning M&A to add value.

CFOs can focus on these issues to help prepare their people and themselves for the future. Finance leaders can use this list to understand what’s key to help bring success to the finance function and ultimately the company’s success.

PwC Pulse Surveys

Real-time surveys. Business insights.

To view data and insights from PwC Pulse Surveys, please see below.

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Pulse Survey: Executive views on business in 2022

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J.C. Lapierre

J.C. Lapierre

Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, PwC US

Neil Dhar

Neil Dhar

Vice Chair, Consulting Solutions Co-Leader, PwC US

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