Sujeet Kini, CPA, CA, has witnessed a big expansion of the chief financial officer role over the course of his 30-year accounting career. Now as a CFO, he's reaping the benefits of having responsibilities that extend far beyond traditional finance.
"Most CFOs nowadays, including me, participate in every key decision that impacts the business from both a financial as well as from a non-financial perspective," says Mr. Kini, CFO of Hootsuite Media Inc., a social media management company in Vancouver. "It's like an end-to-end, full-on engagement, with Finance being a key participant in all aspects of the business."
CFOs must still be expert in financial matters such as allocation of capital and resources, traditional cash management and risk management.
"But it would be almost impossible for a CFO to stand back at that point and say, 'I have provided advice on the finance and risk management side of the business – I am done with providing my input.' That doesn't happen anymore," Mr. Kini explains.
A key outward face of the business
The position also increasingly requires that a CFO address the needs of external stakeholders, such as the shareholders in a public company or the investors in a privately held firm. The CFO's depth of understanding of the whole business and its diversity provides assurance to those stakeholders.
"This is something I definitely see in my role at Hootsuite," Mr. Kini says.
David King, director, Robert Half, agrees that more CFOs are becoming a key outward face of the company, alongside their CEO.
"The investment community and stakeholders in general have become much more sophisticated when it comes to their understanding of the financial health of an organization, and the transparency required through regulation and compliance," Mr. King says.
As a result, the CFO has had to become "much more front-of-stage with regard to communicating with and explaining to external stakeholders the strategic direction of the organization and the financial means by which the organization will get there, as well as the financial health of the organization at any given time," he adds.
CFOs must be mindful of the triple bottom line, says David King, Canadian director, Robert Half.
Managing risk across the board
The CFO's internal focus has also expanded in recent years. Helping an organization achieve its strategic direction and goals – areas in which the CFO will be front and centre – calls for significant collaboration between the various business units. He or she must know how every other department works.
For example, the CFO needs to understand the legal environment in which the company operates because if there's a legal challenge and a subsequent judgment against the business, the financial outcome could be significant, Mr. King says.
Information technology is another crucial area. For external stakeholders to invest in or analyze the company, and for management to be able to lead and make effective decisions, IT systems must produce more and more real-time data that is both accurate and efficient.
"We have a really close relationship with IT in Hootsuite," Mr. Kini notes. "We work closely with them from the point of view of controls around IT cybersecurity and information management."
Nor can today's CFO afford to simply concentrate on the financial bottom line. Success in business demands adherence to the so-called triple bottom line of finance, social responsibility and the environment.
A company that has strong financial performance but lacks a reputation for being socially responsible is at risk of losing value over the longer term, Mr. King warns. "It is therefore important that the CFO is mindful of how the triple bottom line looks to the external community."
Mr. Kini's take: "We find that when organizations take corporate social responsibility seriously, it also has the advantage of helping from the point of view of one's top and bottom line."
For Sujeet Kini, chief financial officer of Hootsuite, a CFO's role has evolved well beyond the traditional finance role to being a key partner on all aspects of the business.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department in consultation with Canada's CFO of the Year. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.