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The Evolution of the Strategic CFO With Darrell Cox

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As Vena Nation week approaches, we sat down with our CFO, Darrell Cox, to talk a little bit about the evolution of the strategic CFO and what we can expect from his upcoming talk for Vena Nation week.

How has the role of the CFO changed over the years? How do you see it developing in the future?

Darrell Cox: The role has definitely evolved over time. And I believe it has in a way also remained the same.  At the root, a finance leader's role is still always about taking ownership of the numbers and bringing insights to the business and enabling better business decisions in the most timely manner possible. The evolution has been in how we do this and how far we can take this. And what's enabling us to evolve is technology. With the latest technology, businesses are producing more and more data that is very relevant to finance.

Technology is also making it less expensive to get very large amounts of data to business stakeholders. Technology is also much easier to use and more easily embraced by business users outside of finance. The most evolved finance team leverages the latest in technology to bring in more data from more places from across an organization, engaging all business stakeholders and delivering insights to them more often and ideally on demand. I see this trend continuing for the foreseeable future. And leaders who are embracing modern cloud technology today will be able to build and maintain a competitive advantage for their organizations over lagging competitors.

What does it mean to be a strategic CFO in your opinion? And how has being a strategic CFO impacted your approach to your role?

DC: This can mean a lot of different things depending sometimes on an exigent situation. For me, generally, it means being action oriented and growth minded--proactively looking for insights and leading the change by driving forward-looking business motions. It means thinking big, not just focusing on the details and being done with that, but finding clues in the details about how to drive a great business. Seeing a detour where some might see a change in direction, or conversely. It's not just about being a contrarian, it's about bringing insights to the table that bring real value and impact the direction of the business. Being a strategic CFO has earned me leadership roles and enables me to feel like I am fulfilling my potential. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction in what I am contributing to my team.

How does a CFO influence strategy? Why is it important to be a strategic CFO in one's organization?

DC: That's a great question. A CFO and a finance team are responsible for empowering strategic decisions through our stewardship of the management operating process. We are directly responsible for helping the business build a great plan and for measuring and evaluating performance against that plan which will ultimately determine what the next plan will look like.  How well we fulfill this function will have a direct impact on how well our organizations perform against this plan and in what direction this plan or the next plan will take us. The more data we bring into our plans, the more people we bring into our planning processes and the better and more timely insights we bring back to our teams through performance measurements and evaluation, the better we will do as a team. We, as finance leaders, become more important to our teams by behaving in a strategic manner.

For Vena Nation week this year, you are going to be talking to us about The Evolution of the Strategic CFO. Without giving too much away, can you talk to us about what your session will cover?

DC: I believe that every finance leader--CFOs and those who aspire to become CFOs--have the ability to be strategic finance leaders if they are not already.  I believe that to be the most that we can be, we should continually think and act like strategic CFOs. I want to deliver a little bit of inspiration and remind us about why this is so important and how we can enable our organizations to be more successful and to achieve truly great things by approaching our roles in a strategic manner. And I will talk about all of this in the context of my principles of the Agile CFO, which frame what being a strategic CFO means to me.

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About the Author

Jonathan Paul, Senior Director, Content & Communications, Vena

As Senior Director of Content and Communications, Jonathan Paul leads content strategy and execution at Vena, overseeing the development of owned media and content experiences that help finance professionals fuel business health, as well as their personal and professional growth. When he's not dreaming up new ways to offer audiences value through content creation, Jonathan loves to lose himself in an immersive video game with a solid narrative, lose golf balls pretending to be good at golf and lose time dreaming about time travel.

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