“Swiss Army CFO”: Responsibilities Expand Far Beyond Finance

Survey of midsize companies shows CFOs rising to important challenges of environmental impact, global expansion, and preparing to list publicly

San Mateo, CA — Sept. 8, 2021 — CFOs at midsize American companies are taking on more complex and dynamic responsibilities than they were just two years ago, according to a recent survey of executives and finance teams. Tipalti’s latest survey of finance executives shows that CFOs are newly devoting themselves to driving their companies’ global expansion and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals. CEOs surveyed, on the other hand, chose the road to an IPO among the most important charges of their company’s CFO, out of 15 options. 

Tipalti, the leading global payables automation company, announced findings from its recent survey revealing a dynamic set of future-looking responsibilities for the CFO in high velocity, midsize companies. According to the “Swiss Army CFO” report, 99% of CFOs agree their role has become more complex in the last two years. Out of 13 options, CFOs chose “global expansion” most often as their primary goal in 2021 and beyond. Ownership for their company’s very important ESG goals came out on top (24%) as a factor that is changing the role in recent years, ahead of even the global pandemic.

Environmental sustainability 

Environmental sustainability was cited by almost a third of CFOs as one of the issues they think will have the most impact on the future of their profession, outranking topics like AI/machine learning and global trade. Also, if they could go back to school to study one subject, CFO’s chose “environment and sustainability” most often, out of eleven options.”  

Preparation for IPO; priority for CEOs and CFOs alike 

Almost a quarter of CEOs said that the ability to analyze data and IPO readiness of the company is one of the most important qualities for a successful CFO today, compared to five years ago. Additionally, more than one in five CEOs said that “accelerate path to IPO” was the top priority for their CFO in 2021 and beyond. More than one-fifth of CFOs surveyed agreed that an IPO was their top priority. The C-suite’s interest in going public is matched by the market, with 2021 on pace to shatter 2020’s record 480 IPO’s, as 717 companies have listed this year so far. 

A company that is planning to go public needs to make sure they take care of all dimensions and facets of the business. This will include accounting and reporting, treasury, tax, internal controls and audit, financial planning and analysis, media and investor relations, governance, legal and compliance, compensation and HR, and enterprise risk management.

Mohammad Hasham | Director, Technical Accounting, IPO Services, SPACS, BDO USA, LLP.

Global expansion 

Almost a third of CFOs (30%) put international expansion at the top of the list of dynamic new responsibilities in the last two years, making this the most popular choice out of eleven options. “Helping the business grow internationally” outranked options such as “finance, planning and budgeting” and coming in as the top choice from a selection of 13 options. In addition, more than one in five CEOs said this was a top priority for their CFO.

Our survey shows that modern, high-growth companies are looking to the office of the CFO to affect positive change for the long term, on multiple fronts. Clearly, forward-looking companies must be good stewards of the environment, include global perspectives throughout the organization, and provide shareholder value. These are all important, big-picture goals that can only be achieved through measurable, sustainable results. So it makes perfect sense that the chief measurer – the CFO – take ownership of them.

Sarah Spoja | Chief Financial Officer, Tipalti

Survey methodology 

The research was conducted by Censuswide, with three samples; 353 CFOs & members of the finance team at midsize (250-1,000 employees) at technology companies, 350 18+ CEOs at midsize technology companies, and 350 18-35-year-olds, young professionals in finance roles, recent college graduates and soon to be graduates (finance undergrads) in the US between July 21, 2021 through August 2, 2021. The survey was conducted from a nationally representative of US adults. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society, which is based on the ESOMAR principles.