Chief Financial Officers have been playing an ever greater role in business management and strategy since the title was first used in the 1960s.

The evolution of CFO from keeper of the records and reporter of numbers to strategist has been underway for years, accelerated by the Great Recession and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report on this evolution says the pandemic has expanded the role of CFOs as businesses struggle to maintain their equilibrium in the face of unprecedented changes. While CFOs believe their role is growing in significance, CEOs are even more certain.

The survey that forms a key part of the report by the Institute of Management Accountants and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants found 72% of financial managers at all levels saying the CFO role will “increase or increase significantly” over the next few years. 82% of CEOs see that happening.

The pandemic, the survey respondents said, has had an impact on that evolution and on how it has altered their view of the role. Curiously, CFOs themselves see the effect as more modest compared to CEOs. Where just over a quarter of CFOs perceived the impact of COVID as changing their views of the CFO role completely or significantly, over 50% of CEOs said that.

Indeed, the survey participants said that for CEOs, leadership, strategic insight and ethics and trust are the most valued characteristics of CFOs. While the CFO respondents agreed these with the CEOs, they didn’t score them as high.They also saw characteristics such as customer centricity and global experience as much more valuable than did the CEOs.

In discussing the report with AccountingToday, IMA Vice President of Research and Policy Raef Lawson said that the survey and multiple roundtables with business leaders bears out the predictions made a decade ago about the changing role of financial leaders.

“We had predicted that the role of the CFO would be transitioning from financial reporting and stewardship to more of the strategic business partnership role, more engaged through external stakeholders. That’s all taken place. The interesting thing is that the pandemic seems to have just accelerated this change.”CFO of the Future chart.jpg

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Banks, Asset Managers Begin Hiring Again

Amidst a volatile stock market that’s seen more ups and downs — more ups than downs in the last few weeks — than a roller coaster, more than a few banks did so well in the first quarter some have resumed hiring while their employees are beginning to anticipate year-end bonuses.

“As the pandemic persists, there are signs that banks are biting the bullet and going ahead with interviewing and onboarding remotely,” writes Sarah Butcher of eFinancialCareeers.

As might be expected, hiring is slower than it was before offices were closed and employees began working from home. Still, bank job postings in London ticked up in the last two weeks. In New York, which is weathering the worst of the pandemic, hiring is improving, but more slowly.

Financial recruiters in the UK and here agree that hiring dropped substantially in the first weeks of the pandemic, as the world’s financial markets gyrated wildly. However, they report that recently hedge funds and private equity have also begun to add staff. There’s an expectation that in the next several weeks, banks and asset managers will quicken the pace of hiring.

“It could turn out to be a busy second half of the year for recruitment,” an equities recruiter cautiously told eFinancialCareers.

Bankers themselves are even more optimistic. A survey by eFinancialCareers found two-thirds of finance professionals expect a year-end bonus, with 12% expecting it to be larger than last year’s. But that percentage increases to 24% among those working in credit sales and trading and to 20% in equities and 18% in macro trading.

There may be some hubris in that optimism, though among the leading global banks, most showed revenue gains in several key sectors. According to eFinancialCareers, the M&A sector took the biggest revenue hit, with half of the 10 posting revenues lower than in 2019. But nearly all banks showed significant revenue growth in equities and FICC trading and in their debt capital markets business.

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