CFOs’ Thoughts on Talent, Culture and Cutting Costs

Community Blog
Written by Katie McClure

JUNE 13, 2023

With pressure to remain profitable during a series of adverse economic events, many Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) feel isolated battling unprecedented challenges. Today’s effective CFOs are surrounding themselves with a system of strategic and like-minded peers who they leverage for advice and camaraderie. Just this year, Evanta, a Gartner company, launched CFO communities across North America to connect financial leaders from the world’s leading organizations.

The CFO role can be a lonely place. I love the opportunity to network with other CFOs whenever I get the opportunity.”

- New York CFO Community Member

Each CFO community brings together financial leaders on a local level, providing an open environment where they can share and learn from one another. The New York CFO Community recently convened for their inaugural Inner Circle Dinner to network and discuss their mission critical challenges and three key themes for 2023:

  1. Developing adaptable business strategies amid persistent inflation
  2. Strategies to attract and retain talent while protecting margins
  3. Using actionable data to forecast and drive organizational growth

CFOs held lively, small group conversations around hiring and retaining talent in a tight labor market and optimizing costs in the face of inflation. New York CFO Community Members Craig Safian, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Gartner; Rick Davison, Chief Financial Officer at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation; Elizabeth Mann, CFO at Verisk Analytics; Mike McGuinness, Executive Vice President & Deputy Chief Financial Officer at iHeartMedia; Melissa Wikle, SVP, Chief Accounting Officer at American Water Works; and Rob Wolf, CFO US P&C and Deputy CFO at SCOR helped facilitate the discussions.

These are the key takeaways from the evening. Findings are aggregate and anonymous to protect the integrity of the gathering.

Talent Investments in Data & Analytics and Digital Skills 

One CFO’s question epitomized a major theme during the dinner: “Do you have the right people to drive change?” Financial leaders reported their top talent challenges from years prior are alleviating - such as expanding talent pools - but there are skill gaps preventing future growth. As pivotal drivers of business transformation, CFOs in attendance believe the interpretation and translation of data and analytics are the skills of the future. 

However, many shared that they are still establishing how to source talent with these skills or upskill in these areas, and they were in agreement that there also needs to be a level of business acumen along with this. Cross-functional collaboration is a requirement in the enterprise today, and finance must be able to articulate the value of data-driven insights to their business partners to achieve change.

One CFO shared, “It’s cool to draw pretty graphs, but does that tie to how your business functions? How do you get the organization interested in change from the C-suite to operational level? How do you inspire from the CFO level?”

Another financial leader mentioned how having both business and digital skills should be a distinguishing factor in compensation, they explained, “The person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to arouse enthusiasm among their people is the highest earner. My feeling from this group is it’s all about leadership.”

Organizational Culture: There is No One-Size-Fits-All Approach to “Return to Office”

CFOs couldn’t help but talk about what some said feels like an “endless discussion” around returning to the office and the disconnect between business needs and employee demands. The push and shove between managing talent retention and the bottom line (i.e., real estate) continues to be one of their greatest challenges.

CFOs shared that they notice varying desire from employees to return to the office based on function, geography and demographics. Those with positions that require more interaction, such as FP&A teams, tend to be happy to come back into the office, while those with transactional jobs, longer commutes, children or those from specific generations tend to enjoy and request the flexible work environment they have grown accustomed to.

Overall, they acknowledged that they need to consider all of these factors and let the business drive the answer to this question.

Cutting Costs: A Focus on Automation and Consolidation

One CFO joked, “We’re always focused on cost — it’s a prerequisite for the role.” But surprisingly, the conversation did not center around inflation. They said tactics around cost management haven’t changed, but automation was a new area of discussion, aligning with Gartner findings which point to autonomous finance as a top priority for CFOs in 2023. Consolidation of resources was another focal point. One CFO asked, “How do you limit the sprawl on tools that have similar features?”

As economic volatility persists and the business landscape continues to evolve, it is critical for financial leaders to connect with peers about their commonalities. One CFO in attendance at the New York Inner Circle Dinner shared, “What a fun and rewarding evening this was! I left the dinner smarter, fuller and with a new, amazing peer network.”

To stay on top of what your CFO peers are discussing and connect with a group of like-minded financial leaders, apply to join a CFO community near you, or check out our calendar to see when your local CFO community is gathering next.

Katie McClure headshot

Katie McClure

Content Manager at Evanta, a Gartner Company

by CFOs, for CFOs

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