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Scope of Responsibilities


Defining the scope of a CFO’s oversight is challenging because it’s still evolving. Besides the overarching responsibility of overseeing and reporting finances, the role now often includes strategic planning, technology and investor relations.

New areas of reporting, including corporate social responsibility and environmental performance, are also being added. And in some companies, the CFO is even charged with overseeing the push into global markets.

A COO and head of merchandising and marketing all are focused on day-to-day operations, according to Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture Retail, Chicago. The CEO needs help with the big picture, and “more and more, it’s falling on the CFO to be more involved in strategic and transformational thinking,” Donnelly noted.

Strategy can encompass mergers and acquisitions (and resulting store closures), possible overseas expansion and the monitoring of data security. A CFO’s direct reports also may change, including the chief information officer.

“While IT might not actually report to the CFO, it does affect the business brand,” Donnelly said.

If the CEO and board wish, the CFO could be the spokesman, also.

“If you’re a public company, you’re driven by what Wall Street says about you,” said Ellen Williams, senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s financial officer practice, Stamford, Connecticut.

With the CFO taking on so many new responsibilities, there may come a time when a COO may not be needed. Some firms are already eliminating the position, assigning the responsibilities to other posts, notably CFOs.

McDonald’s Corp. has handed off the duties of its retiring COO to two senior executives, including its CFO, who will now also oversee the global supply chain, development and franchising functions.

“We’ve seen reduction in the number of COOs in the last 20 years,” advised Bob Comeau, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, McLean, Virginia. “It’s morphed into the CFO role.”

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