A solid alignment between the CFO, the board of directors and, of course, the CEO, is critical to the success of any business. But, how should this partnership be? How frequently should they communicate? How are businesses throughout the world dealing with this collaboration?
We talked to 9 CEOs and CFOs from different companies and countries and asked them how often they thought it would be beneficial for CFOs and CEOs to sit down and exchange some insights.
The CFO’s information is fundamental to the board and should be heard from the source whenever it’s appropriate. A strong synchronisation between the CEO and the CFO should ensure the compilation and presentation of current results and all investment, forecast, and budget details. At R11 Travel the contact is almost daily or at least every other day, either verbally or in person and informal or formal fundamental reports in specific meetings.
The CFO should speak to the board of directors daily or whenever possible. We cannot wait to align the themes and communication, it’s a fundamental factor for a company.
Nowadays this sync has to occur at least fortnightly. The CFO has a fundamental role in helping to make viable ways to reduce costs, use new technologies, search for tax benefits, and have strong cash management. The integration and alignment of the company’s board are fundamental to its success.
I believe that the communication of a CFO with the board of directors and the president of the company should be daily. Reports, facts, situations, insights and comments of the CFO, which are linked to the company’s daily results, should be addressed every day to the board. This way, actions and decisions are taken quickly, always aiming at leveraging the results.
Of course the CFO has to talk to the board of directors at least once a month and bring up the subject ‘results and closing of the month’. But I talk a lot more! I talk to them more often because the CFO has a much broader role than that.
This will vary greatly depending on 3 factors:
1. Culture of the organisation;
2. Profile of the manager;
3. Competitive environment.
In my opinion, you should meet at least 2 times a week. At Certifica we have multiple meetings each week.
In my experience and opinion, the CFO should work very closely with the board. Most of the time the value a CFO can bring to the table in terms of long and short-term financial vision, the quality of processes and systems and the quality of revenue is something that a visionary board should value. One of the key topics of interest for any board is the financial and non-financial value the company is creating for its shareholders. An effective CFO, being the owner of financial information and responsible for the financial stewardship of an organisation can very easily coordinate with the board to achieve their vision and help formulate practical strategies.
There is no straight answer to this question. Communication between the CFO and the board can and should take place several times per day in intense periods, for example, crisis periods or strong expansion ones. Business scenarios must be built, modified, challenged and strengthened on an ongoing basis. We need to collect data and be able to quickly and precisely quantify the impact of the decision options we have.
The communication has to be as quick and fluid as possible to optimise the decision-making process (taking the right decision within the right time frame) and make sure to get a full alignment at the C-level and at the board of directors level whenever appropriate.
But, of course, the communication between the CFO and the board can and should also be much less frequent in “business as usual” times. Having said that, interactions between the CFO and the other board members go far beyond pure financial reporting and quantifications. The CFO is expected to take part in all major business decisions to help the team evaluate the pros and cons, risks, and opportunities that are on the table. Therefore, it is critical for a CFO to build a super-strong knowledge of the company’s products, marketing, sales processes, operations, and even the company’s HR strategy. And this knowledge comes from the ongoing interaction with the board members and their teams. The CFO isn’t a “controller” in his/her ivory tower. He/she is among the teams, interacting constantly with them, in order to be in a position to play a strategic advisory role to the company’s C-suit.
My opinion is that the CFO is the CEO’s right arm and as such has to be in constant contact with the CEO. It is very important that they are completely aligned, so the actions of the company are coherent and made with maximum agility.