Why the Role of the CFO Is Bigger—and Broader—Than Ever Before

The chief financial officers of today aren’t just about dollars. Yes, they’re still focused largely on the financial--it’s in the title after all--but in order to be successful, they must increasingly be involved in all parts of the business.

Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit in Montreal kicked off Monday with a conversation among four CFOs: Patti Shugart of RBC Capital Markets, Cynthia Devine of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Theresa Jang of Stantec, and Karen Parkhill of Medtronic. Despite their varied industries, the executives agreed on one thing-- the CFO role is evolving into an all-encompassing position within both public and private companies.

CFOs are now involved in digital transitioning efforts, cybersecurity, and overall business strategies. And as priorities change, those areas are growing as well.

“What really comes to mind as I think about the role of CFO and what’s evolved is this drive for us to actually be aware of what traditionally would have been not a financial matter. I sit in meetings with investors and they want to know, ‘What’s your diversity and inclusivity policy? How are you doing? What are the metrics that you’re tracking?’ Ten years ago I wouldn’t have had that conversation,” Jang noted.

The numbers side of business has also taken a turn. While CFOs and investors were previously more focused on each quarter and achieving short-term growth, there’s a new emphasis on sustainability and meeting long-term goals.

“The CFO is really a role where we’re focused on ensuring that we drive the long-term sustainability and success of our company,” Parkhill said. “In doing so, you get involved in almost everything when you’re looking at the long-term success. Success is often measured in financial performance and in data and statistics. And the CFO role, we thrive on data and statistics and financial performance. That’s why the role has evolved to be something far greater than just financial reporting.”

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