MEET THE CHIEF FUTURE OFFICER
Businessworld|August 16, 2021
The Chinese proverb ‘May you live in interesting times’ finds new meaning in today’s uncertain world. Manning more than the traditional cost paradigms, a CFO is required to be future-ready and resilient
Janani Janarthanan

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE of the chief financial officer’s (CFO) role. In what has been a year down the rabbit hole, CFOs have chased the white rabbit of resilience to emerge in renewed avatars that are digitally ahead, cash-conscious and risk-aware. The CFO is more than a financial steward in today’s dynamic world. They command a bird’s eye view of the organization and lead as strategic business partners to the CEO. The contours of cost, compliance, and transformation have expanded astronomically in what can be called an 18-month blue moon. Along with this, the concept of quarterly reviews and annual outlooks are slowly becoming obsolete in an age of weekly reviews and monthly outlooks. In such fast-changing environs, the big question is: what now is the role of a CFO? BW CFO World tabled this in the fifth edition of the BW CFO and Finance Strategy Summit and Awards (2021).

Keeping up with compliances

Finance leaders in India over the last five years have witnessed myriad changes including demonetization, GST, eWay Bills, ITC claim restrictions, e-invoicing, and stricter compliance, to name a few. Speaking at the summit, S Ravi, Managing Partner, Ravi Rajan and Co. and Chairman of TFCI, stated that compliance and the cost of compliance have gone up by 4 per cent in recent times rendering CFOs as midfielders who know when to switch between attacking costs and defending balances. He said that their role in the pandemic has been focused on reducing debt, raising resources, improving ratings, and coordinating with regulators, board members and auditors.

Swaroop Repaka who leads strategy at Clear said we live in a time ‘where there are over 170 business compliances in India’. Highlighting their importance, he stated, “Strong compliance is a signal of quality for investors. There is hence a disproportionate value placed on compliance when investors look at developing markets.” Repaka envisioned a future where a CFO will have to deal with a greater level of business process automation, AI-based surveillance for tax compliance, interlinked direct and indirect tax systems, greater interaction across vendors and distributor ecosystems alongside a proliferation of a technology-led credit and invoice discounting.

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