Role of Finance Teams Expanding as Business Complexity Increases: CGMA Survey

Survey of 1,200 CEOs, CFOs and Other Management Accountants Shows Increased Responsibility, Expanded Skillset

NEW YORK - According to a survey of CEOs, CFOs and other senior level Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMAs), the role of finance teams  continues to expand beyond traditional accounting and financial reporting to encompass areas such as IT development, cyber security, and strategic business planning. In addition to growth in the role of accounting and finance, the survey - conducted by the American Institute of CPAs - found that business complexity is a very significant factor and is expected to increase in coming years.

An overwhelming majority of CGMAs (93 per cent) reported experiencing more complexity when asked to gauge the change in the level of business complexity over the last three years, given the U.S. and global economic and regulatory environment as reference points. Specifically, 30 per cent reported experiencing significantly more complexity, 38 per cent said they had seen a moderate increase in complexity, with 25 per cent saying they’ve seen at least some increase. Less than one per cent reported they had experienced less complexity.

Corporate executives don’t see things improving anytime soon. When asked to look ahead three years, 94 per cent of CGMAs say that complexity in the business environment will increase further. Of those, almost three-in-four (72 per cent) predict a moderate or significant increase in business complexity. On the other hand, only one-in-twenty (5 per cent) predict no change in complexity, and less than one per cent say they expect business complexity to decrease in the next three years.

“Increasing business complexity has become the new norm, and it’s not surprising that businesses are having to adapt and manage to the rapid change. As a result, organisations are calling upon management accountants to play a larger role than ever before,” said Arleen R. Thomas, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president of management accounting and global markets for the AICPA. “By utilising a skill set that encompasses the strategic understanding to drive business and the financial understanding to mitigate risk and ensure compliance, CGMAs are uniquely positioned to help their organisations meet the challenges of a rapidly changing environment."

Indeed, organisations are looking to the CFO and the finance team to take on an expanded role. Some 85 per cent of CGMAs said that the role of the CFO and finance function has expanded beyond traditional financial accounting and reporting. Those expanded responsibilities include:

  • Strategic business planning (58 per cent)
  • IT development and cyber security (55 per cent)
  • Management and corporate governance (46 per cent)
  • Legal and compliance (44 per cent)
  • Human resources (40 per cent)

Looking ahead, CGMAs identified strategic business planning (69 per cent), as the top skill they expected to be essential to perform their role in the next 1-3 years. Other skills identified as being essential to perform their roles in the future are change management (41 per cent) and communications (38 per cent).

The AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants recently launched the CGMA Competency Framework to help management accountants assess their current competency level and provide insight on steps they can take to expand their skills while meeting their commitment to lifelong learning.  It is publicly available to any finance professional, employer or educator to benchmark their team’s capability, create job profiles or design curriculum.

The survey was conducted 13-29 May 2014, and included 1,234 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as CEO, CFO or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.8 percentage points. Full results are available upon request.

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