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CFO’s rise beyond the balance sheet

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jul 24, 2015
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The job of chief financial officer has expanded dramatically over the past 15 years — they’re not just accountants anymore. 

Not that CFOs are complaining.

“Thank goodness I’m not just sitting behind a desk with a calculator,” says Vincent Burchianti, CFO of Firehouse Subs

When Burchianti started his accounting career in 1991, CFOs just did the books, but now they’re also involved in strategy. Burchianti works closely with Firehouse’s CEO Don Fox.

“I jokingly say we’re BFFs, because we work hand in hand almost on a daily basis,” Burchianti says.

One reason the CFO role has expanded: companies are getting rid of their chief operating officers, the COOs.

“So the CEO and CFO then fill this vacuum of change as the COO role has diminished,” says Peter Crist, chairman of the executive search firm Crist/Kolder Associates.

Some CFOs are also being groomed to become CEOs, so they have to be able to do more than just crunch numbers. 

John Percival wonders if too much is expected from them. He’s a retired adjunct professor of corporate finance at the Wharton School, who now runs seminars on the expanding CFO role.

“I’m still concerned about CFOs having to be Renaissance people,” he says. “And I think there are some CFOs who probably are capable of doing that, but I think there are some that are probably not ever going to be able to do that.”

Percival says technology can help CFOs balance the books, so they may not have to work as hard on that. 

Still, he says, there are only so many hours in a day.

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