The CFO role has evolved from bean counter to become more of a strategic partner and educator for the chief executive officer, the board of directors as well as the management team.
CUNA’s CFO Council recently produced “The Transforming Role of the Credit Union CFO,” a white paper that charts the quiet evolution of this position.
“The CFO used to be the guy in the room waving hands and saying, too much risk, while other folks saw opportunity,” says Scott Waite, CFO & SVP, Patelco Credit Union, Pleasanton, California, $3.7 billion in assets. “Today, the whole world is more aware of risk questions and chief financial officers don’t feel as lonely in the risk game. The CFO is being used and viewed as a strategic advisor for the CEO and board.”
The CFO’s role has morphed into a more complicated and demanding role befitting a financial services environment that has also become increasingly multifaceted. In an earlier time the job consisted of financial preparation, payroll, general ledger and accounting for fixed assets. The tools today are more complex—determining net economic value for the balance sheet, accounting for troubled debt restructures and the amount of interest rate risk in the balance sheet under various scenarios.
The position requires a move beyond the analytics; people want to know what the numbers mean and how they relate to their daily work. The chief financial officer interprets the analytics and then provides tactics and strategies that may mean tightening up procedures and policies.
CFOs need a thorough understanding of sophisticated financial instruments and asset-liability management to be effective. But they also need to explain these instruments and financial management—in plain English—to other staff and the board.
Education is one of the best defenses against complexity risk. This is the notion that with increasing regulations, innovative technology and products, the financial services industry is becoming overly complicated for members, directors and management, which can lead to bad decisions. Employees and directors need a sense of purpose to fulfill their duties, which they lack if they are confused by the terminology, numbers and their meaning.
CUNA Council members are eligible to receive complimentary copies of this, and nearly 300 other white papers; non-Council members may purchase white papers for $50 per copy.
The paper is available online in the white paper section of www.cunacouncils.org.