Capital Markets

Healthy Tensions

CFOs' relationships with their CEOs, marketing departments and bankers are changing.
Janet KersnarMarch 2, 2009

I’ve lost count of the number of CFOs interviewed for this magazine over the years. And I’ve lost count of those interviews that have been interrupted by a knock on the door or a phone call from the CEO wanting to have a word with his second in command. There may be some friendly banter or a brisk exchange of words between the two before the interview resumes. But by then, the atmosphere has changed — even if for a brief instant-as the CFO’s mind wanders to the boss’s office and the work that lies ahead for the two that day. My mind also wanders as I ponder the two executives — is the CFO the CEO’s friend or foe, ally or adversary?

For this month’s cover story, “What CEOs Want,” chief execs share their thoughts on “C-suite” chemistry. Not all of them agree about what makes an ideal CFO today — some want their finance chiefs to stick to the basics, others need more insight into the broader macroeconomic picture. But there is widespread agreement about one thing: CFOs will be spending a lot more time in the corner office in the months ahead.

While CFOs are growing more popular in some parts of their companies, they aren’t in others. The feature “Misunderstood” looks at the tempestuous relationship between finance and marketing. As we report, the good news is that the canyon between the two isn’t as large as it once was. But according to a new piece of research, there remains an unsettling confusion between them about whether marketing is up to the challenge as belt-tightening customers become harder to reach.

There’s another constituency whose relationship with CFOs is being put to the test. In our Banking & Finance Special Report, finance chiefs around the world talk about how various bailout packages are rewriting relationships between companies and their bankers. A poll of more than 500 finance chiefs shows there are few signs of improvement. That’s a tension CFOs will have to get used to.

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