CFOs are spending more time outside the finance department, according to a recent survey conducted for Robert Half Management Resources, an accounting and finance recruiter. Of the 1,400 CFOs surveyed, 27% said they had become more involved in operations over the past three years, while 19% saw their roles expand into human resources (see chart, below).

The numbers are part of an ongoing trend showing that CFOs do more than crunch numbers, says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. For years, companies have looked for CFO candidates with experience in day-to-day operations, along with treasury, cash management, and more traditional corporate-finance responsibilities.

The expansion into human resources, though, is relatively new. In part, CFOs are getting involved in HR because of fears of increased health-care costs under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, says McDonald. “A lot of the involvement in the human-resources department is a result of pending legislation,” he adds. McDonald explains that the U.S. health-care mandate from the Obama Administration potentially could increase expenses, so CFOs want to dig in and run cost-benefit analyses, determine the impacts to their companies, and set strategy to maintain “some semblance of a positive bottom line.”

Further, because the current recession demands more belt-tightening from companies, CFOs have also become more involved in making layoff decisions — another responsibility that requires them to consult with HR, notes McDonald.

More important, CFOs may be extending into HR because human-capital concerns have taken on increased importance in the boardroom, says Scott Simmons, vice president of executive-search firm Crist|Kolder Associates. “HR is no longer a payroll function or a personnel function,” says Simmons. “It has become a strategic function in many companies, so it’s not surprising that CFOs would get more involved [in it].” Still, companies looking for finance chiefs have not yet asked for CFO candidates with HR backgrounds. But they remain vocal about wanting their hires to have business and operations experience.

The Robert Half survey also found that 17% of CFOs had expanded their responsibilities into marketing, 15% had taken on IT responsibilities, and 15% said nothing had changed.

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