Over 35% of CFOs say cybersecurity is among their highest concerns, and more than half (60%) are deeply involved in their company’s cyber risk responses and strategies, according to a recent survey published by Jefferson Wells. Despite more than a third (34%) of CFOs admitting they don’t have an existing solution to comply with cybersecurity regulations, 85% of those respondents expressed confidence they can prevent cybersecurity attacks.
In its inaugural CFO priorities survey, Jefferson Wells tallied what is on the minds of CFOs from companies of all sizes, ranging from less than $100 million to over $1 billion. As smaller companies are concerned about profitability and workforce talent, the largest companies have larger concerns, such as technology transformation and cybersecurity.
As CFOs addressed a multitude of concerns displayed in the findings, Michelle Search, Jefferson Wells' national practice leader, finance and accounting, gave an exclusive take to CFO about what top financial executives can do to remedy the top concerns for their organizations.
"CFOs rely on experts by necessity and the IT space is often a case in point,” said Search, when asked about the importance of cybersecurity to the C-suite. “[With] that said, when a cybersecurity risk becomes a business reality, the CFO is impacted directly. Having a response plan in place in advance is good, but having a cyber resiliency plan in place that involves the entire C-suite will improve the ability of an organization to withstand an attack and keep essential core systems operational,” she said.
Being aware of cybersecurity’s importance doesn’t just have benefits to the company’s data integrity, but also gives executives a more well-rounded understanding of the company and the risks it faces. “It will also increase awareness across the executive team and promote engagement in understanding, management, and response to cybersecurity business risks,” Search said.
Implementing Technology at Scale
While survey results found that only 37% of CFOs are planning on investing in technology, the areas where executives believe tech investment will help their businesses vary across the board at even levels. When asked about the expectations of new digital processes or technologies, CFOs prioritized promoting efficiency (55%), improving collaboration across the organization (50%), enhancing decision-making capabilities (47%), and improving customer experience (47%).
Having a cyber resiliency plan in place that involves the entire C-suite will improve the ability of an organization to withstand an attack and keep essential core systems operational.
“One thing to consider is what technology an organization is already using and whether is it being used effectively,” said Search. “What are the business objectives intended to be achieved and are they hitting the mark [and] if not, why? Are there better ways to use the tools in place right now versus investing in yet another tool? An assessment of technology tool effectiveness and identification of gaps to needs and wants can shed light on where to focus and invest.”
Search said early adopters of technology in corporate finance have leveraged their allocations to result in cost-cutting measures. “Some of the early adopters in organizations trying to take advantage of today’s technology and automation are shared service groups,” said Search. “Due to the highly manual and repetitive nature of tasks in these functions, this makes it an attractive and impactful investment for companies that are lagging behind.”
“Not only does it help with the labor shortage for the types of roles in these functions, but it allows the team members to concentrate on higher value activities to drive success,” she said. “A great byproduct of this is the improved morale and retention of team members as they engage in these higher value activities.”
Balancing Team Comradery With Remote Work
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they expect remote work to stick around for the next year, as executives are hesitant to push policies of return to office because of impacts on employee morale. In a remote environment, 63% of executives report problems with maintaining corporate culture alongside 62% of CFOs saying team communications are their biggest challenges.
“Remote work of some kind is really table stakes at this point,” said Search. “Employees in jobs where some remote work is possible are expecting it to be available to them, period. Because remote work creates a different set of challenges to effective communication and employee morale, CFOs are needing to invest in understanding the preferred work styles of their teams and individual team members, as well as manage communication effectiveness.”
Given the high cost of turnover and the continual struggle to attract and retain talent, creating and maintaining a strong corporate culture that values workers’ preferred ways of working is critical.
According to Search, there is no “one size fits all” strategy for remote work policies. “CFOs may have to find new ways to evaluate team and employee effectiveness and engagement that consider employee styles in a remote environment,” she said. “Given the high cost of turnover and the continual struggle to attract and retain talent, creating and maintaining a strong corporate culture that values workers’ preferred ways of working is critical.”
Search stressed that collaboration and communication are key. She encourages executives to be in constant contact with their employees to gauge preferred work environments and motivation factors. “Consider team training on communication and work styles to promote team engagement,” she said. “Creating opportunities for professional personal development can go a long way in building employee engagement, as well as enhancing the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of the organization.”
The study was conducted across the U.S. of CFOs throughout all industry sectors and organizations of all sizes in May and June of 2022.