Four faces of the CFO

Today’s CFOs are under more pressure than ever. Economic uncertainty, increased regulatory requirements, financial restatements and increased investor scrutiny have forced them into the spotlight. At the same time, they face never-ending pressure to cut costs, grow revenue, ensure controls, and are even put at personal risk for the company’s mistakes. Given these pressures, it’s no wonder that CFO turnover is on the rise and the role is under greater scrutiny, internally and externally.

One reason the CFO's job is so fraught with challenge is because it's really four jobs in one. We call these distinct roles the "four faces" of the CFO. The first role is that of steward, preserving the assets of the organization by minimizing risk and getting the books right. The second is operator, conducting basic finance operations efficiently and effectively. Third is strategist, influencing the company's overall direction. And fourth is catalyst, instilling a financial mindset to execution and risk-taking throughout the business.

These are the four faces of the CFO:


The Strategist is a director, focused on defining the future of the company to enhance business performance and shareholder value. The Strategist provides a financial perspective on innovation and profitable growth; leverages this perspective to improve risk-awareness, strategic decision-making and performance management integration; and translates the expectations of the capital markets into internal business imperatives.


Efficiency and service levels are the primary areas of focus for the Operator. The Operator must dynamically balance cost and service levels in delivering on the finance organization's responsibilities, and adapt finance's operating model as necessary. Talent management, offshoring and shared service decisions are often the key issues to be addressed.


Accounting, control, risk management and asset preservation are the province of the Steward. The Steward must ensure company compliance with financial reporting and control requirements. Information quality and control rationalization are top-of-mind issues for the Steward.


The Catalyst is an agent for change, focused on establishing a value attitude throughout the organization. The Catalyst gains business alignment to identify, evaluate and execute strategies, and serves as a business partner to other decision makers including business unit leaders, the chief information officer, and sales and marketing leaders. The Catalyst establishes a structure of enterprise accountability for results, drives enterprise execution and gains acceptance from business management as the organization's catalyst.

This article is part of Deloitte's yearly CFO research. Read more relevant articles on Deloitte's CFO research.

Category: guest article

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