McKinsey’s rules for building the most effective team to support a CFO

Good morning,

There may not be an “I” in team—but if you’re a CFO, there’s definitely an “FP&A.”

Financial planning and analysis, which includes budgeting, forecasting, and analysis, is playing an increasingly big role in how the CFO’s office executes strategy. But if you’re viewing this function as a data center, you might be missing the point. “FP&A shouldn’t just be the team of people who are accessing and analyzing the data,” Michele Tam, a senior expert at McKinsey & Company in the Chicago office, told me. “They should be taking that a step further to really think about what does this mean for my organization?”

What is beneficial to CFOs is “next-level FP&A teams.” These teams build more speed and flexibility into their own processes, and in return they can focus on being more strategic partners for leadership, according to McKinsey. This may result in more efficient operations throughout the company, the firm advises.

Tam is a co-author of a recent McKinsey report that highlights what next-level FP&A teams do well. Here are four areas:

Speed and agility: These teams don’t rely on legacy processes like using spreadsheets. McKinsey offers the example of a medical device company’s business unit (not named) that wanted real-time information on manufacturing resources. The FP&A team worked with IT, sales and operations. They decided on an A.I.-based software platform to incorporate data from servers across the company. And they also developed a digital dashboard and a mobile app for CFOs to get the latest information.

Rely on data: They work with IT to create “data lakes” or warehouses for general-ledger financial data, along with inventory, HR, and sales data, and external business information. So, if a business leader needs info to improve a KPI, for instance, FP&A teams can easily provide the details.

Going deep on strategy: Next-level FP&A teams strategically connect the dots by identifying critical factors that will affect the business, relating that to financial performance, and taking part in decision-making. 

Have a say in big, strategic moves: Highly effective teams do more than just provide the data; they frame the case for change. “FP&A teams will need to continually shift between planning and execution,” according to McKinsey’s report. And when it comes to making transformational moves, the CFO, CEO, and other senior leaders will need to rely upon them to manage the uncertainties, the firm noted.

Work like closing the books or getting invoices paid will be automated over time, Tam says. So, upskilling FP&A talent to be strategic thinkers is vital, she says. Whether CFOs hire FP&A talent or develop current talent, there should be a “mindset shift” from the role solely focusing on reporting the data, she says. They should understand that being a strong FP&A person means that along data reporting “you are challenging the business, and you’re a strategic business partner,” Tam says. 

FP&A talent also need business partnering skills sets, she says. “It’s the ability to leverage the relationship you’ve built with somebody to go toe-to-toe with them, and to be able to challenge them in an effective way, where it doesn’t hurt the relationship that you’ve had,” she explains.

Another important aspect for CFOs to consider: “Making sure that you are giving FP&A the opportunity to have a seat at the table,” Tam says.

Have a good weekend. See you on Monday.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

New Research by American Express and The New York Women’s Foundation found that women remain ambitious, but there's a lag in confidence. But there are generational differences. Gen Z women place the highest importance on having ambitions (68%) compared to Millennials (57%), Gen X (48%) and Baby Boomers (52%); and they're also more likely to proudly call themselves “ambitious” (36%). In addition, Gen Z women are also more likely to seek out leadership opportunities (34%). However, "women across generations are generally in agreement on the importance of acting as an advocate for others to help them in their career," according to the report

Courtesy of American Express and The New York Women’s Foundation

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Here are notable moves:

Daniel (Dan) D’Arrigo was named CFO of the enterprise of The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (a Tribe), owner of the Palms. D’Arrigo comes to San Manuel with more than 25 years’ experience. He previously served as EVP, CFO and treasurer of MGM Resorts International (MGM) in Las Vegas, where he oversaw the company’s domestic and international financial functions. 

Lauren Dillard was named CFO and senior managing director at Vista Equity Partners, a global investment firm, effective April 11. Dillard will succeed John Warnken-Brill, who is retiring from the role. She most recently served as the EVP of Investment Intelligence for Nasdaq, where she was responsible for leading the strategic direction of the division, driving expansion across Nasdaq’s index. Prior to joining Nasdaq, Dillard spent 17 years at The Carlyle Group.

Hugh Gallagher was named CFO at Marathon Digital Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:MARA), an enterprise Bitcoin self-mining company, effective March 31. Sim Salzman, the company’s current CFO, will be transitioning to the role of chief accounting officer. Prior to joining Marathon,  Gallagher was the chief strategy officer at Global LPG, and held several senior positions at UGI Corporation and AmeriGas Propane.

Anjula Singh was named CFO and COO at SoundExchange, a music tech organization. Most recently, Singh served as EVP and CFO. As a member of the leadership team, she helped faciliate SoundExchange's distribution of nearly $9 billion in digital royalties to music creators. Singh has been with the company for 16 years.

Chris Stansbury was named CFO at Lumen Technologies (NYSE: LUMN), effective April 4, succeeding Neel Dev. Stansbury most recently served as SVP and CFO of Arrow Electronics, Inc., In his role at Arrow, Stansbury was responsible for leading the company’s global finance organization and served as a member of the company’s executive committee. Stansbury joined Arrow in 2014 as VP and chief accounting officer.

Brandon Turner was named CFO at CKE Restaurants, Inc., owner, operator and franchisor of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Most recently, Turner served as COO and CFO of Hero Bread, a food tech start-up. As CFO at Caribou Company Inc., he oversaw finance operations for five brands. His prior experience includes progressive leadership roles with Quiznos Subs, School of Rock and investment banking organizations.

Rodney Yoder was named CFO at Sunlight Financial Holdings Inc. (NYSE: SUNL), a technology-enabled point-of-sale financing company, effective April 1. He succeeds current CFO Barry Edinburg. Yoder led financial analysis and corporate strategy at Barclaycard. He previously served as treasurer for Swift Financial for several years. 


"It’s not uncommon for women to face the vicious cycle of not having the resources or opportunities to advance, then lacking support when they finally do. One of the best ways to break the cycle, I’ve found, is to be your own biggest advocate."

—Priya Rajagopal, director of product management at Couchbase, writes in a Fortune opinion piece.

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