The CFO’s role in the pursuit of growth

As CFOs play a bigger role in strategy, their influence may bring renewed focus on organic growth.

byAnkur Agrawal, Kaustubh Joshi, and Ishaan Seth, courtesy McKinsey&Company

The more CFOs contribute to strategy, the more relevant their perceptions of growth may become. That’s a key finding from a recent McKinsey Global Survey,1 1.The online survey was in the field from October 23 to November 2, 2012, and was refielded from December 3 to December 10, 2012. In total, it received responses from 72 CFOs, 204 other finance executives, and 348 other C-level and senior executives representing the full range of regions and industries. To adjust for differences in response rates, the data are weighted by the contribution of each respondent’s nation to global GDP. which asked C-level and senior managers to identify their companies’ biggest strategic challenges—and how effective their CFOs are at driving growth.

Respondents largely agree that achieving sustainable growth is the most pressing strategic challenge their companies face (Exhibit 1). Among CFOs, 86 percent report finding new sources of growth (both organic and inorganic) is a challenge, while 77 percent cite balancing long-term growth with short-term investor pressures as a challenge. Other executives agree: 72 percent and 70 percent of them cite these, respectively, as their companies’ strategic challenges. When asked what the most important drivers of this growth might be over the next five years, the largest share of CFOs (45 percent) cite organic growth, compared with 36 percent of non-CFO respondents; CFOs are also less likely to see shifting of resources within the portfolio as the most important driver. These results indicate no real consensus on a single best path to growth or on the actual value of organic growth relative to M&A. They do, however, characterize the perception of CFOs relative to other executives at a time when the influence of CFOs may increase along with their role in strategy. The differences among them suggest at least the likelihood of healthy debate on the sources and sustainability of growth.

Exhibit 1


Sustainable growth is a pressing challenge.

Exhibit 2

Companies and CFOs are most effective at managing the portfolio.


About the authors

Ankur Agrawal is an associate principal in McKinsey’s New York office, where Kaustubh Joshi is a consultant and Ishaan Seth is a partner.


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This entry was posted on July 3, 2013 by in CEO/FOUNDER, EXECUTIVE.

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