CFO Role Expands Amid Pandemic, According to New Protiviti Survey

Press Release

Finance leaders increasingly looked to for guidance on how to allocate both digital resources and staff as companies navigate the remote environment

MENLO PARK, Calif., October 26, 2020 – Global consulting firm Protiviti has released the findings of its annual Finance Trends Survey, which reveal CFOs and senior finance executives are facing a growing list of responsibilities and demands from internal stakeholders as the pandemic has stress-tested the finance labor model in real time. More than 1,000 finance leaders participated in the global survey conducted in July and August 2020.

According to the study, the pandemic has served as a wake-up call to finance departments that were not already investing – or not investing enough – in cloud infrastructure as they struggled to shift to the remote and fragmented work environment. The study finds they did not have enough of their processes and data based in the cloud to support a seamless transition to remote work. Of those respondents who are CFOs and VPs of finance, 72% ranked cloud-based applications as a top priority to address over the next 12 months, and 17% ranked cloud-based applications as the most important finance priority for their organizations to address – a jump from 8% of respondents who indicated so in the 2019 survey.  

“Having the right technology infrastructure and cloud capabilities is now considered a baseline in order to operate effectively and efficiently and will continue to be as organizations move into a hybrid work environment,” said Chris Wright, a managing director and global leader of the firm’s Business Performance Improvement practice. “COVID-19 disruptions underscored the critical nature of a truly digital finance workforce and companies without advanced technologies and digital processes faced a difficult transition to remote work. We’re now seeing an increasing number of boards and CEOs tap their finance leaders for guidance about whether their organization is allocating enough resources to their technology infrastructure.”

In addition, the survey identifies a shift toward CFOs embracing a new ‘future labor model,’ leveraging a blend of internal staff with external experts and services to better perform various finance activities. CFOs are increasingly outsourcing processes to managed services providers in order to equip their finance departments with the resources they need to be nimble and meet their growing responsibilities. According to CFOs and vice presidents of finance who participated in the survey, 18% of their finance organizations are relying on managed services providers and 29% are leveraging staff augmentation to support greater speed and agility for financial planning and analysis. 

“As organizations face unprecedented disruption, we are seeing finance departments increasingly turn to external partners to help deploy advanced technologies and provide in-depth expertise to meet the growing needs of their internal stakeholders amid a challenging and often disconnected environment,” said Wright. “CFOs will continue to play an integral role in developing a future labor model and ensuring their departments have the right talent and skills in-house, combined with the support of external service providers.” 

Top Five Priorities for CFOs and VPs of Finance

Survey respondents were asked to rate 17 finance areas on a 10-point scale, considering the importance to improve knowledge and capabilities in each of them over the next 12 months. Of those, the top five priority areas for finance organizations to improve were identified as the following:

  1. Security and privacy of data
  2. Enhance data analytics
  3. Changing demands and expectations of internal customers
  4. Cloud-based applications
  5. Challenges with regulations

The Protiviti survey report, titled “Finance Priorities in the COVID Era: Digital Dominance and Flexible Labor Models,” is based on a survey of 1,057 finance leaders worldwide, including CFOs, VPs of finance, directors and managers at both public and private companies across a range of industries. 

Survey Resources Available 

Key findings of the 2020 Finance Trends Survey are available for digital exploration on the survey’s web site – click here to access. Also available on the site is a PDF of the full survey report for complimentary download, in addition to an infographic and audio and video commentaries from Protiviti experts. On October 28 at 1:00 p.m. EDT, Protiviti will host a free one-hour webinar to discuss the most important survey takeaways and share finance leaders’ thoughts about the future, featuring Protiviti Managing Directors Andrea Spinelli, Ken Thomas and Wright. To join the webinar, please register here.

About Protiviti Inc.

Protiviti ( is a global consulting firm that delivers deep expertise, objective insights, a tailored approach, and unparalleled collaboration to help leaders confidently face the future. Protiviti and its independent and locally owned Member Firms provide clients with consulting and managed solutions in finance, technology, operations, data, analytics, governance, risk and internal audit through its network of more than 85 offices in over 25 countries.

Named to the 2021 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, Protiviti has served more than 60 percent of Fortune 1000® and 35 percent of Fortune Global 500® companies. The firm also works with smaller, growing companies, including those looking to go public, as well as with government agencies. Protiviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Half (NYSE: RHI). Founded in 1948, Robert Half is a member of the S&P 500 index.

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Kathy Keller
Kathy Keller