We live in an increasingly virtual world, offering the enormous benefits of convenience and cost savings to those bold enough to break the mould.
When it comes to business accounting management, the traditional model has been to appoint a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). This person is much more than an accountant. They go beyond data and compliance to identify inefficiencies in a company’s financial systems. They then develop strategies to tighten those areas, with the aim of reducing costs, maximising revenue, profit and business value.
The irony is this: a fulltime CFO inflicts a cost of their own. Occupying a lofty position in the corporate hierarchy, they command a healthy salary. Then there’s the commensurate statutory entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave and long service benefits, not to mention superannuation contributions.
For any business to justify such expense, it would have to be satisfied the CFO is generating savings that eclipse his or her overall salary – a difficult, if not impossible, equation to solve and something well out of reach for an SME.
But there is another way, and SMEs who could only dream of hiring a CFO are able to take advantage of it.
The Gig economy that’s already created Uber drivers, Air Tasker handymen and Instagram influencers is rising to executive ranks, delivering Virtual CFOs to the business world at large.
A Virtual CFO is a corporate gun for hire; an elite financial freelancer available 24/7 to meet any business’s needs as they arise. These CFOs engage with clients in the most effective way, accessing accounts and spreadsheets via cloud-based programs and dispensing their advice over video streaming services
SMEs might generate smaller numbers, but that shouldn’t deny them access to vital financial support and strategy that can prove all the difference. The vast majority of Australian SMEs fail in their first three years; a statistic that surely would be less damning if more had help from a CFO to maximise revenue, cut costs and streamline operations.
Virtual CFOs are levelling the playing field, because businesses only pay for what they use. A monthly retainer is generally agreed and reviewed after a trial period, in which the business can determine whether the Virtual CFO has proven viable. Data gathered by CFO On-Call shows that service pays for itself between two and 10 times over.
The key is finding CFOs that not only have impressive commercial pedigree, but also the flexibility to respond to clients quickly and effectively. There have been recent attempts from accounting firms to diversify by having their agents double as Virtual CFOs. Often, this stretches their resources too thin, not to mention the expertise of the individual, who might have spent most of their life working in tax and compliance.
One solution open to accounting firms is to engage Virtual CFOs externally, and subsequently match them with suitable clients. This strategy ensures a high-quality standard of service, while easing pressure on the firm’s current workforce.
Sue Hirst, Director, CFO On-Call