Two-thirds of all executives agree that the best way for CFOs to ensure their company’s success would be to spend more time on strategy.1 Indeed, it is increasingly common for CFOs to be taking on more strategic decision making. Companies value the hard data and empirical mind-set that a finance chief can lend to strategic planning, especially around forecasting trends, building strategic capabilities, or managing government and regulatory relationships.2
Yet as CFOs map out what can be a wide range of strategic responsibilities, they may encounter challenges and even turf wars from some traditional strategy leaders, such as chief strategy officers (CSOs) and business-unit heads. These seldom boil over into public view, but we often see signs of tension where the two roles increasingly overlap.
Such friction is destructive—and a missed opportunity. Working together, CFOs and CSOs have the stature to challenge biases and influence how the top team makes decisions to improve a company’s performance. In many cases, a CSO may be better placed to take on certain roles typically managed by the CFO, such as owning the resource-allocation map or the M&A process. Many CFOs are the first among equals on a company’s board of directors and can assist CSOs at improving board productivity on strategy. Having explicit conversations about expectations and the division of such roles will improve the dynamics of strategic decision making—by ensuring a better link between a company’s capital allocation and its strategic priorities, by better informing a search for growth, and by better balancing a company’s strategy for long-term growth with its short-term strategy for earnings and investors