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ACCA/IMA Survey Indicates a Tough Balancing Act of CFO Priorities


11 Dec 2012


Euro & Finance

A new survey by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA® (the Institute of Management Accountants) shows that cost reduction, financial control, and the emerging responsibility of forecasting are the top three priorities for today’s finance leaders.


The finance professionals surveyed for the December 2012 Finance Leaders Survey Report revealed that while they need to continue to firmly control the cost base, they must also sustain their businesses’ growth strategies by providing business insight to support decision making. Respondents answered that their biggest challenge is coping with “too many finance priorities.”


The report examines the six key issues for CFOs:

1.    Current priorities

2.    The effectiveness of the finance function

3.    Finance function challenges

4.    The importance of different skills

5.    Identification of key stakeholders

6.    How finance leaders allocate their time

ACCA and IMA will be revisiting this research every six months to track sentiment and attitudes, which will build a picture of how these issues are evolving for the profession.


Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector at ACCA, says, “We know the role that finance leaders are performing is challenging. In the present environment, there continue to be challenges on the cost base, but of course, businesses are also trying to look to the future to find paths for growth. So there is a focus from the finance function to work with business to drive insight into the appropriate decisions. This is both a reflection of the current environment and, I think, a reflection of the trajectory of the longer-term priorities of the function. We really see a challenge right now in getting this balance and focus right because the survey suggests this isn’t necessarily where leaders consider the function to be strongest right now.”


The survey also shows that finance leaders are involved with an increasing breadth of stakeholders. Some relationships with traditional stakeholders such as auditors and bankers remain high in importance, but increasingly, stakeholders like customers and suppliers are also becoming more relevant.


Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research, observes, “Challenges for CFOs and other finance leaders center on prioritizing the demands on the finance function. This is top of their concerns, followed by poor finance IT capability to managing increasing demands from the organization for management information. And the report poses a thought-provoking question for the global profession: because the finance function’s effectiveness is tested by so many priorities and challenges, do CFOs have the capacity or the capability to meet all the demands placed on them?”


Mr. Lyon adds, “The report asserts that there is a need for companies to focus on the evolving role of the finance function and develop broader skills among finance staff. Traditional skills, such as financial planning and analysis, are a must for finance leaders, but we know that they need to bring much more to the table, particularly capabilities such as communication skills, influencing skills, and a deep understanding of the business environment.”


The report is available online at:



About ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants with 154,000 members and 432,000 students in 170 countries worldwide. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,400 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development.


About IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants)

IMA®, the association of accountants and financial professionals in business, is one of the largest and most respected associations focused exclusively on advancing the management accounting profession. Globally, IMA supports the profession through research, the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) program, continuing education, networking, and advocacy of the highest ethical business practices. IMA has a global network of more than 65,000 members in 120 countries and 200 local chapter communities. IMA provides localized services through its offices in Montvale, N.J., USA; Zurich, Switzerland; Dubai, UAE; and Beijing, China. For more information about IMA, please visit





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