When I asked him why he wanted to speak at GENCFO South (a finance leader meet-up event based in Fitzrovia, London), rather than any alternative groups, associations and institutions, he said:
“Because I like what you’re doing. You are progressive!”
Obviously I was very proud of this affirmation - but what does “progressive” mean? What makes GENCFO different? Why do we believe CFOs and their teams have so much to learn and offer businesses, teams, and individuals?
In a nutshell, what is the reason behind GENCFO?
GENCFO is a community of accounting and finance leaders. We believe the only way to lead high-performing, sustainable businesses is to embrace and deliver the digital transformation of the accounting and finance function and its end-to-end users.
This is our north star vision, something I call the “digital finance function”.
What does this mean in practice? Why do we attract future-focussed leaders and their teams?
After all, there’s a lot of thought-leadership and marketing hype out there. So, what makes GENCFO different?
Firstly, we are a real community; we exist both online and offline. We evolved out of an online group of finance advocates who wanted to make change, and to meet and talk about this change.
We came about naturally, from practitioner-led demand, not because we are a tech company hunting for data and leads, or an events management company or a PR or marketing agency.
We started to meet in 2018, and our momentum grew as the impact of tech became clear. We also felt a professional identity shift, a need for new capability, a better service level for our businesses, and acknowledged this all came with a significant leadership challenge.
From these early change makers, we evolved into what GENCFO is today: a buzzing community of leaders, teams, advocates and experts.
As ground-breaking as this community can be, we also know we must keep our heads firmly in reality, in practice, in what is possible, and avoid the hype curve of the tech marketeers.
By using my experience as an FD and finance transformation consultant, the experience of our community of practice and the finance leadership and teams we speak to, we have made steady change together. By digging into the practicalities of transformation, of talent and tech, and helping each other operationalise the change.
It’s not good enough to just buy new tools, to talk about change at annual town halls or team away day. It’s not good enough just to delegate this to IT, and hope for the best. It’s not even good enough to be interested in thought leadership and use cases, and park it on the to do list.
We must be much more proactive to direct the disruption and protect our own professional fate.
And it’s this proactivity, this action, this leaning into delivery and change management, this budget-eating implementation, and yes, this risk-taking, that is a common thread in the GENCFO community.
That said, we’re not reformists, but we are definitely not traditionalists.
We do not lean on the accounting qualification for progress, we do not lean on traditional services and ways of working to satisfy the business. We strive for higher performance, to deliver more to the business, and to improve the lives of the people in our teams.
We are changemakers!
We are progressive.
That is why we have been able to attract some amazing speakers and experts to GENCFO, people who are lifting the curtain on years of mediocre service to the business and embracing digital-first leadership. They are exploiting the talent and tools that are already there if you make the change: automation, analytics and improved agility.
These people are “reluctant” accountants, who look at the services they provide the business and quiz the benefits and their impact. They go further to add value where it's most needed - not in processing, but in the business.
They consider themselves digital-first strategic business partners, not salespeople or simple storytellers.
They are armed with more data and more digital technology than ever before. They are looking at their organisational design and making changes, recruiting new talent, harvesting data, building data and digital teams. They are rationalising traditional elements of the accounting and finance role, and investing time and money into additional value-adding business services.
When I set up GENCFO as a LinkedIn group, some 14 years ago, I didn’t consider it as progressive. I was simply trying to improve my role and what I did as a financial controller and finance director, using better tools and tech.
Today, the world has changed, and I see the opportunity for us to make wholesale change within our teams, and more importantly, create value within our businesses as high-performing, sustainable organisations… and have a much better career in the process!
Call it progressive, I just call it Generation CFO!
Chris is the founder and MD of GenerationCFO.com and creator of the Digital Finance Function Model and a contributor to many articles on our platform. Chris focuses on the shift toward digital transformation in accounting and finance, shows you what good looks like, then helps to get you there!