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Finance Executives: The New Overseers of Innovation

To help their companies thrive in a fiercely competitive economy, finance executives need to do more than just support innovation. They must model it.

How they can successfully do so—and why it’s a necessity—is the focus of a new study conducted by CFO Research, in collaboration with CPA firm Cherry Bekaert. The survey, based on data from 161 finance executives at middle-market companies (defined as having revenues of up to $1 billion), details the finance function’s changing role in the innovation process: what’s fueling its growth, how the focus on innovation is rapidly reshaping their companies and which skills finance leaders must master.

Throughout the survey, finance executives share their views on some of the most challenging aspects of building—and keeping—an ample supply of creative thinking. Among the questions they address: What kind of innovation matters most, and what are the consequences of falling short? How can finance executives tell if their companies are getting it right? And where do they draw the line in terms of their own involvement?

As experienced problem-solvers, it’s now up to finance executives to spread what they’ve already internalized: the need to keep coming up with creative solutions to the company’s constantly changing needs. Organizations no longer have the luxury of waiting for that classic “a-ha” or “Eureka!” moment to occur.  Innovative thinking, whether in the form of a potential blockbuster product or a re-engineered process, needs a champion inside the business—and the finance executive is well-positioned to fulfill that role. To help lead the innovation effort, finance executives must look for ways to reduce their involvement in transaction-oriented activity and make more time for high-value analysis.

Under the oversight of their finance leaders, companies can develop cultures that promote effective innovation—enhancing profitability and gaining market share in the process. And isn’t that, after all, what finance executives have always sought to do?

For more surprising insights into how middle-market finance executives view their innovation efforts, download the eBook, The Finance Function’s Role in Managing Innovation.

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