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How to Create a Winning Finance Team

How to Create a Winning Finance Team

August 2018 by Ali El-Droubi

Man looking through a key hole

In recent times there has been a shift in the role of the CFO. While the financial health and sustainable growth of your organisation remains a key focus, the modern CFO is also expected to add value to the business in other important ways.


To adapt and succeed in today’s marketplace, every CFO needs the support of a winning team. But building a successful finance team is not just about finding the right people, it’s also about motivating them and leading from the front with your strategy and vision.


In this article, we’ll share 6 proven steps to help you create a winning finance team that delivers ongoing value and growth to your organisation.


Step 1: Ask the right questions

A good place to start is to ask some crucial questions of yourself and your team. Honesty is essential, as your answers will be the foundation of your strategy. Here’s a few examples:

  • Where do you see the business in the next five years?
  • What are the external and internal pressures of the company?
  • What are the strategic objectives and goals of the organisation?


When devising your questions, be sure to cover all bases. The aim of the exercise is to give you and your team a clear understanding of what the business expects from the finance department, and to do this you’ll probably end up with 10 or more key questions. It won’t be easy to answer them, but it’s an essential first step, so don’t be tempted to rush through or skimp on details.


Step 2: Interview the business stakeholders

Once you’ve formulated a strategy, meet with the functional heads of your organisation, one-on-one, to ensure your operating model is well-defined and expectations are clear and agreed upon. And importantly, don’t let these meetings be a one-off.


Building an ongoing relationship with the decision makers in your organisation gives you a real understanding about what matters to the business at departmental level. It also allows you to be there to shape and influence the organisation’s strategy and performance, and this a must if you want to deliver value.


Step 3: Develop the priorities of your role

Now that you understand the overall strategic goals and have established key relationships across the business, it’s time to examine your own role closely. What are the priorities? What does the role of a modern CFO require? Start by listing your key objectives. For example, this could be to control costs and improve profitability or to support and fund growth objectives.


Next, define how you’ll deliver. The best way to do this is to break your role up into segments such as Strategist, Performance Leader or Talent Manager. Then further break down what that part of your role involves, so there are no question marks lingering.


Step 4: Turn the pyramid on its head

This is where you identify what is needed to take the organisation to the next stage. It’s important to keep in mind that laying the foundation for a winning finance team is only the beginning. For your team to provide ongoing value through high-quality analysis, insight and advice, it requires a permanent change in mindset. 


Traditionally, finance teams have rarely focused on their own development and have spent the bulk of their day on transactional and accounting processes, with very little time left to focus on decision support or strategy. The goal is to find the right balance between governance, efficiency and insight – and then to maintain it. To do this, you need to turn the pyramid on its head, freeing up your financial resources and allowing them to focus on value-added tasks. This can sometimes mean making changes to people, processes and technology to achieve your goals.

Turning the pyramid on its head


Step 5: Define 3-4 goals of your finance function

When finding the optimal balance, it’s essential to remain focused on the following:

  • Effectively supporting and driving the business forward
  • Establishing and promoting strong governance and control
  • Efficiently driving continuous improvement throughout the finance organisation.


It can be helpful to define 3 or 4 goals or characteristics of your finance team and to identify the key responsibilities and areas of engagement for each, as shown below.

Financial goals



Step 6: Translate the goals to capability changes


Now you have identified the role of finance and the model required to achieve it, you can look to the future and formally address the key areas of focus for your team. It can take anywhere from one month to three years plus to satisfactorily complete the initiatives for each area of focus, and the time it takes will depend on the size, complexity and maturity of your business. These are the common areas to target:

  • Strategic focus/ business partnering
  • Efficient transaction processing/ cost to serve
  • Effective organisational design
  • Systems and tools
  • Talent management.


Is your finance team winning?

Change is never easy – but if you want to create and sustain a finance team that adds true value to the organisation both now and in the future, the time to adapt and change is now.


This article is an edited extract from our white paper The Road to a Winning Finance Organisation. You can download a copy of the full white paper here.


For an insightful discussion and collaboration on your next transformational journey, contact Reo Group Advisory today.



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