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New roles for private equity CFOs?

30/10/13

Chief financial officers (CFOs) at private equity firms may have endured a difficult few years following the 2008 credit crunch, but the restructuring which took place following this could offer them an opportunity to increase their profile, according to a new report from EY.

According to the firm, private equity companies have seen their operating model evolve to reflect the changing economic environment they are operating in.

When the market dropped away five years ago, businesses responded by diversifying their investments, looking to emerging markets such as India and China, and finding new ways to raise funds.

"Private equity CFOs and chief operating officers can leverage these trends to increase their visibility and clout within their organisations," EY declared.

They should attempt to seize the tide over the coming years as the economy continues to improve, meaning private equity firms are enjoying a major resurgence.

Fundamentally, the role of the CFO has become more important recently - as private equity becomes a more important asset class, the financial chief has the chance to engage with top-tier executives and shape the direction of the organisation in a way they might not have been able to do a decade ago.

However, engaging with changing back-office functions and accepting the changes in the market is crucial if CFOs are to take advantage of this opportunity, EY explained.

For instance, they must work on "adding stakeholder-specific activities, including investor reporting and portfolio reporting", something which has become increasingly important thanks to the focus placed on issues of corporate governance and transparency in business dealings.

This comes in addition to traditional back-office functions such as accounting, meaning CFOs need to develop a new form of infrastructure within the finance function, often dealing with a great deal of data and information to do so.

For savvy CFOs capable of taking on a broader, less focused role this can be a major opportunity to become more visible - and raise the profile of the finance department - as one of the most important in the private equity world.

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