Creating an Effective Partnership with the Modern CFO

How do you create the most effective partnership between the CEO and CFO? Philippe Gangneux, CFO at Sidetrade, lays out his thinking in this guest article.

There are people who compare the roles of CEOs and CFOs with the UK’s Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I prefer the analogy of Captain and co-pilot.
They’re both in the plane together, going in the same direction, to the same place, both with the aim of landing in a destination of high profitability combined with business stability.
But if the co-pilot and pilot don’t work together, the plane could crash.

A Strong vs Effective Relationship

The CEO-CFO relationship is one of the most important partnerships within any organisation. So of course it’s good news that Gartner reports that more than 80 percent of CFOs have “strong” relationships with their CEOs.
However, the report also points out that a strong relationship doesn’t necessarily translate into an effective one. Nor is it guaranteed to generate a meaningful impact on overall business performance.
An effective relationship between the CEO and CFO, on the other hand, will ensure that the firm is able to navigate through all types of scenarios, including those of turbulence and transition.
And I don’t need to point out that most businesses are going through some kind of transition today, thanks to the pandemic and our rapidly digitised world.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

An effective CEO-CFO partnership is not a destination, it’s a journey. It requires a lot of work and collaboration, with regular synchronisation of ideas, opinions and insights.
Sometimes, it requires long discussion sessions and other times it can be just a ‘brief touch’, but at all times the CFO must have a keen ear and the capacity to communicate and liaise with all parts of the company, combined with their traditional ability as risk manager and trend spotter for the CEO.
CFOs must also be able to have an honest conversation with the CEO on all business issues if there are disagreements on them. Being a ‘yes-person’ who is unable to put together a cogent argument as to why the CEO’s path may be the wrong one shouldn’t lead to massive fall-outs, but should build trust in their relationship.

An effective CEO-CFO partnership is not a destination, it’s a journey. It requires a lot of work and collaboration, with regular synchronisation of ideas, opinions and insights.

Philippe Gangneux
Chief Financial Officer, Sidetrade


Getting to Know the Modern-Day CFO

It’s also imperative for an effective relationship between the two that the CEO is able to recognise the changing role of the modern-day CFO.
More and more, in addition to their strategic financial expertise, CFOs need to be a strategic technology expert, with a robust understanding of the systems and software available to their team and the wider business.
For most businesses, creating organisational agility is at the top of agendas, now more than ever. Technology such as business intelligence software, automation and machine learning offer exciting opportunities and have demonstrated significant ability to drive business growth, including those traditionally owned by the CFO.
For example, implementing technology solutions that enable company-wide data analysis and real-time planning should be at the top of the CFO’s agenda, to ensure they can be timely in identifying and providing solutions for areas of high risk and growth in the revenue cycle.
So having a CFO in place who really knows how to leverage these technologies and challenge the CEO appropriately to ensure the business makes the most of them is a major step on the road to value creation.
As the head of the company, CEOs must champion these modern-day CFOs into taking this kind of agile approach through strategy and execution, and encourage the full support of the rest of the C-Suite too.

Smoother Journeys Ahead

The Covid-19 pandemic has tested many enterprises this past year, and will continue to have long-lasting repercussions. It will continue to challenge the old ways of doing things, including traditional roles and responsibilities.
Through an effective partnership between the CEO and CFO – one that is steeped in understanding, honesty, and compromise, as both roles evolve – businesses can weather any kind of turbulence, and ensure a smoother journey to their destination.


Philippe Gangneux
Chief Financial Officer, Sidetrade

Philippe sets Sidetrade’s financial development policy locally and globally. He has over 20 years’ experience in corporate finance and accounting, mainly in high-growth international tech firms. His in-depth knowledge of the tech world, his extensive M&A experience, and his ability to support rapid business scaling make him a key player at Sidetrade.