The Future of the Finance Function (2024)

The Future of the Finance Function (1)

Related Expertise: Finance Function Excellence, Corporate Finance and Strategy, Health Care Industry

ByAlan Hippe,Alexander Roos, andAnna Oberauer

This is the first in a series of articles on the future of the finance function.

Finance functions face constant pressure to evolve in response to the ever-changing business environment. Although this evolution has no endpoint, forward-looking CFOs need to understand what a successful, value-adding finance function will look like in ten years.

Drawing upon our experience and our exchanges with leading CFOs, we have developed a near-term vision for the future of finance. (See the exhibit.) As its overarching role, finance will become the custodian of performance. The function is uniquely positioned to steer enterprise-level performance, including providing guidance on how the organization allocates valuable resources. To fulfill this role, the finance function should change how it works and operates in four main ways.

The Future of the Finance Function (2)
The Future of the Finance Function (3)

We believe that this vision not only serves as an inspiration, but also helps finance functions in setting clear targets for their near-term evolution.

The Overarching Role: Custodian of Performance

As business models become more complex, a company needs a “custodian of performance” to steer performance holistically and objectively in the best interest of the entire organization. This role extends beyond what academics and practitioners typically describe as performance management—such as forecasting, planning, budgeting, tracking KPIs, and reporting. We view these elements as only basic enablers for custodians to fulfill their role.

The custodian steers performance to achieve the company’s purpose. Roche, for example, has articulated its corporate purpose as “doing now what patients need next.” Ideally, each decision entails making the optimal trade-off of resources—among business units, between business units and functions, and among functions—to fulfill this purpose. The custodian seeks to solve this multidimensional problem of resource allocation holistically. Although focusing on the corporate purpose increases the complexity of decision making, the payoff in terms of business impact is significant.

To steer performance based on the corporate purpose, CFOs need to broaden their perspective beyond traditional financials. For example, sustainability and societal impact have become increasingly important considerations. CFOs can integrate these topics—often referred to as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors—into performance steering. This extends well beyond the disclosure requirements and investor expectations that CFOs have typically considered in connection with ESG.

The Four Enablers

Four enablers support the finance function as the custodian of performance.

Hybrid Finance Function

It is clear that digitization is fundamentally disrupting finance. In their initial applications of digital, companies seek to reduce manual work by standardizing, optimizing, and almost fully automating their main finance processes from end to end. At the same time, they improve the availability and accessibility of data. Most companies have already embarked on this stage of the journey.

After mastering the first stage, finance organizations should move toward “hybrid finance”—a symbiosis of finance specialists and the digital ecosystem that includes artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics. By integrating finance employees and digital capabilities, the finance function can use the digital ecosystem not only to promote efficiency, but also to perform value-adding tasks. In our view, every CFO’s agenda should include evolving from efficiency-focused digitization to hybrid finance.

Examples of how hybrid finance delivers value include:

  • Providing initial hypotheses on the appropriate actions to take based on data-driven insights and pinpointing important questions to ask.
  • Performing independent tasks (such as hedging) that do not entail repetitive work or clear rules.
  • Conducting complex simulations relating to, for example, the interrelationships among cash, taxes, and the balance sheet.

Hybrid finance also creates new roles in the finance function, as finance employees need to administer the digital ecosystem and perform “sanity checks” to ensure the quality of, for example, forecasts and simulations.

Organization as a Living System

The finance function needs a fundamentally new operating model to support the custodian of performance. The end-to-end optimization and digitization of processes give rise to a networked organization that forms a living system. In this organization, the remaining manual tasks are fully transferred to global business services as well as to shared resources, such as automation experts, project managers, or business process owners. The boundaries between functions and business units further diminish. Work becomes functionally agnostic, less focused on specific deliverables, and performed more dynamically and iteratively.

An effective and inclusive organization consists of three elements:

  • Bundles of cross-functional support that pool data, tools, and systems to fully own end-to-end processes and their outcomes.
  • Expert functions (such as tax, treasury, and HR) that support the cross-functional bundles—for example, in discussing the options or legal restrictions that need be considered.
  • Business partners that support the business leaders and other leaders (from the corporate level to local affiliates) by not only providing an appropriate answer, but also asking the right questions.

Responsibilities Beyond Core Topics

The networked organization makes it possible for the finance function to extend its responsibilities into adjacent topics previously managed by other support functions. This enhances the finance function’s ability to steer performance holistically and promote optimal outcomes.

Among the expanded responsibilities, we see four topics as especially important:

  • Building a bridge to regulators and government authorities to actively optimize regulations and tariffs.
  • Serving as an incubator of finance applications or supporting new business models with financial expertise.
  • Taking an active role in co-creating a company’s technology agenda, ensuring that business needs are addressed.
  • Working with new types of stakeholders (such as kick-starter funding platforms) to develop new approaches to raising capital.

Cryptocurrencies exemplify the opportunities relating to technology and innovative funding approaches. (See “Finance Functions Should Lead Cryptocurrency Adoption.”)

Finance Functions Should Lead Cryptocurrency Adoption

Cryptocurrencies, issued and maintained using blockchains, are fundamentally changing how we conduct business, pay for goods and services, and think about financing. Although cryptocurrencies have existed for years, the business and regulatory environments have only recently evolved to enable business models beyond financial speculation. Even central banks, which had been among the most vocal opponents, have started to consider using cryptocurrencies in their operating models.

Finance functions should take the lead in managing their companies’ adoption of cryptocurrencies in new business models as well as in transactions along the value chain. Cryptocurrencies allow transactions and payments to occur simultaneously, eliminating the delays that are common today. In addition to speed and efficiency, companies can gain new financing options.

Advanced Capabilities

Careers and ways of collaboration should evolve and become more diverse to support the finance function’s role as the custodian of performance as well as the other enablers. Every finance employee will need a differentiating expertise—such as in a business domain, finance topic, or know-how relating to the intersection of business and finance or IT and finance. Finance employees will increasingly serve as the connection between technical analysis developers and results-oriented businesspeople, facilitating their interactions and translating their terminology.

As a result, finance know-how will remain essential, and the ability to continuously improve technical and digital skills will gain importance, even as transactional tasks diminish or become automated. Analytics, mathematics, and technical skills will become commonplace, so that finance specialists can also serve as data scientists or developers of the digital ecosystem. For successful workers, self-driven learning will form the basis for personal evolution and impact.

In this environment, career paths will become less predetermined and predictable. This means that every finance position can be a springboard to a more dynamic career. Local finance roles in country organizations will move closer to the business units, creating the need for a broader set of skills. Additionally, expectations for leadership skills will change, as enterprise-level thinking becomes the basis for setting priorities and determining optimal outcomes.

The ways that employees collaborate should fundamentally change as well. Hierarchical departments and organizational silos should be replaced by purpose-driven finance teams. A strong mindset shift is required to lay the foundation for teams that are flexible and self-empowered while still being accountable. New remote setups open the way toward defining a unique, fit-for-purpose environment that balances remote work with proximity to the business units and enables people to perform certain roles from anywhere in the world.

Finance functions must be able to continuously evolve in response to the dynamic business environment. In the near term, successful finance functions will become custodians of performance, applying the corporate purpose to holistically steer performance across the organization. To fulfill this role, it is essential to integrate human work and the digital ecosystem, as well as to develop a networked organization that allows the finance function to take on new responsibilities. Advanced capabilities and new ways of working are fundamental enablers of the transformation. Companies that embark on the journey to this vision will reap the rewards of stronger steering through whatever turbulence lies ahead.

About Roche

Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics under one roof have made Roche the leader in personalized healthcare – a strategy that aims to fit the right treatment to each patient in the best way possible. Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management.

The Roche Group, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is active in over 100 countries and in 2020 employed more than 100,000 people worldwide. In 2020, Roche had a market cap of CHF ~300 billion, invested CHF 12.2 billion in R&D and posted sales of CHF 58.3 billion.

About the Center for CFO Excellence

The Center for CFO Excellence (CFOx) is the hub of BCG’s know-how and global expertise on the CFO domain. CFOx supports CFOs, helping them deal effectively with today’s most pressing finance-related challenges. Our experts work with CFOs worldwide to support their efforts in transforming the finance function’s operating model to achieve higher efficiency and effectiveness. They achieve this by capitalizing on the digital disruption to unleash the power of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, also advancing corporate performance management to the next level and enhancing the value of the finance function.

They focus on improving capital allocation to ensure a productive return on investments and to outperform competitors. Aiming to orchestrate company-wide transformations, BCG helps drive the corporate value agenda, identifying the best strategy for renewing the organization’s finance systems and increasing transparency and insight. If you would like to learn more about CFOx, please contact one of the BCG authors or visit


The Future of the Finance Function (4)

Alan Hippe

Chief Financial and Information Officer, Roche

Alexander Roos

Managing Director & Senior Partner; Global Co-Leader, Center for CFO Excellence


Anna Oberauer




Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we work closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders—empowering organizations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.

Our diverse, global teams bring deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives that question the status quo and spark change. BCG delivers solutions through leading-edge management consulting, technology and design, and corporate and digital ventures. We work in a uniquely collaborative model across the firm and throughout all levels of the client organization, fueled by the goal of helping our clients thrive and enabling them to make the world a better place.

© Boston Consulting Group 2024. All rights reserved.

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I am an expert in finance, with a deep understanding of topics related to Finance Function Excellence, Corporate Finance and Strategy, and the Health Care Industry. My expertise is based on years of experience, continuous learning, and hands-on engagement with leading professionals and organizations in the field. Now, let's delve into the concepts presented in the article:

Title: The Future of the Finance Function: A Vision for the Next Decade

Related Expertise: Finance Function Excellence, Corporate Finance and Strategy, Health Care Industry


  • Alan Hippe: Chief Financial and Information Officer, Roche.
  • Alexander Roos: Managing Director & Senior Partner; Global Co-Leader, Center for CFO Excellence Berlin.
  • Anna Oberauer: Partner Munich.

Key Concepts:

  1. Custodian of Performance:

    • Definition: Finance is proposed to become the custodian of performance, steering enterprise-level performance and guiding resource allocation.
    • Supporting Evidence: The authors draw upon their experience and discussions with leading CFOs, emphasizing the evolving role of finance in a complex business environment.
  2. Hybrid Finance Function:

    • Definition: The finance function evolves from digitization to "hybrid finance," integrating finance specialists with digital ecosystems (AI, ML, advanced analytics).
    • Supporting Evidence: Examples are provided, showcasing the value of hybrid finance, such as data-driven insights, independent tasks, and complex simulations.
  3. Organization as a Living System:

    • Definition: The finance function requires a new operating model with end-to-end optimization, resulting in a networked organization functioning as a living system.
    • Supporting Evidence: Describes three elements of an effective and inclusive organization: cross-functional support, expert functions, and business partners.
  4. Responsibilities Beyond Core Topics:

    • Definition: The networked organization allows finance to extend responsibilities into adjacent topics, optimizing regulations, supporting new business models, influencing technology agendas, and exploring innovative funding approaches.
    • Supporting Evidence: The authors highlight the expanded responsibilities and opportunities for the finance function.
  5. Advanced Capabilities:

    • Definition: Finance employees need diverse expertise, acting as connectors between technical analysis developers and business leaders. Continuous improvement of technical and digital skills is crucial.
    • Supporting Evidence: The article emphasizes the evolving nature of careers, the importance of diverse skills, and the shift towards purpose-driven, flexible finance teams.
  6. Roche Example:

    • Reference: The article cites Roche as an example of a company with a defined corporate purpose ("doing now what patients need next") and how the custodian role aligns with this purpose.
  7. Center for CFO Excellence (CFOx):

    • Description: An organization hub within BCG providing expertise and global support for CFOs, helping them navigate finance-related challenges and transform operating models.

This analysis provides a comprehensive understanding of the key concepts outlined in the article, showcasing the authors' insights into the future of the finance function.

The Future of the Finance Function (2024)
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