At 2021’s midpoint, what’s on the minds of CFOs?

Hosted by Neil Amato

CFOs have reasons to be positive, but they also have several reasons to be concerned. Ways of working are changing, with employees seeking to continue the flexible arrangements that became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic. Steve Gallucci, national managing partner for Deloitte’s U.S. CFO Program, shares insights into the minds of CFOs in the latest episode of the Journal of Accountancy podcast.

Also, hear more about a recent FM magazine series that focused on the top skills finance professionals need for the future, along with coverage of recent U.S. Small Business Administration news on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and the Paycheck Protection Program, and a quality management proposal by the AICPA Auditing Standards Board.

What you’ll learn from this episode:

  • What CFOs are thinking related to hybrid work, employee well-being, and digital transformation.
  • How CFOs are managing a hybrid, geographically dispersed workforce and maintaining culture.
  • Why Gallucci says “we’re entering into a new realm.”
  • More on a recent Q&A series with finance leaders from around the world.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:

To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato, a
JofA senior editor, at


Neil Amato: Hello, and welcome to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. On this week’s episode, we have an interview with a Deloitte partner in tune with what’s on the minds of CFOs. You’ll hear more about their concerns, their changing priorities, and how they feel about the future of work. That’s coming up right after this brief sponsor message.

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Amato: Welcome to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. This is senior editor Neil Amato. Joining me now is Steve Gallucci, national managing partner of the U.S. CFO Program for Deloitte.

Steve, Deloitte publishes a quarterly survey of large-company CFOs. It seems their biggest concern is talent, and I guess there are multiple aspects to that. What are the specific concerns they have about talent for the rest of 2021 and getting into 2022?

Steve Gallucci: Thank you, it’s great to be here. As it relates to your question, it’s a good question. It’s one we get a lot. As we talk to CFOs, their concerns around their workforce and talent come in a couple of different lenses. Number one, they’re certainly concerned from a transition-back-to-work perspective, back to in-office work and what the next normal would look like. Most CFOs have cited that — upwards of 70% of CFOs. We asked this question in a survey we did last quarter — they expect that their teams will be adopting a hybrid approach to work, meaning some at-home work or remote work, some in-office work. So the transition to that and what that looks like in the future, I think, is one concern. Another concern has to do with the overall well-being of their teams. Certainly everybody’s been through a lot over the last 18 months as we transition back into the next normal.

How will that transition go, and will they be able to maintain the productivity of their teams? And then I think lastly what they’re also concerned about is the fact that just about every company and industry sector has gone through some form of transformation. It’s indicated that the skills needed to be the finance organization in the future, to deliver what they’re being asked to do will require some pivoting. So they’re thinking about, how do they upskill their team, how do they focus more on digital capabilities, how do they build better and stronger decision support throughout their organizations. And in the background, these skill sets are becoming more challenging to hire for. It almost is a big concern from a talent perspective. So those are some of the elements that are weighing on the minds of CFOs as it relates to their talent.

Amato: A quarterly AICPA survey of more private companies, the availability of skilled talent is also the top challenge listed by the finance decision-makers. It’s not always a top concern, but it’s regularly near the top, even before the pandemic. So how, I guess, is this talent issue different than it was, say, 18 months or two years ago?

Gallucci: Excellent question, and kind of picking up on what we just talked about a little bit. It really gets down to as finance organizations go through transformations and businesses go through transformations, much of that transformation is tech-enabled, with a larger focus on new and emerging technology tools like AI and the like. So being able to hire it or upskill folks into their groups that have those capabilities has become more and more of a challenge.

And the speed at which that transformation is happening is significantly faster than it was 18 months ago. I think what we’ve all found out over the last 18 months is that we have a greater capacity to do things sooner rather than later. So where a digital transformation and business transformations would have a longer tail for, for many reasons, not the least of which we were forced to do so. We were asked to take on new capabilities and build new capabilities in a quicker way. So that’s really what the difference is between now and March of 2020.

Amato: What are the ways that the good CFOs, many managing a workforce that is in a hybrid office environment or just dispersed geographically, how are they maintaining or building on corporate culture these days?

Gallucci: That’s a really excellent point and one that is really top of mind, not just for CFOs but across the C-suite, and we’re seeing a lot of questions and concerns raised around this particular topic.

As we’ve all pivoted to the digital platforms and employing technologies like Zoom and Teams and whatnot, we become much more productive in a sense of being able to get more work done and replace commute times with times that people are able to work. We saw a statistic recently where on average, during the pandemic people worked two or three hours more than they did pre-pandemic. pretending from our perspective.

But there is a concern in terms of how you continue to build culture. You know, one of the ways that we see CFOs spend much more focused time is having more one-on-ones with your team. I think when teams are in an on-site atmosphere, those unplanned one-on-ones, interactions that happened before and after a meeting, generally would not happen now unless they were planned. So, CFOs are leaning in a lot more, not just with their direct reports but their broader workforce and having more one-on-ones, conversations that aren’t necessarily are on topic of a particular tactic, if you will, but more about development, softer type skills that they need to be developed. So aligning your communications is something that CFOs are spending more time thinking about today than ever, and we see that is going to continue as we pivot back to what looks to be the predominant approach in the future, which is a hybrid approach.

Amato: So one bit of culture is an organization’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Obviously, see CFOs are thinking about this, but how do you see their roles or their approach to DEI changing?

Gallucci: Yeah, it’s changing in a pretty significant way. I think more broadly speaking, I use this quote a lot that I heard recently, on a podcast actually, from the CEO of Visa, Al Kelly, who said prior to the pandemic, DEI was a set of business activities. Now it’s a business imperative. So, at a company level, the area of DEI is taking on a whole different meaning in how companies approach their workforce and more broadly approach their entire operations with their product, their brands, new brands that they’re developing, etc.

What we’re seeing in terms of the CFO — much, of what’s being driven around DEI these days is focused on metrics. Tt’s focused on data. It’s focused on both internal data in being able to understand how companies are doing against their DEI goals. And then externally, being asked to report out that same progress and goals and strategies to external stakeholders, whether it be investors, institutional investors, and beyond. What we are seeing — we ask several questions in our most recent survey is how our CFOs and companies approaching this in terms of an overall strategy. We saw that 72% of companies have formal DEI strategies. We asked that same question a couple of years ago, and that number was in the mid-60s. We talked also about how they’re embedding progress against the strategies into their budgets, into what they hold their leaders accountable for, and 60% said that they have defined budgets for DEI, and again that’s up from 49% two years ago.

And 61% of CFOs indicated that DEI values are embedded in their talent brand, so they think about how they’re marketing themselves to potential employees. They need to think about how the company shows up from a DEI perspective in those terms. So, when we think about the role of the CFO, clearly CFOs are frequently looked at to be not only the chief financial officer but also the chief data officer. That’s not a term that we [often] hear, but something that is far more part of what the CFO is being asked to do.

Amato: The pandemic obviously accelerated digital transformation that was already ongoing. In what ways has this been good for companies and what ways has it not?

Gallucci: It’s got certainly positives and negatives. Let me start with some of the challenges. Clearly a digital transformation which is tech-enabled itself is a large financial expense for a company. So it’s something that companies are dedicating more resources for. Digital transformation also presents more and more challenges from a data privacy perspective. More and more data has been put into the cloud, creating some concerns around how well-protected the data is. And just overall logistics and planning is just something that’s showing up larger and larger portion of the radar of CFOs from our perspective.

But the positives, I think, far outweigh the negatives. What we’re seeing is, when done properly and taking advantage of tools like AI and cloud, broadband, data analytics, 5G, those types of things, it actually frees up the finance workforce to spend more time on being proactive about decision support and looking more into the future versus just primarily focused on rolling up historical numbers. So again, it makes the value and the impact that finance organizations can have much, much greater than it was before it was focused on that.

Digital transformation and distributed workforce also have an added benefit. It allows CFOs to access a broader workforce or broader talent pool, if you will. When you have a finance organization that’s tethered to a particular location, perhaps that location from a talent perspective doesn’t have a diverse population that’s needed, or there is a limitation in terms of the skill sets. If you think more broadly about a distributed workforce, it opens up all kinds of different opportunities to be able to have to bring skill sets in into your organization. And now, you have to balance that by maintaining culture and augmenting both the in-person interactions with a distributed workforce, but it presents more options when thinking about it more broadly.

Amato: Steve, thank you for sharing your insights today. Anything to add in closing?

Gallucci: We think it’s a really exciting time to be a CFO. It’s a really exciting time to be a finance professional. Clearly, the pace of change has accelerated significantly over the last 18 months and we don’t see that stopping given the fact that we saw the benefits and certainly some of the challenges of all of that. So, we’re watching really closely in terms of what the next 18 months brings. I’ve said to a number of people as we think about the future, what the future of work looks like, what the future of finance work looks like, I can tell you one thing. It doesn’t look like it did before March of 2020 and certainly doesn’t look like it did during the pandemic, either. But I think we’re entering into new realm, and it’s going to be really exciting to watch.

Amato: Again, that was Steve Gallucci of Deloitte. We appreciate him being on the podcast. The talent concern is one that figures to be a continued challenge for organizations everywhere, and it’s a topic that we’ll continue to follow.

On the topic of talent and skill development, in our FM magazine, we recently published a series of Q&As with finance leaders from around the world. Those interviews underscored that it’s no longer possible for finance and accounting professionals to rely on existing skill sets. You can find a link to the series in the show notes for this episode or by visiting

In other news, you may be wondering if your favorite restaurant received pandemic-related government funding. Well, now you can find out. The U.S. Small Business Administration has published a database of the more than 100,000 approved grants from the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Jeff Drew has that story on the Journal of Accountancy website. We’ll link to it in the show notes for this episode.

Also, the SBA has informed lenders that it is eliminating the loan necessity review for Paycheck Protection Program loans of $2 million or greater. In a notice sent July 9, the SBA said it would no longer request either version of the Loan Necessity Questionnaire for for-profit and not-for-profit borrowers.

And the AICPA Auditing Standards Board is seeking comments by Aug. 31 on proposed quality management standards that would require audit firms to customize their processes in accordance with their individual risks. Comments can be sent to the email address We’ll have a link to an article with more information in the show notes for this episode, or you can visit the Journal of Accountancy website for more news. Thanks for listening to the JofA podcast.