Building a Collaborative CEO-CFO Partnership

Posted by Jose Calsas Jr.
Jun 28, 2024
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"Strategy is not a solo sport, even if you’re the CEO," wrote Max McKeown, the English writer of 'The Strategy Book' on the idea that corporate strategy is useful if the leader gets people engaged by helping them to make it work. 


This holds true in the success of a business and describes the good working relationship between the two highest officials of a company, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  


The former gives directives and executes plans to ensure the company is running smoothly and profitably, while the latter provides relevant and accurate financial data, ensuring that every decision made is based on previous results to secure stability, continuous growth and expansion.  


Trusting the CEO’s Direction 

As a young and idealistic Filipino accountant, a manager turned CFO, working with our highly experienced and realistic Dutch President and CEO can be daunting. But our partnership goes way back to as early as 2012 when I started working with D&V Philippines as a junior accountant. I was then in my mid-twenties and the company was just starting. In my first year, I heard and saw the vision that Stefan Vermeulen, our CEO, wanted for the company and with that came my trust in him in leading our careers.  


I was young and it was natural for me to rely on that belief and just go along with the idea. However, our day-to-day work, ups and downs, good days and bad days made me realize that we were being trained even when we were idle and on days when we thought we’d had enough.  


They were very formative years. Being with the company made me enamored with work and think strategically on how best to deliver it. The initial trust I had, became a belief that we could do so much more not only for the company but also for our people and the community.  


So, when our former head of Finance retired and the company wanted to appoint its first CFO, my heart agreed before my mind. After all, a CFO role is no easy job.  



My Role as D&V Philippines’ First CFO 

I was fortunate that our former head of Finance was diligent and kind. The team when I first arrived was happy and contented but everyone was under a flat organization.  


So, I studied the corporate service we were providing and did some restructuring. The new divisions – General Accounting, Financial Reporting, Payroll, Treasury, and Legal & Compliance – were better suited and organized as to our needs with strong accountability. It clarified roles within the team, delineating who was responsible for compiling reports, who supervised the process, and who conducted the final reviews. 


Reports should not only be accurate, and books should be properly closed but the team must also ensure that we release information in a timely manner for decision-making by the CEO. Such deadlines and timelines were set for the monthly management reports. Discipline was instilled as to attendance and leave filings.  


Regular monitoring became a habit and constant updates from team members on the latest compliance, tax rules and regulations developed as part of our normal daily exercises.  


Read: Things CFOs Must Prepare for this 2024  


Effective Communication is the Key 

We are doing daily and weekly bookkeeping, monthly management reports, annual audits, tax and compliance, including joint ventures, business projects and ad hoc reporting, but there are still so many things to do.  


To collaborate with the CEO and to make the best decisions for the company, a CFO should be able to speak confidently with the former. When the CEO makes a decision, it means that he was able to use the information provided by the finance team.  


In instances where the CEO is unsure, the CFO must be able to give a sense of clarity and offer advice. Final decisions would always be done by top management, but the sense of direction was laid out by the CFO along with the finance team. Present in these kinds of discussions are moments when the CEO and CFO would give different ideas and interpretations. There will always be common friction points in the relationships between the two.  


What is important is the ability of both leaders to listen when one is explaining, to weigh options given previous and latest data, and to respect the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s ideas.  


In my case, I am fortunate that our CEO has an open mind to delegate and to listen. While “Can I pick your brain?” has become an overused business jargon to many, it is an invitation by our CEO to present his plans and get your input. 


Everything is not yet final until carefully studied. But a burst of an idea can become a sudden “eureka”. I need not be afraid that I cannot answer specific questions, calculations or even the figures, but these exercises are training for you to be prepared for whatever may happen. This is a natural occurrence, and you can give an answer later. This openness also fosters a collaborative environment where ideas can flourish and evolve into actionable strategies. 


Recognizing the importance of maintaining this fluid exchange of ideas, I encourage a similar culture of openness and creativity within our team so ideas are constantly flowing. With the fast-paced environment in finance, people might only focus on meeting deadlines and might forget about improvements in the processes.  


Thus, here in D&V Philippines, we promote an environment where ideas can emerge spontaneously—during casual conversations, meals, or in moments of bliss—without the necessity for formal meetings. This approach ensures that creativity and innovation flow freely and continues to be at the heart of everything we do. 


Read Next: Understanding the CFO’s role in Risk and Crisis Management 


When the CEO is an Accountant by Profession 

In a typical business structure, it’s the CFO who decides on proper accounting treatments, accounts management, bookkeeping, closing of the books and report preparations. Business owners, including the CEO, generally concentrate on the growth and expansion of the business. They would leave accounting principles and treatment to accountants and their CFOs.  


However, a unique situation would arise when the CEO is also an accountant and has experience as an auditor during his time. In such instances, the CFO’s accounting and bookkeeping decisions are scrutinized and must be defended every time, on the spot and in front of the CEO.  


This situation necessitates a close collaboration between the CFO and the CEO, aligning their mindset on critical financial strategies such as the proper disclosure of expenses and the recognition of revenues. 


In the end, the goal should be to achieve an accurate reflection of the company's margins and profitability, which serves as crucial consideration for informed decision-making by the CEO and top management.  


Company Growth and Expansion and Evolution of CFO’s role

A successful collaborative CEO and CFO partnership — resulting from the trust created and effective communication, plus the CFO’s own organizational restructuring to achieve efficient accounting and reporting — would naturally provide a platform for the CEO to coordinate and lay out his plans to the whole company.  


Especially in times when the company faces rising costs, the CEO, together with the CFO, can steer the company towards budget discipline, refine processes and innovate.


By setting these directions, the CEO can make the CFO and the finance team his biggest allies. The company evolves when it innovates. As the company innovates, the finance chief can also be its most important enabler. When the CEO and leaders of the company think of innovation, it includes new finance business models which create opportunities for growth. 


Such innovation is linked to productivity improvements and procedural enhancements because new business models can enable the CEO and management to use company assets and talents differently to achieve the desired results.  


Ultimately, it would create value, and most would attribute its success to when the CEO and CFO would prioritize it and the whole company, and its people would focus on achieving it.  


Thus, the essence of collaboration in both the roles of the CEO and CFO is that it challenges both to think about ways they can foster stronger partnerships within their organizations, fueling business growth and elevating their collective strategic vision. 


Are you looking for a reliable and trustworthy CFO to help you with your financial needs?  

With over a decade of experience, D&V Philippines offers a competitive suite of outsourced CFO services. We have been a reliable and trustworthy expert ever since. Schedule a free consultation with us today! to learn how we can help you improve your financial performance.   

You can also download our whitepaper, D&V Philippine’s Premier Finance and Accounting Solutions for CFOs today and learn how our globally-competitive finance and accounting professionals can create help you deliver accurate, faster, and smarter insights for your company. 

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This article has been written in collaboration with Angelica Garcia, a content specialist at D&V Philippines. 


Our Outsourcing: How to Make it Work guide explores how you can utilize accounting and finance outsourcing to drive growth to your business and add value to your processes.