Kiwi companies keep closer eye on their CFO’s - KPMG International survey
New Zealand companies are leading the world when it comes to monitoring the performance of their Chief Financial Officer (CFO), according to KPMG International’s 2014 Global Audit Committee Survey.
The survey, which explores the challenges being faced by audit committees in organisations in 17 countries around the world, also gives specific insights for New Zealand.
Seventy-three percent (73%) of New Zealand companies reported that the performance of their CFO was “rigorously evaluated against clear performance objectives”. This was well above the global average of 59%.
Souella Cumming, the head of KPMG’s Audit Committee Institute (ACI), says it is encouraging to see New Zealand companies are increasingly valuing the CFO role.
“The CFO is becoming as critical to an organisation’s performance as the CEO,” says Souella Cumming.
“In many of the companies we work with at KPMG, we’re seeing a definite re-positioning of the CFO role. They are evolving into much more of a strategic business partner within the organisation.”
When it comes to succession planning for the CFO, however, New Zealand was doing just as poorly as the rest of the world. The survey revealed that 62% of global companies do not have a formal succession plan in place for the CFO – and warned this was a “major risk” for any company.
Bigger workload, wider responsibility
The 2014 Survey also found that the workload of audit committees continues to grow bigger and wider. It was expanding beyond the core responsibility of financial risks into other areas such as IT, cyber-security, and global systemic risks. Forty-three percent (43%) of respondents said it was becoming “increasingly difficult” to oversee these wider responsibilities.
Graeme Edwards, Head of Audit at KPMG New Zealand, says management and Boards should be careful not to overload their audit committee members.
“Audit committee agendas are not getting any lighter,” says Graeme Edwards.
“These survey findings should serve as a catalyst for boards and management teams to assess the adequacy of their governance processes in critical areas. It’s a good time to step back and assess whether the audit committee’s risk oversight responsibilities are appropriate.”
Strategies to better manage the workload might include reallocating responsibilities among the full Board and board committees; or creating new committees to focus on specific areas of risk.
Government regulation biggest challenge
The 2014 Survey also asked respondents which risks, aside from financial reporting risk, pose the greatest challenges to their company. Government regulation/impact of public policy initiatives was ranked as the biggest challenge, at 48% globally (and 53% among New Zealand companies).
Souella Cumming says this is not surprising, given the increasing pressures of public policy around issues such as health and safety.
“Health and safety is currently top of mind, particularly in the wake of the Pike River disaster. The Government has signaled changes to legislation that will place more onerous responsibilities on directors, with significant consequences for non-compliance.”
Growing role for internal audit
In other Survey findings, more than 80% of Audit Committee members wanted to see their company’s internal audit team take on broader responsibilities. They wanted to extend internal audit’s role beyond the traditional financial reporting and controls, to encompass other key risks facing the business.
Souella Cumming says Australasian companies are well-placed to take this ‘enterprise-wide’ approach to risk management, as they are already ahead of the game.
“While it’s still a fairly recent development in the USA, New Zealand and Australia started to adopt enterprise risk management back in the early 90s. We were the first countries in the world to develop a risk management standard…it only became an international ISO standard 4-5 years ago. We did lead the world in that context.”
Another trend in recent years is for companies to outsource (or co-source) their internal audit function. KPMG New Zealand currently partners with a number of organisations, both public and private, to provide these services.