5 insights into how CFOs can become growth drivers

with Philip Watson, CFO at Paddle

Kate Wilson | MAY 08, 2024

5 min read

Key Takeaways

  1. The CFO’s role has expanded outside of its traditional remit
  2. Post-pandemic = higher expectations for finance leaders 
  3. Scaling success starts in the mind 
  4. Current challenges for finance teams? Efficiency, finding the right tech, and relationship-building across the company
  5. Managing SaaS and cloud spend requires joining the dots in your business, plus 2 more tips

Welcome back to For the Love of Finance, the series where we decode insights from finance leaders and turn them into practical insights for your career.

In episode 2 we sat down with Philip Watson, CFO of Paddle, to talk about how much the CFO’s responsibilities have expanded and how they can overcome challenges when pursuing  efficiency and strategic growth. 

Before joining Paddle, Philip was a leader at private equity firm Hg Capital, helping their portfolio companies find ways to become more profitable. Before that, he worked for over seven years at ZoomInfo, where he started several important finance-related teams and helped the company grow to over $1.2 billion in yearly revenue. 

Read on (or watch the video above) for insights on navigating growth, technology and transformation. Find out about the skills and characteristics that define the modern CFO.

The CFO’s role has expanded outside of its traditional remit

The CFO can no longer afford to be siloed. They’re now expected to be familiar with every aspect of the business. Marketing teams need the CFO’s perspective on ROI, developers need financial frameworks, and investors need a business partner who understands the organization’s very core.

A quote from Philip Watson, Paddle, CFO, on the evolving role of the CFO

Post-pandemic = higher expectations

CFOs earned their seat at the strategy table during COVID. Their ability to guide businesses through uncertain waters cemented their role as more than just budget-balancers. Now, that strategic partnership is the baseline expectation.

A quote from Chris Ortega, fractional CFO, on how COVID changed the role of the CFO

Scaling success starts in the mind

How do the best CFOs approach scaling? They begin by resetting their own expectations and those of their teams. Growth doesn’t happen magically – it demands faster processes, greater efficiency, and most importantly, clarity about the ‘why’ behind growth goals.

Philip Watson, CFO, shares his advice on scaling organizations

Efficiency, finding the right tech for efficiency, and relationship-building are current challenges for finance teams

Finance teams are constantly under pressure to increase efficiency and streamline operations. This is an ongoing battle, not a one-time fix. 

While Generative AI is a hot topic, Philip notes how he is yet to find a concrete use case for finance teams. The tech will be revolutionary – but how does it translate into daily workflow improvements? (If you have a suggestion for Philip, leave a comment here.) 

Another challenge Philip has observed is that some finance teams remain hesitant to fully engage with other departments. Philip encourages his team to build relationships across the company, both for the finance team’s effectiveness and their overall reputation within the organization. 

Philip Watson, CFO, on challenges faced by finance teams

Philip’s top 3 tips for managing SaaS and cloud spend

  • Measure to manage: It sounds obvious, but the first step to controlling cloud and SaaS costs is to actually track them diligently. Having a dedicated resource – whether in finance, a dedicated FinOps role, or even within DevOps – to provide essential oversight. (Check out our complete guide to FinOps to learn more.) 
  • Know your business (and your numbers): Don’t just pay the hosting bills! Connect expenses to your business metrics. Did a website traffic spike correlate with increased costs? Did downtime warrant service credits from providers? Know your numbers and hold vendors accountable.
  • Use a professional negotiator: Companies specializing in cloud and SaaS vendor negotiations have deep expertise most CFOs don’t. Use that knowledge and get the best rates. 

Get InsideSaaS