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CU System
New era in expense management: CFO Council paper
MADISON, Wis. (1/2/13)--The role of the chief financial officer (CFO) has evolved from bean counter to communicator and collaborator, according to a new CUNA CFO Council white paper.

"A New Era in Expense Management" is based on information gathered from credit union CFOs, other financial executives and consultants. The white paper delves into expense management practices, which go beyond budgeting to encompass strategic planning, process improvement and revenue generation. In the paper, credit union leaders stress that expense management should focus on adding value to operations.

While traditional accounting is still essential, the CFO's greatest contributions typically result from monitoring and measuring financial performance, the paper said. Rather than focusing solely on cost, the CFO and other senior members of the finance team examine whether the credit union is using effective, efficient operations to serve members and generate revenue. This effort requires the CFO to become a strong communicator who collaborates with all departments to share ideas and streamline operations.

CFOs rely on data and analysis to monitor expenses, identify trends and compare their credit unions' spending to peers' spending. Expense ratios, efficiency ratios and benchmarking can provide perspective and give the CFO an objective measurement of appropriate expense levels, said the council paper. CFOs are also an integral part of credit unions' ongoing efforts to manage risk and improve operations.

Throughout the white paper, CFOs and consultants share their strategies for managing expenses, creating a culture of continuous improvement and pursuing new opportunities to attract members and enhance revenue. As economic conditions improve, these experts say credit unions will be tempted to relax their focus on expense management. Instead, they recommend that credit unions create a "new normal" marked by the use of analysis to determine whether expenses are justified based on their ability to generate revenue or enhance operations.
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