Arm’s Length?

Safety first.

It’s here. The moment that you’ve been dreading — the 2008 reporting season. As feared, many finance chiefs are presenting results that are well short of expectations. Even if results beat expectations, however, everyone’s immediate priority is to reassure the market that their companies know how to survive. That’s no easy task, especially for CFOs who also need reassuring. If you’re among latter group of finance executives, you’ll find this month’s CFO Europe more useful than ever.

A striking theme running throughout our coverage is the need for CFOs to be closer to their businesses — not only financially, but also operationally and strategically. That’s the case in “Warning Signs,” the cover story exploring risk management. We show how CFOs can use the downturn to challenge the way risks are managed in every part of their companies. The closer a CFO is to understanding all these risks — and opportunities — the more successful such efforts will be.

Ready for the Worst” draws a similar conclusion. With the number of insolvencies expected to rise, we hear from corporate-rescue experts about what’s on their wish list for turning a company around. At the top of the list are CFOs with a firm grip on up-to-date financials and authority in the boardroom. And at the bottom? Finance chiefs who keep their businesses at arm’s length.

Stepping Up,” meanwhile, shows what can happen to CFOs who take getting close to the business to the extreme, leaving finance to take up operational jobs, often on the way to the chief exec’s office. Though tricky, the transition can be an eye-opener. “I could have done this earlier,” one finance director-turned-managing director told us. With the downturn deepening, many companies will hope that more of you can do the same.

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