vCFO or Virtual Chief Financial Officer means that the companies outsource the services of financial business expertise and knowledge to an experienced financial professional on a needs-only basis. Timely and efficient execution of financial tasks and maintaining profitability are the reasons why so many companies have started taking services of vCFOs who work closely with the business owner, the CEO, board members, senior management, and in-house accounting team and provide financial leadership, strategic expertise, and flawless execution of the tasks.
The challenges a start-up or a growing business faces are extraordinary. Achieving the business objectives not only requires meeting sales goals but the business must also know the potential and see it flourish. Managing the finances of the business, meeting compliance and regulatory requirements, maintaining corporate governance, and addressing the need for strategic advice are some of the most important tasks that no business can afford to neglect. Every businessman not only needs strategic advice but also requires support to meet periodic financial and technical accounting requirements. Hiring a full-time CFO is expensive and may dent budgets for start-ups and small companies. Here comes the concept of vCFO.
A vCFO can help businesses by delivering weekly, monthly, quarterly, or one-off services as per the requirements of the client. A vCFO offers the same services as CFO like budgeting, project work, forecasting, managing cash flow, and delivering customized management reporting. An experienced financial professional can be hired as a vCFO at a fraction of cost as a full-time chief financial officer who can offer his / her high skill assistance for managing the financial requirements of the business.
The concept of vCFO started in North America. Start-ups that did not have ample resources to hire a full-time CFO started outsourcing their financial management services to external experts. Later existing businesses also started following the same path to save costs. A growing number of start-ups, non-profits, and companies with budget constraints have turned to vCFOs for the following reasons:
- They need the financial expertise of a CFO, but they don’t require it full-time.
- Budget constraints make employing a qualified and experienced in-house CFO impossible.
- With a growing number of vCFOs, you can pick and choose the professional who has relevant experience and can perform the duties of an expert to meet the challenges your specific industry faces.
- Professional vCFOs like other legal for-hire consultants like lawyers are used to jumping into a business mid-stream. A full-time new professional may take time to get accustomed to the culture of the company, a vCFO starts giving results sooner.
- Unlike an in-house employee whose functioning can be affected by career goals in the company, a vCFO makes decisions purely based on data and expertise and provides unbiased and impartial advice. Their singular objective is to make your company sustainable and successful.
Many companies are successfully moving well along the digital transformation era by implemented the vCFOs trend that gives them the competitive advantage of financial experts on call. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, companies are extensively opting for the WFH model. Employees have also realized that sitting at home working virtually in flexible work hours is equally or much more efficient, resulting in reduced costs and improved productivity for both the employee and the organization. As a repercussion of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with other functions of the organization, the trend of vCFOs or Shared CFO is also on the rise and is tend to grow considerably in the coming years, where companies will realize their equal efficiency and get benefits of reduced costs of a full-time CFO.
In India, given the cost-benefit, many start-ups and SMEs have started taking the services of a virtual CFO. With millions of small businesses, India is a hub of SMEs. An increasing number of new ventures and companies need the assistance of a good financial expert. An increase in regulatory and compliance requirements like meeting Indian Accounting Standards, direct tax code, GST, and various amendments in Companies Act 2013 is taking a lot of time of the senior management. This has created a serious gap between demand and supply that SMEs and new ventures are facing.
Aristotle Consultancy, India’s leading CFO services provider, helps organizations, right from their incubation period until they become a large Public Company when they could afford a full-time CFO. Aristotle Consultancy provides an ambit of services starting from monitoring the financial health of the company to providing financial insight and guidance. We assist the clients having huge growth potential and a vision to grow in the dynamic environment.
Benefits of Virtual CFO (VCFO)
Managing a business successfully requires a lot of effort and sacrifices. Being an SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) or a start-up you can drown yourself in all types of daily business activities. However, some important tasks are crucial and should be performed by a domain expert. Doing all these tasks by yourself might hold you back from growing your business actively.
When it comes to the financial matters of your organization, it is highly recommended that a knowledgeable, dedicated financial professional should oversee them. In a traditional corporate structure, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) performs these duties. Most of the small businesses that need the help of financial professionals to take their business to the next level, yet cannot hire a full-time executive may find vCFO as a better option.
The accounting profession also is going through some major changes. Now, small businesses have more choices since basic day-to-day services like compliance, bookkeeping, and tax preparation are being commoditized. So, the CFO’s role has evolved from being a financial policeman to a strategist thinker whose primary job is to provide advice on a different and wide range of issues. Nowadays, more and more companies are hiring vCFO as a senior accounting executive who can take care of analyzing financials and overseeing financial planning.
Some of the benefits of outsourcing a vCFO are:
Cost-EffectiveHiring an experienced professional for senior positions is expensive. It is a well-known fact that the fixed costs of a full-time CFO are enormous. A Virtual CFO can provide the same level of services at a nominal amount in comparison to a regular CFO. Due to the flexible arrangements with the vCFOs, an enterprise can scale up and down their services depending on their needs. As a result, a virtual CFO’s services are available at a cost-efficient price.
More accuracy in financial reports
In an organization many reports can be prepared internally but, in the absence, an expert preparation of such reports and financial statements of small businesses may contain errors. Getting help from a virtual CFO eliminates the risk of errors in financial reports that gives exact information on the finances. A competent virtual CFO can prepare financial reports with more accuracy.
Hiring a virtual CFO gives an enterprise the option of customizing the services that suit the unique needs of the business. Employing a full-time CFO is not only expensive but even a bit redundant when the business doesn’t require all the services on regular basis. With a virtual CFO, the business can outsource specific tasks as per the requirement and pay accordingly. When the business hires a vCFO, it sets the terms for time and cost that suits best which means a vCFO may work full-time hours for a set number of days and then work part-time or on a fractional basis as per the tasks. As the requirement changes the services can be scaled up or down. The business pays for the time and deliverables unique to the business, without compromising on the experience and expertise the business requires.
Most vCFOs have worked with a variety of industries and companies, gaining vast experience and insights into the opportunities and challenges of different industries. A vCFO can offer a unique perspective and breadth of knowledge to the businesses since they have access to diverse knowledge and are supported by a team of experts.
Strategic Financial Planning
A vCFO regularly analyses financial and operational reports of the business and helps them making long-term action plans. With the in-depth knowledge and expertise, a vCFO uses his / her analytical skills to assist the enterprise in long-term business planning. Based on the findings and sound advice, the business can implement a strategy that will ensure that the company is prepared for the future. With the advice of a vCFO, the businessman can make better financial decisions that may create a clear growth path.
Handling Challenges and Applying an Objective Approach
After working with different industries and organizations of different sizes, an experienced vCFO has the experience of dealing with a variety of financial issues. vCFOs are competent to tackle financial challenges and emergencies, by guiding and providing unbiased advice. Sometimes when the businessman is caught up in the day-to-day tasks of running the business it is possible that he/she may not look at things objectively. A vCFO can act as an important sounding board for important business decisions that may significantly improve the financial situation.
An entrepreneur may not know the intricacies of financial management. Over time, the business owner can learn from the vCFO and upskill about the financial-based decisions and their outcomes. The business owner gets firsthand experience of the functions and strategic advice on financial management and uses them to achieve financial goals. This journey and association with a seasoned vCFO provide insights and knowledge of the financial management of the business.
A vCFO is a liaison with lenders, professional bodies, and various external stakeholders. They provide reassurance to reporting and analysis. Due diligence and professional oversight of a qualified and designated accountant gives confidence to the external entities.
Part of the team
The business owner and the vCFO work in partnership to achieve desired goals and outcomes. vCFOs have the emotional intelligence and leadership skills to work with different types of people and personalities. Their financial expertise helps the existing team of the business to learn to achieve success together. This collaborative approach ensures that the desired outcomes are met by creating effective communication to guide the business through various financial business decisions.
A virtual CFO may not offer the following services:
- Sharing the burden of all legal matters.
- Managing regular HR / Admin services.
- Day-to-day, in-person participation with the executive management team.
- First-level relations with the investors.
Whether you need a contract CFO or wish to outsource bookkeeping, vCFO can provide strategic planning expertise, flawless execution, and financial leadership to help your business grow and succeed. We at Aristotle Consultancy provide you best of the services of financial management. Contact our office to learn more about how our team of experts can help you to address the specific challenges you face and develop financial solutions.
CFO vs vCFO
A highly competitive business environment is emerging in the current century that comprises multiple activities to be performed simultaneously at a fast pace with accuracy. A healthy sales and market success of the product or service needs to be supported by sound and proper financial management. Financial management is concerned with procurement and application of finances, determining financial requirements, and deciding about the fund distribution amongst owners and the savings for future needs. All these tasks can be fulfilled once a Chief Financial Officer is in place.
At this crucial juncture, the company needs to decide whether to hire a full-time in-house CFO or a virtual CFO. The selection between the two depends upon the operational size, area, requirements of the organization, and both long-term and short-term drawbacks and benefits to the firm. To make a clear profitable decision, you can make the following comparisons.
Definition of an In-house CFO
Chief Financial Officer has the responsibility to analyze the financial position of the company based on financial data. The responsibilities of the CFO go beyond the managing of the financial resources of the company. A CFO has to decide the company’s capital structure, finding debt and equity balance, along with evaluating when and where to invest. When a Chief Financial Officer performs all these duties while being part of the permanent employee of the company, he is referred to as an in-house CFO.
Definition of a Virtual CFO
Virtual CFO is a service that is outsourced to an external person who remotely performs all the duties and responsibilities of regular CFOs. vCFO services are economical and effective and, you get the facility to avail all the financial services virtually. A Virtual CFO can perform all the functions of a CFO with the objective of financial management of your business without putting an additional burden on financial resources.
In-house CFO handles the financial side of the business. CFO heads the accounting department of the company and is answerable to the management, board members, stakeholders, and employees. CFO to prepare a financial roadmap of the company, and helps in strategic planning covering financial aspects.
A virtual CFO provides all the services of a regular CFO but delivers only when asked by the company. A vCFO offers financial planning, reporting, and strategic services without the burden of employing a full-time CFO and other accounting staff. One virtual CFO can handle numerous business entities at one time as a vCFO service provider have a team of accountants. Thus, the company has to only pay for the services that the company has rendered from the virtual CFO.
When a company hires a dedicated CFO, it has to rely upon the knowledge and expertise of that individual to handle the finances. One person may not be good at all the financial aspects. In-house CFO might be good at forecasting the future but may lack the quality of making swift decisions based on market trends. Thus, the in-house CFO of the company may lack the responsiveness to deliver according to the situation.
A virtual CFO has vast experience of working with different industries and under different market conditions; thus, they are more responsive to the situations. Moreover, vCFOs have a team of experienced and competent accounting professionals to support them.
An in-house CFO requires at least 2 to 3 months to thoroughly understand the business and financial structure and get accustomed to the organizational culture. The business cannot expect the CFO to perform at optimum level from day one of joining. These initial few months of low productivity can impact the business adversely.
However, a virtual CFO having wide experience in multiple industries can speed up the performance of the business instantly. Thus, when the organization is aiming to enhance business productivity, it should choose responsive and analytical virtual CFO services.
Empowering Decision Making
A virtual CFO can guide in making data-driven decisions. The business organization must make investigative and profitable decisions concerning potential business investments. An outsourced vCFO knows various industries and strong business connections; thus, they can help in making precise and low-risk investment decisions. On the other hand, an in-house CFO may come with a limited set of networks and skills, so they may not be able to offer high-caliber decision-making power to the business.
Support of a Team
A full-time CFO comes as an individual in your organization. This means he has limited skills, knowledge, and the ability to handle a situation. But, when an organization hires a virtual CFO, the business is connecting with an entire team. A team full of experienced, competent, and analytical accounting professionals who can offer myriad solutions to a problem. The business can take leverage from the expertise of multiple minds by paying for one service.
It’s a well-established fact that the services rendered by a virtual CFO are far economical as compared to an in-house CFO. Large business organizations have the budget to afford an in-house CFO, but small businesses and startups do not have such resources. No organization wants to carry an extra financial burden by hiring an in-house CFO when affordable financial management solutions are available in the form of a virtual CFO.
Aristotle Consulting is a leading company which provides CFO and Finance management services to the clients across various industry domains and size. Aristotle Consulting is India’s fastest growing brand in the ‘virtual CFO services’ working with companies comprising different ownership spectrum such as Family Owned companies, Private Equity or Venture Capital backed companies, MNCs, Listed companies etc.
Services of a Virtual CFO (VCFO)
A vCFO (Virtual Chief Financial Officer) is a financial professional who remotely offers end-to-end accounting, financial and advisory services to start-ups, companies, business owners, especially to SMEs & Mid-size corporate. After achieving a certain critical mass, every business organization needs the services of a CFO who could manage its finances, look after its fund requirements, and meet statutory & tax compliance regulations. But due to high costs, companies are unable to hire a full-time experienced CFO. A vCFO can fill this gap and provide the above-mentioned services as per agreed terms and conditions to the business houses that have an in-house finance and accounts team but do not have a full-time CFO.
A vCFO can begin providing his services by fulfilling the following primary objectives:
- To understand the business and the basics of the industry of the client.
- To understand and evaluate the process flow of the company and determine the growth potential.
- To analyze the requirements of the company and then develop the scope of work with the in-house team.
- To understand the flaws and loopholes and suggest ways to remove and improve upon those.
- To ensure that the bookkeeping is following all the laws.
Now, we will cover some of the basics of the services that a vCFO provides.
Usually, enterprises do not have a detailed business strategy in place when they begin operations. They have a product to build or a service idea to develop. All these processes and functions may be fine during the initial stage but once the business gains a scale a lack of strategy can lead to multiple issues. Some of these business strategies should be defined in the early growth stage and a vCFO can provide support to:
- Identify the SWOT of the business.
- Define the Core and Non-Core areas of the business (what to do and what not to do).
- Define 3-5 years Business Plan and allocation of resources.
- Plan and implement Organization Structure for the future.
- Help in creating an informal board to take all strategic decisions.
Policies and Procedures
Entrepreneurs remain busy in making their idea successful but they neither have the expertise nor time to put processes in place to run the business. An experienced vCFO can help them in creating and implementing the policies and processes to run the business successfully.
- Payroll Management: A vCFO can help in formulating payroll processes based on specific business practices, processing of reimbursements, fulfillment of statutory compliances like Provident Fund, Employee State Insurance, Labour Welfare Fund, TDS processing, and enrolment and exit process of the employee.
- Receivables and Payable Management: A vCFO can develop the processes to manage client’s Receivable and Payable effectively and to manage the process’s timely follow-up and reconciliation of the payments.
- Cash Management: Cash is the lifeblood of the business. An efficient, consistent, and quick cash cycle is very important for smoothly running any business. A vCFO can help in cash flow forecasting & management for running an uninterrupted business operation.
Finance and Accounting
A vCFO can take care of day-to-day accounting, manage the bookkeeper of the clients following the accounting standards issued under the Companies Act 2013. This results in producing business results based on reliable data. vCFO interprets the results and creates relevant and useful business finance reports for the management providing insights to help the management to guide the business towards the stated goals. With the following services, a vCFO helps the management to know exactly where they are, when and what actions are to be taken, and how to focus on the teams and inform the stakeholders.
- Monthly and periodic review of Balance Sheet and Profitability.
- Review of Operational and Departmental MIS.
- Conducting Inter-Departmental MIS meetings to guide the teams and building accountability.
- Budgeting and Costing Implementation.
- Guiding the management for fundraising for various needs such as working capital, project funding, term loans, structured funding, etc.
- Banking & Institution management.
- Inventory control and its integration with accounts.
- Evaluation of Opportunities such as Joint Ventures, Private Equity, Strategic long-term contracts, IPO, Mergers and Acquisitions, and supporting the process.
Legal, Commercial, and Secretarial Work
In any organization drafting and vetting of legal and commercial documents is required that a qualified vCFO does. On the other hand, secretarial work like Company Incorporation, Board Meeting compliances, ROC filings, and fulfillment of other compliances are required under various laws such as Company Law, Income Tax Act, GST, Labour laws, etc. that can be performed by vCFO.
Consulting and Advisory Services
A vCFO understands the client’s requirement and advises about the best corporate structure and customized business plan after conducting thorough research on the client’s company, industry, market competition and products, and services offered by the client. vCFO advises the clients about prevalent rules and regulations about restructuring transactions, Direct Tax, and Indirect Tax laws, Company Laws. vCFO also conducts various internal and external Due Diligence activities & is involved in establishing the best business processes. A vCFO represents the clients before the tax authorities for tax assessments and also advises clients on best taxation practices.
Services for MNCs
Due to the growing middle class and huge size of its market, India has been on the radars of foreign multinational companies. However, due to its ambiguity in policy framework and complex regulatory framework India is considered a difficult place for doing business and making investments. A vCFO can work as local partners for the foreign MNCs for their business ventures in India and help them in getting regulatory approvals. A vCFO can help them in quickly ramping up their operations by assisting them in setting up transparent and robust processes and as per the applicable Indian laws smoothly manage their compliances and local issues.
A vCFO can position the finance function of the business as a competitive advantage. Virtual CFO can be a much-needed sounding board, mentor, coach, or guide. An enterprise must look for a seasoned veteran who the management can trust. In the end, you get a team member who not only knows your business but also does handholding to reach clearly defined goals. An experienced virtual CFO can help you cut costs and wastages, deploy cash efficiently, and find opportunities for higher growth and expansion. With their help, your business can step ahead of the other organizations in your industry.
Depending on the size and the growth stage of your company, Aristotle Consultancy provides a flexible engagement model wherein you can increase or decrease the engagement levels and allows you to have the best CFO talent as per your needs.
Qualities of an Efficient Virtual CFO (VCFO)
Virtual CFOs and their services leave a significant impact on a business. From fulfilling tax and other compliances and regulations to accurate reporting, advice, and forecasting services of a reliable virtual CFO are pivotal to the success of the business. Finding an efficient virtual CFO becomes a lot easier, once you know what to look for. Let’s discuss what type of qualities one should look for in a virtual CFO.
Friendly and Helpful
Once you engage a virtual CFO or an agency providing virtual CFO services, one of the first things you should look for is friendly service. You will have ongoing interactions with the vCFO and his team. A good working relationship will mean easier communication. Besides managing your financials and your business compliance, you get expert advice from your vCFO. If your v CFO is not friendly and happy to speak with you, you might miss out on his valuable advice which is important for informed decision making. Working with an unpleasant personality results in uncomfortable dealings which is not healthy for the business.
Good Communication Skills
Besides friendliness, having good communication skills is another quality of an efficient virtual CFO.
You would never want to hire someone who hardly communicates with you. A lack of regular dialogue can make you feel the financials of your business aren’t getting proper attention. Moreover, if you have a query or need a piece of advice, your vCFO should be able to promptly provide clear and direct answers. Not getting a response when asking a question is frustrating.
You want your vCFO to not only be pleasant to deal with but also easy to understand. A vCFO’s response should be clear and concise. Responses and advice confusing can be frustrating and counterproductive. Apart from being clear, a vCFO should be attentive so that you should not be waiting for long periods for a response or going extended periods without contact.
Reliability is another essential quality that a vCFO should have. When it comes financial management of your business, you cannot afford to have the bookkeeping fall behind, taxes not filed, or errors in monthly payroll. An unreliable virtual CFO service can result in inaccurate financial records and late reports which can not only impact decision making and even result in regulatory penalties.
It is often better to hire a virtual CFO service provider rather than a freelance virtual CFO. If the virtual CFO assigned to you isn’t available for any reason, it is the responsibility of the service provider to make alternate arrangements like an interim virtual CFO and you aren’t left in the lurch and your business’s financials stay up to date.
Irrespective of the size of the business, you would always want to hire an experienced virtual CFO who is efficient and gives you robust financial advice. It’s prudent to who has been operating for long and has experience in your industry, or better has experience in a variety of industries.
Experienced virtual CFOs must have a list of past and current clients. Never hesitate to ask for references and cross-check for the reviews.
The Potential Scaling Up
Every businessman aspires to grow big and the challenges vary at different growth stages of the business. Therefore, you should ask the potential virtual CFO or the service provider what size and kind of organizations they cater to. Do they deal with large firms only or have any experience of dealing with start-ups or small-scale growing businesses? Switching services in a running can be highly disruptive so you should make sure that the potential virtual CFO has the experience of servicing the companies at different growth stages so that he can scale along with you.
Up to Date Certifications
You trust a virtual CFO with your business’s financials, so they need to have proper certifications. It’s always better to have an experienced CA, CFA for the job. It’s always better if they were a member of an accounting organization which means they have undergone regular training and are up to date in their field.
A Close Ally
Ultimately, a virtual CFO should treat your business like his own. He should not see you as just another client for whom bookkeeping, accounting, or regulation and compliance services are to be provided. You should look for someone who can guarantee close contact, loyalty, and passion to grow the business as a partner, rather than just a client.
As we’ve discussed, choosing an efficient virtual CFO for your business is not an easy task. However, a thorough effort and taking care of this important decision can reward your business with a lifetime of effective financial management.
Aristotle Consultancy offers virtual CFO services with the top property of delivering financial services that you can rely on. With us, you can enjoy security, 100% on-time financials, and in place processes for regular check-ins from our team.