The CFO’s New Role: Risk-Spotting Data Savant

Developing a 360-degree strategic viewpoint on the risks and opportunities in company data

CFOs are increasingly called upon to be data savants in addition to financial experts. Now, the influx of data demands a keen eye for risk as well as potential growth and marketing opportunities. In Big Data, Smaller Risk, David M. Katz explores the steps companies are taking to spot potential links to the hidden perils of moving, accumulating and wielding vast stores of data. Many CFOs find themselves uniquely positioned to enable their organizations to understand and act upon the potential risks in their data stores.

Dun & Bradstreet former CFO Rich Veldran offers a rich perspective in the article. Veldran sees Dun & Bradstreet’s data as not only a source of revenue, but as a source of fuel to assess D&B’s own risks. As Katz writes, “For example, he looks at whether suppliers are shipping more or fewer goods than their competitors. ‘Is the company likely to go out of business?’ he asks. ‘Is it a subsidiary of a troubled parent?’” Being able to ask questions such as these of Dun & Bradstreet’s data enables Veldran to see the connections and downstream effects of risky events.

Making use of the unstructured information taken from social media in addition to structured data, CFOs like Veldran are also able to detect external threats to a firm’s reputation—as well as the reputations of customers. Katz sums the art of risk avoidance with data as a balancing act. “The story of Big Data in Corporate America may have become as much about averting the negative as it is about accentuating the positive.” It’s clear that the 360-degree strategic viewpoint on the risks and opportunities in company data should no longer sit within the office of the CMO or CIO—but stretch across the C-Suite.