Virtual CFO (or vCFO for short) stands for virtual chief financial officer. A virtual CFO is an outsourced service provider offering high skill assistance in financial requirements of an organization, just like a chief financial officer does for large organizations. A virtual CFO may be a single person or an entity.
The mushrooming of the startup ecosystem has generated specialized service providers which fit the requirement of startups. Virtual CFO is one such specialized service provider. Startups normally do not have the resources to hire a full-time CFO. "There have been studies claiming that among the top issues faced by Indian startup CEOs are hiring financial and legal experts," according to a virtual CFO. Startups like to keep fixed costs low and having outsourced service provider provides them the flexibility of choosing services as and when required. A Virtual CFO provides strategic, value add services to a startup which cannot be provided by an accountant. In the United States, VCFO services are typically used by small to medium-businesses with annual sales in excess of $1 million.
The primary role of a chief financial officer in any organization is to oversee the financial planning, maintain and report on the financial activities and manage financial risk of the business. A virtual CFO provides the same services but since the common clientele of a Virtual CFO are small businesses and startups, there are certain more services that are expected of them. Services offered by a Virtual CFO often follow the Financial pyramid of needs. In the basic level, a Virtual CFO is expected to be the bookkeeper of the client and has to take responsibility for the accuracy of the account books and interpret the financial information from the accounting data to the client. They make take responsibility for executing or overseeing the reporting process. On the more strategic side, they are the financial and strategic sparring partner from the CEO. Additionally, they are also responsible for suggesting measures to control expenditure and acquire capital at low cost.
Small companies may need a controller on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Virtual CFOs also offer one-time help with strategic transactions, financial processes, business plans and budgeting.
In the USA, Virtual CFOs earn between $55 and $250 an hour, as per their level of expertise. Clients are invoiced on an hourly or monthly rate depending on the nature of service. Most firms provide tailor-made services and the service charges vary from client to client This practice is gaining ground in India, with a thriving start-up and SME culture in the country. This sector has discovered new virtual CFO companies in the last three to four years, mainly because the start-ups want to focus in their core areas, leaving the technical job to technical people.
However, this practice should be differentiated from finance outsourcing. Finance outsourcing is commonly understood to indicate a trans-national outsourcing process, in which financial management of companies is generally outsourced from Western countries to low-wage group countries, like India, South Africa, Brazil, etc.
1. Leadership 2. Industry and operations expertise 3. Internal controls 4. Strategic mindset
There is currently no official requirement as to the qualifications that a virtual CFO should hold. However, it is generally expected for a virtual CFO to have finance related university degree, professional accountancy qualification and sufficient relevant experience.
In addition, virtual CFOs can obtain the Qualified Cloud CFO (QCCFO) professional certification provided by the International Association of Qualified Cloud Accountants (IAQCA) that is specifically focused on the knowledge that financial professionals need to deliver their services within the Internet and Cloud environment.
- "Virtual CFO services gaining traction in NCR region" in The Economic Times
- Technology Entrepreneurship: Creating, Capturing, and Protecting Value by Thomas N. Duening, Robert A. Hisrich, Michael A. Lechter
- Business Owner's Handbook: The Ultimate Small Business Book -- Focus on Management of Money and Leadership to Increase Company Value By Marty Koenig and Keith McAslan
- 'Signs a Small Business Needs a CFO' in Forbes
- The Economic Times