The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

As business evolves, the scope of the Chief Financial Officer’s (CFO) role is expanding. CFOs must now balance competing demands on their expertise, priorities, and time, while often playing a transformational role in driving strategy for their business. These expanded responsibilities are creating tension between the CFO’s financial and strategic roles. This intensifies the need for more data to inform decision-making.

In this light, Grant Thornton’s 2017 CFO Survey uncovered how more than 400 senior financial executives see the current and future states of their business in the areas of risk, technology, investment, and strategy. The survey also focused on identifying the challenges these executives face in adopting efficient solutions in these four areas. Of respondents, 93 percent represent the middle market (companies up to $1 billion) and 92 percent are CFOs.

CFOs are looking at investments in operational improvements, and merger and acquisitions (M&A) survey respondents reported that their organization’s investments would be focused on operational improvement in 2017, as the bar graph below shows.

In addition, nearly one-third of large and midsized companies are considering M&A in the next 12 months.

Fourteen percent of CFOs at larger companies reported that they will be investing in sales and marketing. In contrast, 48 percent of small and midsized businesses are investing there. This significant difference can be explained by the fact that large companies already have fairly well-defined sales and marketing functions and processes, and so they turn their attention to investing in the infrastructure necessary to support further business growth.

CFOs are looking at M&A, but are aware of its complexity. A principal in Grant Thornton’s Transaction Services practice indicated that “doing a merger or acquisition is an added responsibility for finance departments, most of whom do not have the in-house capabilities to see a deal through. Identifying targets—and accurately valuing those targets—are top challenges for middle-market businesses. Many acknowledge they need a full-lifecycle M&A partner to help get deals done.”

For more information, please contact your Grant Thornton representative at +81 (0)3 5770 8829 or email me at

Toru Shirai is a senior manager at the Tokyo office of Grant Thornton Japan, where he provides assurance services to multinational companies. When he was seconded to Grant Thornton’s Chicago office for three years (2012–2015), he also supported cross-border business expansion. Shirai has 15 years of experience in public accounting and specializes in ICT and manufacturing.