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Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) More Revered Now

Julia Homer, Editor-in-Chief of CFO magazine, says everyone expected that Sarbanes-Oxley would result in the seating of many more CFOs on the boards of public companies. It hasn’t. Instead companies tend to pick CEOs or academics.

What has changed, though, is the relationship between CFOs and their own boards. The recent slew of scandals left boards looking flat-footed and ignorant, so they now insist on better communications with the CFO—and more of it.

According to a CFO/National Association of Corporate Directors survey, chief financial officers are spending more time with directors outside the boardroom, even taking them on tours of operations.

When it comes to corporate governance, more than 40% think the CFO should ensure that the letter of the law is met. More surprising, perhaps, a significant minority—almost one in five—believes they should push for change above and beyond the letter of the law.

Boards also want their CFOs to understand the nuts and bolts of the business, as well as its numbers. They’re looking to them to provide a second perspective on the health of the company—and more CFOs feel comfortable providing it. This, according to Ms. Homer, marks a big change from earlier times, when a CFO who questioned the CEO’s version of events would soon find himself polishing his résumé.