Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) tend to exhibit a strong sense of confidence in their organisations’ capacity to prevent cyber security incidents yet often remain oblivious to their companies vulnerabilities. To evade unforeseen financial implications, it is imperative for CFOs to bolster their engagement in comprehending and investing in effective cyber security solutions. Failing to recognise and understand cyber risks when conducting financial risk assessments can have serious repercussions.


Over the past couple of months we have been engaging with CFOs, many of who we have found to be the influential decision makers when it comes to adopting new cybersecurity solutions for their organisations. Through these conversations, it has become apparent that while some CFOs posses commendable knowledge and awareness regarding cybersecurity, the majority provide ambiguous answers, revealing a lack of understanding regarding their own company’s cyber strength. 


CFOs like to be confident in their companies’ ability to prevent cyber security incidents whilst remaining unaware of their own vulnerabilities. A recent Kroll survey revealed that a out of 180 companies that they surveyed 61% experienced at least three cyber incidents over just 18 months. Despite this, a staggering 99% of CFOs expressed confidence in their cyber security. What’s more concerning is the discovery that 40% of CFOs don’t receive updates or reports from their cyber teams, highlighting the disconnect between between the IT team and C-suit. The overconfidence of the CFO could point to a more significant issue – a deficiency in comprehending the ramifications of cyber risk. This lack of understanding often results in a substantial impact on budgets.


Why CFOs Should Actively Engage with Cyber Security

Financial Impact: 

For CFOs, having a deep understanding of the financial implications of cybersecurity is paramount. This involves assessing both direct and indirect costs associated with cyber incidents. Direct costs consist of expenses such as forensic investigations, data recovery, legal fees, and potential fines. On the other hand, indirect costs, often more impactful, encompass reputational damage, customer losses, and revenue decreases resulting from downtime. By comprehensively grasping the financial scope, CFOs can make well-informed decisions regarding resource allocation. This enables strategic budgeting for cybersecurity tools, training programs, and skilled personnel, effectively minimising both the likelihood and financial impact of potential breaches.


Regulatory Compliance:

Regulatory compliance in cybersecurity is a complex landscape that varies across industries and locations. Failure to comply can have severe legal consequences, including hefty fines. CFOs must have comprehensive knowledge of the specific cybersecurity regulations relevant to their organisation. It is crucial for them to ensure that the company adheres to these rules and standards, as neglecting to do so can result in costly liabilities. Apart from financial penalties, non-compliance can also harm the company’s reputation, impacting stakeholder trust and long-term profitability.


Budgeting and Resource Allocation: 

Effective budgeting and resource allocation play a vital role in cybersecurity management. CFOs who possess a deep understanding of cybersecurity risks can strategically prioritise investments based on the organisation’s risk profile. This entails identifying critical areas that necessitate additional funding, such as updating legacy systems or implementing advanced threat detection measures. Furthermore, a knowledgeable CFO can conduct ROI analyses on cybersecurity expenditures to evaluate how every pound spent on security measures contributes to risk reduction. By doing so, they ensure efficient resource utilisation and safeguard the financial well-being of the company while preserving its integrity and resilience.


Risk Management: 

CFOs play a pivotal role in effectively managing cybersecurity risks. This includes assessing and procuring cybersecurity insurance policies. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of potential risks, they can evaluate the sufficiency of insurance coverage and skilfully negotiate favourable terms, thereby mitigating financial losses in the event of a breach. Furthermore, CFOs must collaborate closely with other departments to develop robust business continuity and disaster recovery plans. These plans are indispensable for minimising financial losses during a cybersecurity incident by delineating procedures to uphold essential operations and effectively manage costs throughout the recovery process.


Stakeholder Communication: 

Effective stakeholder communication is vital for CFOs. They are responsible for reporting financial information to the board of directors, investors, and other stakeholders. A CFO with expertise in cybersecurity can effectively convey how cybersecurity risks and incidents impact the organisation’s financial well-being. They can articulate the financial consequences of breaches and propose strategies to mitigate risks. Additionally, a cybersecurity-savvy CFO can seamlessly collaborate with the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and other departments. This ensures alignment between financial interests and security measures, enabling informed cross-functional decisions for the organisation’s overall stability and resilience in a digitally evolving landscape.


In Summary

To be well-informed, CFOs should actively engage in cyber security planning, crisis response, and governance discussions. This involvement will allow them to evaluate financial risk and make informed investment decisions regarding cyber security and budget allocation. Neglecting this responsibility might lead to overlooking cyber risk when assessing financial risk therefore leading to potentially exposing devastating consequences.