📣 New on Brex — business banking that takes every dollar further >



How top CFOs bal...

Journal Home

How top CFOs balance financial spend controls and growth.

What is the purpose of financial controls?

Financial controls are necessary to mitigate risk and prevent overspending. But as organizations scale, they tend to layer in more financial controls when they actually just need more effective ones.

It’s why finance leaders face a constant trade-off between spend control and the speed of execution:

  • Too few financial controls can invite overspending.
  • Too rigid an approach with financial controls can hinder growth.

So how can you balance controlling spend with driving business growth? And how can you tell whether you are slowing growth or enabling it?

CFOs specifically are tasked with making tough decisions about where to allocate an organization's financial resources. Saying no or cutting costs can feel like the safe choice because they aren’t sure how to control that spend, even if it helps move the needle.

But we’re here to tell you that financial spend controls and company growth don’t have to be at odds with one another and are in fact very much complementary.

Read on to learn more about why some CFOs are better at enabling business growth (Grow CFOs) and why some rely on financial control processes that block effective spend (No CFOs).

How do you manage spend?

You can tell the difference between a Grow CFO and a No CFO in their approaches to spend management.

One is growth-oriented and views effective spend as a lever for long-term corporate success. The other sees the inherent risk in spend and either cuts costs or limits spend to hit short-term financial metrics.

But cost-cutting is typically reactive and short-lived. What growth-oriented CFOs understand is that not all costs have the same value, especially when it comes to company spend.

If CFOs are charged with responsibly allocating an organization's financial resources, the Grow CFO’s superpower is designing systems and processes that optimize those resources for the investments that create real value.

Grow CFOs accelerate business growth by:

  • Automating accounting tasks to free up finance teams to be more strategic
  • Prioritizing tools that make it easy for employees to make essential business purchases
  • Promoting a culture of ownership and accountability around spend

No CFOs slow down business growth by:

  • Mandating cumbersome expense documentation and approvals
  • Adding layers of process for employees making routine job-related purchases
  • Enforcing a top-down approach to spend management with little room for flexibility

It’s not that CFOs set out to be “No CFOs” and deliberately reject new spend requests. They’ve just put all these financial controls in place to get the accounting right without thinking about the broader business impact. Additionally, a lack of real-time data means most execs can’t justify saying yes even if they support the initiative.

So we asked — what would make CFOs more comfortable saying yes to spend?

Finance leaders tell us that to be more flexible and say yes to spend more confidently, they need:

How to use effective spend as a growth lever.

While you can’t save your way to growth, you can better align your financial controls with the needs of the business. Download our ebook — “Are You a Grow CFO or a No CFO?” — to see why a few key changes will help you effectively balance financial controls with growth and drive business success.

Light teal background

Download the ebook today and get tips for balancing control and growth.

Light teal background

Check out the ebook today.


See what Brex can do for you.

Learn how our spend platform can increase the strategic impact of your finance team and future-proof your company.

Contact salesOpen an account

Related articles


Reimagining spend management to drive customer value

Brex CRO and industry veteran Doug Adamic shares 3 lessons for customer-centric innovation.