Who's pharma's power forward these days? The CFO. Or so concludes Ernst & Young after slicing and dicing two global surveys. As companies shift focus from driving sales growth to managing returns, CFOs will have to be increasingly proactive. Just think of the cost-cutting at so many pharma companies: E&Y found that 92 percent of drug execs rated reducing costs as a major concern in their businesses, and over half depended on their CFOs to lead the charge. Nearly three-quarters want their CFOs to take a bigger role in shaping strategy.
This change in expectations comes at a time when Big Biopharma has seen big changes in its CFO ranks. More than half a dozen companies have new finance chiefs, including Pfizer, Wyeth, AstraZeneca, and Merck. And perhaps it's no coincidence that several of those new finance honchos come from outside pharma. According to the Financial Times, corporate headhunters say more and more drugmakers are asking for help finding fresh experience from other industries. The biggest reason they want outsiders' expertise? The need to cut costs.