Chief Financial Officer CFO Defined

4 abilities of great CFOs.

They not only spent time on individual succession planning for key roles in the organization, but also on ensuring the right balance of technical, analytical, and leadership skills within their team. They 4 abilities of great CFOs. judged their own capability on the strength of the team they had around them. They must navigate complex data and provide analytics and predictive scenarios that drive action and decision-making.

  • Those looking for advice on how to become a CFO should make every effort to keep up to date on the latest directions in IT in both the company and its industry.
  • That’s why I helped to establish a finance leadership academy, focused in part on helping finance team members build their soft skills, as well as strategic capabilities.
  • A strong commercial mindset enables a CFO to go from good to great.
  • For example, one company put its CFO in charge of a global operating committee even though none of the members reported to him.
  • Also, you should try to get to know and understand all of your employees and keep them informed about any organizational changes.
  • A CFO will have high-level operational experience as well as finance experience.

Even better, it’s making it easier to deliver these insights to other business leaders, further strengthening those partnerships. These days, however, there are many roads to becoming a CFO, and the role has expanded well beyond accounting and finance. Business schools can help aspirants learn more about strategy and operations so they can successfully collaborate with human resources, information technology and risk management. If your career goal is the CFO’s office, you’d be smart to consider adding a business school degree to your resume. Encourage relationship building and partnerships between finance teams and administrative leaders . Annual budget development cycles should not be the only times that financial teams work closely with administrative leaders.

Hiring CFO job description

The CFO relies on the reporting generated by accounting and the financial controller to advise the CEO and board on the company’s strategic financial direction. The controller and other functional specialists report to the CFO. Firstly, senior Finance managers and CFOs don’t believe they have anything to learn. They are often so ingrained as accountants, so left-brained, so analytical, that they see everything in terms of technical ‘how to’ knowledge.

The very best CFOs that I observed surrounded themselves with the best talent they could recruit and made a big effort to retain them. They made coaching, mentoring, and leadership development a big priority through all levels of the finance organization.

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“Get comfortable with the unknown; with moving forward by conferring with your experts, trusting your gut, and learning from your mistakes,” Rostan advises. The need for agility in a fluid business environment resonates with Training the Street’s Rostan, who pivoted to become far more knowledgeable about commercial real estate because of the pandemic. “Considering the uncertainty, we’re looking at our leases and thinking about ways to optimize them going forward,” he says. Digital fluency is more important as finance departments increasingly use technology to streamline and automate processes. To ascend to the office of CFO and be great at the job, you will have to master these responsibilities. Cultivating a strategic mindset will go a long way when working on how to be a great CFO.

What departments does a CFO oversee?

The CFO is a financial controller who handles everything relating to cash flow, financial planning, and taxation issues. A CFO is often the highest financial position and the third-highest position in a company, playing a vital role in the company's strategic initiatives.

CFO compensation in public companies is typically a mix of cash and stock. In both public and private businesses, remuneration is based on a number of factors, from company size and industry to geography, experience, seniority and how many finance/accounting divisions or departments report in to the CFO. In 2021, the highest-paid CFO by a wide margin was Goldman Sachs’ Stephen Scherr, at $20.2 million total comp. CFO pay as of early 2021 averaged $394,235, according to data. But at smaller companies, pay hovers between $150,000 and $200,000, according to salary and job sites. Timely reporting has always been critical, but in a fast-paced global business environment, access to information is the foundation of sound, strategic decisions and identifying and avoiding risks. Moreover, the reports issued by the finance team, like P&L statements, can make or break efforts to obtain financing.

How to be a successful CFO with seven skills

Value integrators are more effective than other CFOs in planning and forecasting, measuring and monitoring business performance, integrating information from numerous internal sources and managing risk. Companies with value integrator CFOs deliver better results than those without them. More than almost any quality, a great CFO will have the ability to act as a strategic partner. This means not only providing financial data and reporting but also to be able to advise actions that will “move the needle” in a company’s progress toward its goals. CFOs are often the ones who coordinate company activities, such as hiring or managing vendors like offshore teams or outsourcing vendors.

What value does a CFO bring?

The CFO can pinpoint exactly where and how risk could affect the company's business plan. This helps the CEO make decisions about where to allocate resources and how to prioritise goals. CFOs can also develop models for evaluating a company's major investment decisions, thus minimising investment risk.

Many companies are still struggling to put these foundations in place. To succeed, CFOs will have to be champions and stewards of digital technology. CFOs must adapt to new technology and be at the forefront of ERP implementations and cloud-based solutions. A common mistake I have observed in large scale ERP implementations is that the project does not get resourced with the right skills. With these changes in mind, it is conceivable that the CFO could ultimately supersede the CEO as the most important C-level position, making aspiring to the role of CFO a career ambition for young professionals. Yet, those CFOs who eventually become CEOs will be able to capitalise on their career experience to date. To be ultimately successful as CEOs, former CFOs must be able to focus on talent, especially on how to attract, manage and retain top talent.

Benefits of Having a CFO

To expand their leadership, CFOs must become more agile and comfortable making decisions when there are not black and white answers. Expert communication, presentation and team-building skills are key to all of these expectations, so begin now looking for opportunities to improve and enhance these abilities. Offer to give presentations to audiences inside and outside your organization, for example, or volunteer for committees where you can fine-tune your leadership skills. Also consider asking someone whose communication skills you admire to mentor you. This programme is designed for senior finance executives who are either new to a CFO role, or preparing themselves for a CFO assignment or similar strategic financial leadership position. No matter how much the CFO’s job changes, integrity always has been and will continue to be the foundation. CFOs are the truth-teller for their organization and the person the CEO and the board in particular trust above all to deliver an informed, frank, honest, and objective perspective.

Have finance leaders that are more engaged in assessing technology investments. Strategy – Supporting strategy development and helping enable its execution. No matter what you call it – CFO’s need to be able to embrace change. Changes that affect a CFO come in many formats, but we all know that technology changes extremely fast and having someone who’s adept at dealing with change will be able to guide your organization through those changes effectively. Hiring decisions will become a major part of the job for future CFOs. “If the CFO is focused on the balance sheet and is focused on compliance, focused on processes and procedures and conformance, he’s not engaging in value creation,” Noah says. “The more significant value is now created from your intangible assets. The CFO of the future really needs to understand and become more of a P&L CFO to engage in value creation.”

CFOs Guide to Risk Management

The most-valued CFOs are visionaries — they have an eye toward the future, work closely with top leadership and aren’t shy about recommending strategic moves. Often, CEOs who are at a strategic crossroads and recognize the value of an expert financial adviser who can help them grow market share, and their businesses. If there is a need, we can even provide coaching to your CFO or, if appropriate, help you decide if you need to make a change to help you survive and reach a new level of growth.

4 abilities of great CFOs.

And if it can be done better, then there must be ways of learning to do it better. It isn’t helped by the second reason, which is that calling them ‘soft’ skills makes it sound like they’re wishy washy, nice-to-have, optional things that people can’t really teach you. My own contribution in the debate over why Finance professionals don’t realise the power of these skills is that there are two reasons, both of which I want to address briefly here. These skills broadly relate to the way that we do things, or the way we relate to other people in our daily lives. One other reflection I have on this area is that business acumen looks different depending where you are in the business. I did a little bit of research into what is meant by business acumen. Really, I’m talking about what we used to call management accounting.

Yet, the route to achieving that coveted role can seem confusing, leading many people to feel as though it remains just out of reach. Attaining the top position in the financial role takes careful preparation. Whether you’re just starting or are looking to advance your career, here are a few tips to help you out. Or, imagine leading a company restructuring to reduce overhead and improve cost-effectiveness, but proposing a recommendation that inadvertently cuts the company’s most valuable talent.

  • Ready to take that leap into one of the hottest roles in the boardroom?
  • But tech represents a significant investment in both capital and human resources.
  • Broaden your perspective and prepare for the role of a strategic CFO by enhancing your skills to better align financial and corporate strategy.
  • People who are responsible for finance in an early-stage company may benefit from a more comprehensive treatment of their role and function, especially if they have a technical background but not a lot of finance training.
  • We also make internal professional training a priority, like our recent Corporate Performance Management training and ongoing training around our own platform upgrades.

In addition to accounting, consider positions that demonstrate budgeting, analysis, risk management, investing, and more. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers at every level have experienced a 16 percent growth rate in their job outlook since 2018, with that rate projected to stay steady through 2028. That’s four times the national average of similar careers, such as sales managers or even other executive roles . Succession planning should start at the recruitment and entry levels, with undergraduate and Master of Business Administration development programs that draw in and develop people who could someday be officers. It should include development and rotational programs to provide the training, feedback, and experiences they need to be ready to jump to the next level. Then, at the higher levels, development programs should provide appropriate experiences for senior people. For example, I gave my officers exposure to the board and audit committee.


Yiorgos’ research focuses on understanding how organisations and individuals identify new challenges and develop innovative ways of addressing them while overcoming resistance to change. He has examined these issues in the context of ecological sustainability, venture communities and business ecosystems.

4 abilities of great CFOs.

He educates business students on topics in accounting and corporate finance. Outside of academia, Julius is a CFO consultant and financial business partner for companies that need strategic and senior-level advisory services that help grow their companies and become more profitable. The CFO is responsible for managing the financial actions of the company. Their duties include tracking cash flow, analyzing strengths and weaknesses to propose corrective action plans when necessary and preparing accurate forecasts so that management can make informed decisions about future investments or cuts. A Chief Financial Officer is a senior executive responsible for managing the financial actions of their company. They are often in charge of tracking cash flow, analyzing strengths/weaknesses in the company’s finances and overseeing all aspects of its financial success. Even the most effective development efforts won’t cover all leadership gaps.

Fortunately, reskilling and addressing such gaps are becoming a priority for the function. PwC’s research found that 17% said it’s an issue they’re actively working on now, with a further 15% planning to do so. Once finance leadership was widely regarded as a stepping-stone to the role of chief executive officer. Today, financial leaders are strengthening their position in their own right.

  • Serving as a CFO requires a background in accounting or finance and an advanced business degree, generally including an MBA.
  • CEOs also tend to handle more high-risk and high-profile situations, critical negotiations, and crisis management over the course of their careers than CFOs.
  • Trust is the new business currency for CFOs, influencing loyalty and buying decisions for customers, as well as employee retention.
  • Enhance your strategic communication skills to become more influential, leading internal and external stakeholder groups with greater success.
  • “The CFO is never going to be the CIO, but the CFO is expected to partner very closely with the CIO for internal transformation programs and projects.

To achieve this, they engage in tactical problem-solving, take crucial decisions, and manage relationships with stakeholders. Equipped with this skill, the CFO can help senior leadership teams to navigate through these risks. Don’t wait until it’s too late to hire a Chief Financial Officer or other finance professionals that could help your business. It could mean the difference between a thriving business or one that goes under in the next few years. An operational CFO will provide you with business intelligence, which can help you mitigate financial risks. They will also help you if you are dealing with a merger or acquisition.

For me, the analogy is that in three days, we’re not going to take you from someone who’s never been a runner to someone who’s ready for a marathon. We’re going to give you skills that, if applied consistently, will get you to the place where you’re ready to step into the CFO role. You need to have quite a bit of humility and willingness to learn, along with an open mind and the ability to work with people who have deep knowledge in areas that you might not be as well versed in. Many people find that when they start off as a CFO, they have big blind spots. You need to know how to lead effectively while addressing those blind spots. Healthcare and finance are both serious, humor lightens the mood, the saying “laughter is the best medicine” rings true for CFOs. Laughter decreases stress and can put employees at ease, if the situation allows add humor.

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