CFO Jobs, Responsibilities, Skill Sets and Career Path
Korn Ferry, an Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) member firm, completed a study in 2017 that highlighted the average tenure for members of the C-suite. Their findings discovered that Chief Financial Officers have the longest tenure in their role at 5.1 years. Korn Ferry attributes this to the time-commitment that boards have to do to ensure they have the right candidates because of how integral they are to a corporation. They are also difficult role to land as an outside candidate, with over 50% off CFO roles going to internal candidates.
So what are the key aspects of the CFO executive position and how can you move into a CFO role?
CFO as a Key Business Partner to the CEO
The traditional financial responsibilities of CFO jobs have expanded to include a broad range of strategic and leadership functions, offering a greater input into the overall direction of the organization and key projects. The CFO must now:
• Work with the Board of Directors, CEO and other c-suite executives to analyze new strategic developments.
• Support new projects by raising capital in increasingly risk adverse markets.
• Discover and examine new business opportunities with a key focus on P&L management.
• Meet regulatory requirements, manage enterprise risk, and of course, control costs. This is becoming increasingly complex as organizations begin expanding into new emerging markets with intersecting national, regional and international laws and regulations.
Key Qualities Executive Recruiters Require from CFOs
Executive recruiters look for analytical, strategically minded executives with a strong grounding in technical and regulatory knowledge. CFO executive candidates must also possess strong interpersonal and leadership skills, and be able to analyze strategic plans in terms of financial availability and prospective gains.
Through the recession, increasingly organizations were interested in the CFO’s ability to lead strategic developments that would reduce costs and counteract risk. However, as we come out of the economic downturn, executive headhunters will increasingly be searching for a more balanced approach to the CFO executive position with a focus on both cost-cutting and long-term planning for prospective financial stability.
Therefore, in order to advance through the executive job search process, CFO’s need to demonstrate an up-to-date knowledge of market trends, threats and opportunities, and be confident of leading the organization through turmoil conditions. Flexibility, a strong background in risk management, proven leadership ability and excellent accounting skills have risen to the top of the CFO wish list.
The Career Path of CFO Candidates
CFO executive candidates need experience in financial planning and analysis, accounting and controls, and strategy/mergers and acquisitions. Executive search consultants and hiring managers will also look for career experience across a variety of business units, along with managerial experience at the executive level. Current CFOs advise that senior executives should strive to move internally at the corporate level or into specific divisional, business or operational positions, even if a change represents a lateral move. Exposure to control, treasury, investor relations, financial planning and analysis is important.
The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) has over 1,400 executive search consultants who recruit for financial executive positions, from Directors to CFO jobs. In cover letters, career documents and discussions with executive recruiters and headhunters, CFO executive job candidates should demonstrate a balance between being a business partner and excelling at the control aspects of the job. Getting in front of CFO executive recruiters is often best achieved through networking due to the high level of the position.
Another way to achieve exposure to executive search consultants is to join BlueSteps. BlueSteps is the career management service of the AESC, which gives over 6,000 AESC executive recruiters access to an online database of over 60,000 senior executives. For more info see below.