CFO succession

  • 25-05-23
  • Geoff Balmer

The role of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has evolved over the years, and as a result, the skills and traits required to excel in the role have also changed. The role of a CFO was once limited to managing the finance department and managing a company’s financial health. Technology has changed that. The responsibilities of a CFO have evolved and the key competencies of this role now seem to be more leadership and strategy-centric than ever before. In this article, we will explore the successful CFO characteristics and top five traits that will set you apart when you next interview.

What is a CFO and what does a CFO do?

Reporting to the Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director (CEO), the CFO is a senior executive responsible for managing a company's financial strategy and financial operations. This includes overseeing the company's financial planning, budgeting, forecasting, accounting, and reporting. The CFO is also responsible for managing the company's risk, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, and playing a significant role in key decision-making.

The top 5 traits of a successful CFO

1. Forward-looking strategy

Where Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Financial Reporting Managers are tasked with working in a backward-facing approach through record keeping and reporting, the skilled CFO takes on a more forward-facing outlook. A successful CFO has a vision for the future of the company and works alongside the CEO to develop a long-term strategy that aligns with the company's goals. They are skilled in forecasting future financial trends and making informed decisions that will drive the company's growth.

To express this trait in an interview, provide examples of how you have developed and executed strategic plans in previous roles.

2. Stakeholder management and business partnering experience

The modern-day CFO has the interpersonal and communication skills to credibly liaise with multiple stakeholders, both internally and externally. Additionally, a successful CFO understands the operational aspects of the business and how they impact financial performance. This experience creates an important distinction, setting skilled CFOs apart and allowing them to provide realistic strategic advisory beyond accounting and reporting. They work closely with other departments to ensure that financial decisions align with operational goals.

To express this trait in an interview, provide examples of how you have collaborated with other departments to improve financial performance.

3. Understand the power of automation and technology

A successful CFO knows the opportunities presented by modern-day technologies and software. They are skilled in managing change and implementing new strategies that drive the company forward, ensuring they stay up to date with new technology on the market and how this can be implemented to simplify business financial practices in their organisation. That is not to say they need to be an IT guru or programmer themselves, however, they should be knowledgeable about what is possible. They are then able to use these tools to analyse complex financial data, express reports clearly, and make informed decisions.

To express this trait in an interview, provide examples of how you have used or implemented specific tools to aid business performance.

4. Team Management

The world has changed faster than anyone could have imagined since 2020. Hybrid working, video conferencing, and the job seekers' demand for flexible working mean that finance leaders have had to adapt quickly to new ways of managing and motivating their teams. Contemporary CFOs are skilled in understanding the needs of their teams whilst being able to drive them to desired outcomes either in person or remotely, ensuring deadlines and accuracy remain paramount. Equally, identifying and hiring staff against key competencies in this ever-changing landscape is critical.

To express this trait in an interview, provide examples of how you have led teams through periods of change.

5. Keeping up to date

One of the most critical traits of a successful CFO, is they are constantly keeping themselves informed of all current legislative and statutory requirements from an accounting point of view. The Chief Financial Officer frequently attends Accounting Conferences, staying up to date with their professional memberships, and is always seeking out the best external advice whether it be around risk, tax, or changes to accounting standards. The successful CFO is skilled in developing strategies to mitigate risks, and they are proactive in identifying potential problems for the business before they occur.

To express this trait in an interview, provide examples of how you have advised and implemented changing accounting standards in previous roles.

A job title or large salary does not make a successful CFO. It is the key skills, experience, and tools that set a CFO apart. To excel in this role, it's important to effectively demonstrate the above traits in interviews, by providing examples of how you have used them to drive success in previous roles.

If you're looking for your next role as a Chief Financial Officer, or looking to hire, contact us at Richard Lloyd Recruitment and speak to one of our experts. We can help you find the perfect role or hire that aligns with your skills and experience.