How to Become a Chief Financial Officer


Finally, and perhaps the most important element for me, the increased expectations on the CFO mean increased demands on the whole finance function. 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. 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 judged their own capability on the strength of the team they had around them. There’s no doubt that the historical tasks of the finance function such as books and records, financial reporting and statutory compliance are still of fundamental importance.

  • This projected growth rate is much faster than the average across all occupations.
  • They must understand risk through a commercial as well as a financial lens.
  • The role was originally meant as a more back-end and fiduciary function, with CFOs tasked almost exclusively with quality control, compliance, and producing and analyzing financial statements.
  • Being a CFO is an exciting growth opportunity that can prove to be successful for any young startup.
  • The CFO role has emerged from focusing on compliance and quality control to business planning and process changes, and they are a strategic partner to the CEO.
  • Nonverbal communication, emotional intelligence, empathy, and confidence also contribute to workplace success for CFOs.

On the other hand, the assumes the highest-ranked financial position in the company. The role of CFO oversees all the key components of the finance function such as financial planning, expense management, accounting, tax compliance, and financial reporting, to name a few. CFO is the corporate title for the person responsible for managing the company’s financial operations and strategy. The CFO reports directly to the CEO and has substantial input into the company’s investments, capital structure, money management and long-term business strategy. Effective CFOs have capabilities that space a range of functions and skills — both hard and soft. Serving as a CFO requires a background in accounting or finance and an advanced business degree, generally including an MBA.

CFO Job Description

At times, this can also be one of the hardest qualities to find in a CFO. They are often so focused on short-term gains that they neglect to plan for long-term risks. The goal is to help other leaders make better business decisions by providing them with accurate and timely information. This might involve anything from advising on a new product launch to negotiating a merger or acquisition. If you’re looking to move into a CFO role, or are already there, being able to effectively communicate financial data is critical. The CFO is also responsible for monitoring performance against these targets and reporting any deviations to the CEO.

Is CFO higher than CEO?

The CEO assumes the main role of overseeing the operations of the entire company, from sales to administration. He holds the highest rank in the company and only reports to the board of directors. On the other hand, the CFO assumes the highest-ranked financial position in the company.

The CFO handles tasks that need quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. He/she is responsible for reviewing various aspects of the company to ensure that the costs of operations are controlled in a proper manner and that resources are correctly allocated.

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They normally support the Chief Operating Officer on both tactical and strategic matters concerning cost-benefit analysis, securing of new funding, forecasting needs, and budget management. Finance needs to be embedded throughout the business, providing decision support to key functions such as commercial, operations, manufacturing.

  • Before you can begin your management career, you will need to meet a few educational requirements.
  • This includes managing all aspects of financial and cash flow planning, as well as analyzing its financial position.
  • The CEO generally reports to the company’s board of directors, while the CFO reports to the CEO.
  • Many also have deep business backgrounds, often hold dual degrees in business and finance and/or an MBA and have gained industry-specific expertise.
  • But being a good finance manager is also about differentiating between risks and opportunities and striking while the iron is hot.
  • In 2021, the highest-paid CFO by a wide margin was Goldman Sachs’ Stephen Scherr, at $20.2 million total comp.

These salaries should be considered as examples and are What Does a Chief Financial Officerd for educational and exploratory purposes. Actual salaries are influenced by numerous variables including but not limited to demographics, size and scope of the role, level of experience, qualifications, and education of the worker. A bachelor’s degree supplemented by significant experience can lead to a job as a CFO, but many companies prefer CFOs with a master’s degree.

CFO Requirements:

Those in the CFO role must also be willing to try new things and take calculated risks to grow the business and improve the overall financial standing of the company. Because of the significant impact of technology on all aspects of business, including finance, today’s CFOs must also be familiar with the software required to run a modern finance and accounting operation. Thus, it’s no wonder that CFO surveys consistently show that evolution. Especially in small and midsize businesses, CFOs tend to wear many hats. Not only are they doing the traditional CFO job, they’re assessing cyber security risks, managing system and data integration, filling talent needs and evaluating new technologies like Blockchain and AI. Gleaned from helping previous employers successfully expand, whether organically or via M&A, is invaluable to CEOs, especially those looking to take their companies public.

reporting and statutory

While these are important skills, it is also important to remember that one of the CFO responsibilities is to also be the face of the company, alongside the CEO and other C-suite executives. You are also charged with the responsibility of forming the finance department of the startup, which requires important managerial skills. One of the main CFO responsibilities is an in-depth knowledge of the financial-legal laws and regulations of the country your startup is currently operating in, as well as foreign laws if applicable. To enter a young company as the supreme finance manager, the startup CFO is usually the sole person responsible for the finance management of the entire company.

The main difference is that a CFO focuses on financial planning and management, while a CEO is more focused on overall strategy and execution. In other words, the CFO makes sure that the company has enough money to do what it needs to do, and the CEO makes sure that it happens. This includes everything from overseeing accounting and payroll to managing cash flow and preparing financial statements. In some cases, the CFO might also be responsible for negotiating loans and lines of credit with banks or other lenders. After all, without proper financial management, a company can quickly find itself in hot water.

today’s cfos

Many also have deep business backgrounds, often hold dual degrees in business and finance and/or an MBA and have gained industry-specific expertise. Experience at lower responsibility levels positions finance professionals to achieve the CFO role. 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. CEOs act as the company’s public face and make major corporate decisions. However, CFOs are required to work closely with the other senior executives of a company, such as the CEO.

Executive Summary

CFO qualifications are often an MBA — master’s degree in business administration — in accounting, finance or a related field; a CPA — certified public accountant certification; or a CMA — certified management accountant certification. Along with being a team leader for other departments and employees — both inside and outside of the financial function — the CFO is also charged with collaborating with the CIO on technology investments and strategy. In some cases, the IT department — including the CIO — reports directly to the CFO. Some experts advise $10 million in annual revenue as a marker that it’s time to hire a full-time CFO. But don’t forget that part-time/fractional and virtual CFO-as-a-service offerings are available. CFOs are aided in their roles by increasingly sophisticated technology that can help with both reporting and forecasting, including dashboards with built-in business intelligence. But tech represents a significant investment in both capital and human resources.

  • Another previous CFO boss of mine gave me one of the best pieces of feedback I have received—“Don’t be a postbox,” meaning that it’s not enough for finance just to produce static snapshots of the company’s financial health.
  • But don’t forget that part-time/fractional and virtual CFO-as-a-service offerings are available.
  • Financial reports also provide an opportunity for the CFO to give their recommendations on what should be done moving forward.
  • According to the BLS, the main employers of chief executives in 2020 were private companies and enterprises, local governments, and computer system and design companies.
  • CFOs can work for small and large companies or organizations within agriculture.
  • The CFO needs to be able to walk this line and find the sweet spot that will result in a successful investment.
  • Being a CFO is difficult but with education and experience, individuals in the role thrive.

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