The chief financial officer isn’t just a “scorekeeper” anymore.
The position entails much more than that. These days the role of a CFO plays a strategic importance in the future of the company, and getting to the position requires someone willing to take the lead in business decisions as if he or she were the CEO. People used to say that all CFOs wanted was to be CEO, but these days the CFO is so important to the direction of any given firm that most people with these top finance jobs are actually pleased with their roles.
An EY study found that 35 percent of CFOs find themselves playing a leading role in the strategic direction of their respective companies. And the report, called “The DNA of the CFO,” also noted that 75 percent of the financial executives questioned wanted to remain in their roles, and become better CFOs. With a new reality setting in, in which people in chief finance roles aren’t seeking to change their positions, but constantly improve themselves and their companies, the path to the CFO post is more important than ever.
While there’s not really a singular path to the CFO position, there are a few things you’re going to have to tick off your resume, and you’ll inevitably have to put in some time networking and making yourself known before snagging an interview. First, you’re going to need a lot of financial experience – only an obsessively thorough knowledge of finance will do.
“You need a combination of business gusto and finance wizardry.”
In addition to the broad knowledge of finance, you’re also going to need to be a capable business leader. As mentioned above, the CFO is nearly as much a CEO as the CEO is, and because of this you need a combination of business gusto and finance wizardry.
It doesn’t hurt to be a smooth customer service provider as well. You’re going to have to speak with investors from time to time and that requires a certain je ne sais quoi to charm them. You’re going to be their chief source of knowledge on the financial status of the company, and keeping them pleased is a crucial part of the job.
When you have the right skills to get into the CFO position, you’ll have to make yourself known. It isn’t up to the CEO to assume you want to head up finance for the company, it’s up to you to make sure it’s known that you’re gunning for the job. Show that you’re a leader and a team builder with everything that you do to ensure that people trust your strategic judgment. As you’re making it known that you understand how to make crucial decisions on the fly, network and make sure your name gets up to the CEO.
If you can show you have the skill set required to be a top notch CFO, and network enough to make sure your CEO or hiring managers at other companies know about it, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting interviews.