Top 5 skills for future CFOs

Adrian O'Connor - September 15 2017

Top 5 skills for future CFOs
The role of Chief Financial Officer is coming out of the shadows. No longer playing Robin to the CEO’s Batman, the strength of a CFO is now widely recognised as being absolutely integral to a company’s strategy, direction and ultimate success.

Here are the top 5 skills for future CFOs:

1. Technical skills – Advanced Excel is no longer enough. Today businesses are seeking Finance Directors who are at the bleeding edge of smart technologies, leveraging solutions such as cloud-enabled ERP systems. Many CFOs are now key players in driving adoption of these technologies – recent research from EY found that 58% of CFOs believe combining state of the art technology with process improvement is crucial.

2. Adaptability – CFOs who have spent time outside the finance function, in marketing or operations, for example, are becoming increasingly sought after by companies which value skills a traditional accountancy degree and a linear career path wouldn’t necessarily provide.    According to data from McKinsey, 31% of CFOs hired since 2009 have such experience, up from 17% of hired prior to 2009.

3. Communication – Today’s CFOs must have the ability, and charisma, to engage with stakeholders both inside and outside of the business. As well as often being rolled-out as the face of the company in terms of investor relations, they’re no longer sat in a dusty corner wearing their pocket-protector working in silo day-to-day. According to McKinsey, on average, five functions other than finance now report to the CFO.

4. Leadership – McKinsey’s research also found that 72% of CFOs say they are significantly involved or the most involved executives in allocating employees and financial resources. As such, professionals must not only have the ability to manage the teams reporting into them, but also lead strategically.

5. Creativity – The rise of automation within the finance function has placed a fresh emphasis on the importance of innately ‘human’ skills such as creativity. CEOs can prove their worth by finding innovative ways in applying data to achieve growth, particularly in sectors with frequent disruptions that require dramatic changes in resource

Of course, desired skill sets depend heavily on the existing strengths of the rest of the top team – but there is no doubt that the CFO is morphing into a bigger, more challenging, role. KPMG’s The View from the Top report notes that almost two-thirds (63%) of CEOs from high-performing organisations believe that the CFOs role will increase in significance over the next 3 years.

Senior finance professionals are metamorphosing from straight number crunchers to strategic advisors – and those aspiring towards CFO level, or looking for their next role, must recognise that expectations are shifting.

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