Five top qualities of a CFO

CFO with city view
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

20 March 2017

Financial expertise and top business acumen are the most obvious requirements for a good CFO. But what else makes up the mark of a quality financial executive?

Roles at all levels across businesses are expanding to be cross-sectional and incorporate wider skill-sets and backgrounds. The position of CFO is no exception, with high-quality leadership skills and an altogether more rounded breadth of experience. 

1. Leadership 

An assertive and confident CFO is able to drive a business toward favouring strategies with a strong financial underpinning, therefore having a direct impact on executive decision-making.

Rather than just advising the CEO, the CFO should be regarded as an equal business partner and trusted authority on data-driven action planning. The ability to positively influence others and push initiatives is essential in filling this role.

2. Experience

A wide and varied perspective on the impact of commercial directives, client expectations and market influences will ensure a good knowledge base from which to draw financial insight.

Detailed understanding in a range of functions and roles can add context and build an appreciation of stakeholder priorities. This can also be aided by a broad education in business skills through, for example, the combination of the CA qualification and an MBA.

3. Communication

Soft skills in communication, presentation and workplace relations build credibility within an organisation and help CFOs engage effectively with internal and external influencers.

Effective communication skills are imperative in justifying difficult actions, such as cutbacks. A steady level of respect and self-confidence, rooted in a good reputation, will also make it easier to stand by those tough decisions under pressure.

4. Adaptability

The digital revolution is causing disruption in every industry and a good CFO is expected to be flexible and responsive to these changes, as well as informed on potential threats to their business.

An understanding of big data and actionable analysis, both financial and otherwise, is in high demand for organisations looking to stay ahead of the curve.

Dedication to continued professional development and a willingness to accommodate innovative practices - like cloud-based resource planning systems - displays a desire to lead in the business and overall sector. Similarly, advocating the introduction of new talent to an organisation is good future-proofing practice.

5. Mentoring

Succession planning and career coaching will not only raise a CFO's reputation within a business but will likely also improve team performance as professional growth is encouraged.

Mentoring and developing the skills within a team will help keep that talent under the umbrella of your organisation for longer and put in place a good infrastructure for the future.


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