Achieve your CFO career goal

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By Alex Burden, Professional Development

5 June 2017

How does the Chief Financial Officer of the future adapt to a fluid work environment that craves increasingly broader skills?

During this period of automated algorithms that can outperform even the best financial strategists, it takes a keen mind to achieve career goals against a constantly evolving backdrop. 

In the CA Today article, the five qualities of a CFO, it was revealed that the mark of a top-performing financial executive is more than just a good head for finance. 

Demonstrating leadership and experience to influence strategies with strong financial underpinnings, and the ability to communicate these across all levels of business, requires frequent knowledge updates and an openness towards new practices and technologies.

Modern pressures for CFOs

A research report by Dun & Bradstreet, reported by Real Business, discovered that the modern CFO is under immense pressure to deliver on 'unrealistic' expectations from the business, cited by 56% of respondents

The need for continual professional development was highlighted; 97% stated that their role had 'significantly changed' over the last few years, with a growing need for strategic planning and ownership of wider business goals. This included a greater focus on compliance and risk alongside revenue-raising activities.

Embracing data-driven decisions was outlined as a key requirement for the future, which necessitates the know-how of powerful measurement tools - whether that is balanced scorecards or predictive modelling.

Today, a statement or opinion issued through social media can drive a company’s stock price down in minutes, and those kinds of events can destroy a company very quickly. David Rader, retired former CFO of Frito-Lay

In an interview with David Rader, retired former CFO of Frito-Lay, the Deloitte CFO Journal for The Wall Street Journal emphasised that building trust with boards, employees and stakeholders was essential for driving success, as well as not becoming distracted by quarterly goals to the neglect of longer-term plans. 

David told the Journal about the biggest challenges and professional development career goals for CFOs today: "The speed at which business decisions have to be made ramped up greatly during the time I served as CFO, and it has accelerated even more in the last few years, as social media has taken hold.

"Today, a statement or opinion issued through social media can drive a company’s stock price down in minutes, and those kinds of events can destroy a company very quickly. The CFO has to be on top of such developments and be prepared to respond instantly. 

"Cybersecurity also has become a huge issue since my days as CFO, as companies embrace not only social media, but big data, the cloud and mobile workforces."

Ask 'how?' first

David suggests that to counteract these demands you must effectively delegate and lead; trusting employees to deliver on the day to day aspects of business decisions, while opening communication channels with analysts to help determine long-term implications. 

He also emphasises that a CFO must always ask 'how', instead of stating 'yes', or 'no' to further trust and identify innovative practices for the security and development of the business.

Need inspiration or guidance on where to start? Watch ICAS President Sir Brian Souter CA share his advice for career success and reaching the height you desire and deserve. If you're ready to take on the challenge of becoming a CFO or finessing your skills to future-proof your career, then consider the following ICAS 'CFO of the Future' workshops.

Both public and private sector employees who are currently CFOs or aspire to be, are encouraged to upskill with the right tools for business, starting with Finance Leadership. This essential course starts with how to transform an organisation's finance into 'best-in-class' operations.  

CFO of the Future: Strategic Management enables you to take strategic plans to the next level, with a focus on decision-making and use of the right tools such as balanced scorecards.

CFO of the Future: Cost and Profitability Analysis will help you see beyond the budgets and statements to identify profit and cost reduction opportunities across businesses, with a focus on new techniques such as 'lean practice' and 'transparent information'.

CFO of the Future: Flexible planning and rolling forecasts delivers the skills necessary for fast and detailed performance insights, while CFO of the Future: Best practice measurement and reporting helps you to identify appropriate targets within the desired scope of the business, and how these should be reported to the wider organisation and key decision makers.


  • Business and Financial management
  • Career development
  • Corporate and financial reporting
  • Leadership and management

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