When fast-growing companies realize it’s time to take a more strategic approach with their finances, many decide to bring on a finance director to help them set long-term business goals.
Understanding how to manage growth today while also forecasting future financial needs is a skill that’s earned over time. That’s why employers usually seek a finance director for their team who has at least 10 years of experience in accounting and finance.
Many businesses are also prepared to offer competitive compensation to these seasoned professionals. According to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, finance directors in the United States who work in corporate accounting departments can expect to see a midpoint salary of $148,750 in 2019.
Skilled finance directors can be valuable for startups and other small businesses that are looking to expand operations, have received an infusion of capital, are preparing for an initial public offering (IPO), or all of the above. Some businesses rely on interim management consultants to handle the role because the hiring process can take a long time in today’s market, where available, skilled financial talent can be hard to find.
Typical duties for finance directors
The range of responsibilities that finance directors may be asked to handle depend on the size of the company and whether it has other financial leadership in place, such as a controller. In addition to directing an organization’s financial policies, finance directors may oversee all financial functions at the company, including accounting and tax. They may also play a key role in financial planning that supports business growth and development.
Generally, finance directors are expected to:
- Oversee insurance and risk management
- Maintain budgeting and forecasting models
- Perform financial modeling and analysis
- Assist with business funding decisions
- Hire, train and retain skilled finance staff
Many finance directors also need to collaborate regularly with leaders of other functions in the company, such as human resources, legal and IT, to discuss budgeting, planning and financial strategy.
Skill sets that employers seek in finance directors
Finance directors are part of a company’s core management team, so candidates need to have strong leadership abilities — and ideally, some previous management experience. Technology skills, including experience with financial systems, and analytical abilities are also necessary for this role. Many employers value previous experience in public accounting, as well.
Finance directors need strong public speaking and other communication skills, as they must be able to clearly explain financial information to management, the board of directors, investors, employees and others. In addition, they must have the fortitude — and diplomacy — to challenge decisions by management that may not align with current budgets, financial policies and plans, and could put the firm at risk.
As for educational requirements, most employers expect professionals applying for finance director roles to have a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting. Many companies prefer to hire candidates who also have earned a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or an in-demand professional designation such as certified public accountant (CPA) or certified management accountant (CMA).
Businesses planning for an IPO, a merger or acquisition, or some other major transaction or change event may seek finance directors who have previous experience in these areas. Today’s complex and ever-evolving regulatory environment is also prompting many employers to require finance director candidates to have extensive knowledge of Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance mandates.
This post has been updated to reflect more current information.