CFOs are expected to weigh in on a wide range of business matters that their organizations face, from compliance and regulatory issues, to internal controls and taxes, to major transactions and other significant changes. And in recent years, many CFOs have seen their influence expand beyond the accounting and finance function.
For example, some finance leaders now collaborate frequently with human resources teams on benefits and other areas that not only affect a firm’s bottom line, but also its ability to attract and retain leading employees. Many CFOs find they also must collaborate with chief information officers on IT-related decision-making as technology becomes only more critical for everyday business operations.
As the CFO’s role continues to increase in importance, many employers are prepared to offer competitive compensation to secure top candidates for this critical C-level position. According to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, CFOs working in U.S. companies can expect to earn a midpoint salary of $196,750 in 2019.
The CFO role: other expectations
The power to exert influence in business requires skill, knowledge and experience. That means CFOs, including those working in an interim management capacity, must bring strong analytical, strategic planning and communication skills to their role. This includes being able to work effectively with the CEO, members of the board and, as noted earlier, other senior managers.
In addition, employers will expect CFOs to handle a wide range of responsibilities that may include:
- Providing strategic management of the accounting and finance functions
- Directing accounting policies, procedures and internal controls
- Recommending improvements to ensure the integrity of a company’s financial information
- Managing or overseeing the relationship with the independent auditors
- Overseeing financial systems implementations and upgrades
- Managing relationships with investors and investment institutions
- Identifying and managing business risks and insurance requirements
- Hiring, training and retaining accounting and finance staff
CFOs typically have at least 10 years of experience in the accounting or finance field, including a minimum of five years in a management role. The larger the firm, the more experience is required. Many companies prefer to hire candidates who have a master’s degree in business administration and/or an in-demand designation, such as certified public accountant (CPA) or certified management accountant (CMA).
CFOs should also possess knowledge of all aspects of generally accepted accounting principles. Public companies, or organizations planning for an initial public offering, need CFOs who have experience with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting. Many employers also value public accounting experience for CFO roles.
Preparing for the role of an influencer
Accounting and finance professionals who aspire to serve in a CFO role during their career should take steps now to prepare for a position of expanding influence. Some professional development ideas to consider include:
1. Learning from a mentor
When navigating unfamiliar territory in business or focusing on professional development, the insight and support of an experienced mentor can be invaluable.
2. Cross-training and job shadowing
Partner with peers from other departments to learn about their priorities and challenges, and identify ways to help them. “Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” at the company is an effective way to gain a firsthand view of other departments and responsibilities.
3. Pursuing an outside leadership position
Consider becoming an officer of an industry association or a nonprofit. These organizations, which often operate with a small staff, can serve as a valuable training ground for future CFOs because they provide exposure to a broad range of business processes and challenges.
4. Working as a consultant
The consulting path offers professionals an opportunity to work for different types of companies, industries and projects. Along the way, consultants also learn best practices, broaden their expertise and enhance their career marketability.
This post has been updated to reflect more current information.