For many professionals in finance and accounting, advancing to a finance director role is the ultimate goal. And why wouldn't it be? Finance directors can command impressive salaries and enjoy the privilege of a varied leadership role. And the good news is, with the right career strategy in place, you could get there.

Our finance and accounting recruitment experts reveal what employers look for when assessing potential candidates for finance director roles. Find out how much you could earn and where you can take your career in the future. Here’s how to become a director of finance…

Job description for finance director roles

The finance director (also known as the ‘VP of finance’) sits at the upper management level and oversees daily operations within the finance and accounting team. The role combines compliance, risk, strategy, and operations.

It falls to the finance director to make sure the business hits its legal obligations and financial targets. They support the business by providing guidance on risk and compliance. Finance directors create and maintain all policies, reporting, and procedures related to the business's finances.

The financial director is the connective force between the finance team and the C-suite, namely the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Chief Finance Officer (CFO).

“The tired image of a back-office accountant working behind the scenes has well and truly gone,” says Kris Harris, Regional Director at Robert Half. “Instead, it has been replaced with an excellent commercial business leader who guides the team with high levels of communication. They partner closely with the CEO and win the trust of colleagues across all functional disciplines.”

Daily tasks and responsibilities:

  • Overseeing the preparation of monthly management accounts
  • Managing business budgeting, cash flow, and credit rating
  • Providing guidance and support on audit, tax, and risk issues
  • Developing commercial strategy
  • Financial modelling
  • Creating annual statutory reports

Kris says, “in terms of career development, the finance director is at the hub of the business, understanding what drives financial expansion, strong cash flow management and planning ahead, always looking out for opportunities in efficiency and growth.”

How to become a finance director: skills and qualifications

Finance directors typically have strong academic backgrounds, with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, economics, finance, accounting, business, or a similar subject. One of the most crucial elements every candidate needs on their CV is demonstrable proof that they’ve added value to the business. You’ll also need a strong history of meeting KPIs and should be able to demonstrate ways you’ve improved processes or implemented systems.

Kris says, “as a finance director, you will have already gained strong experience in supporting business leadership with financial management and reporting the numbers. You’ll have experience in taking charge of internal control generally or making sure there’s an internal control environment.”

When hiring for head of finance jobs, employers look for candidates with extensive experience, preferably in a financial management role. They’ll also be looking for strong leadership qualities in the candidates they meet.

Skills and experience:

  • A full CIMA, ACA, or ACCA accountancy qualification
  • Proven experience in a comparative position within a similar-sized company
  • Evidence that you can work using a hands-on approach
  • Strong academic background
  • Excellent communication skills with team and senior stakeholders
  • Strong technical accounting background with extensive skills in full-year accounts and sale of business
  • Experience with acquisitions and due diligence
  • Experience in a top-to-bottom role

Soft skills:

  • Ability to build strong relationships
  • Drive and enthusiasm
  • Adaptability and resilience
  • Proactive and motivated
  • Strategic thinking
  • Business acumen
  • Hands-on approach
  • A natural leader with the ability to motivate and inspire others

What is a UK finance director’s salary?

Research gathered for the Robert Half 2023 Salary Guide showed that the average UK salary for a finance director in the UK is £90,500.

Advanced-level professionals with extensive knowledge can hope to earn a top-range salary of £120,000, and professionals with little to no experience can expect an average of £74,250.

Unsurprisingly, finance directors enjoy the highest earning potential in London. As the UK’s finance hub, London offers finance directors a salary 22% higher than the national mid-point, at £110,410.

“Retaining top skilled talent in any organisation must sit front and centre of the agenda,” says Kris. “The hybrid workforce model is here to stay and as such, companies must respond accordingly and offer the right environment to keep people engaged.

“The more senior professionals will have access to all of the above but also other financial benefits, such as long-term incentive plans, profit shares, and car allowances. They could also be offered performance-related and company bonuses, enhanced pensions, and healthcare.”

Read more: 2023 Salary Guide

Future career pathways for finance directors

Your move into a finance director role can lead to several future career pathways, the most obvious being a role as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CFO sits highest in the finance and accounting team and represents them at an executive level. It’s a CFO’s responsibility to steer the company in relation to its financial strengths and weaknesses.

Kris says, “as the role of a finance director expands to a more 360 business partner, their involvement in activities such as commercial contracts, strategic planning, business growth (through M&A) and finance/re-financing banking facilities put them in a strong position to move in to roles such as CFO, Commercial Director and areas such as treasury, tax, or insurance.”

Your career as a finance director also opens multiple opportunities to specialise. For example, you could side-step into a financial manager role, focusing more on profit maximisation, data analysis, and financial health. You can also transition into a related role like director of risk management or director of payroll and take full command of a specialised area.


Are you ready to take the first steps into a new career as a finance director? Browse open finance director roles now or upload your CV to the Robert Half site. If you’d like to learn more about the finance and accounting hiring landscape for 2023, access the Salary Guide for free now.