CFOs’ Influence Continues to Expand

CFOs' Influence Continues to Expand

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 in many organizations, starting compensation for this role is growing, too. Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide for the accounting and finance profession reports that CFOs can expect to see base salaries rise by as much as 3.7 percent in 2017, depending on the size of the organization.

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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.

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More resources

7 Ways Leadership Is Changing — and How Financial Executives Can Respond: In a Robert Half Management Resources survey, two-thirds of CFOs said being a business leader today is more challenging than it was five years ago. Read this post to learn about the seven challenges many finance leaders and their teams face today.

A Move to Consulting Attractive for Most Financial Leaders: What does the future hold for today’s financial executives? Research by our company indicates a move to consulting may be in the cards for many of these professionals. See this post for more details.