The role of a chief financial officer

someone making notes to graph with pen

If you have a finance background and are already working in accountancy and finance, your career goal may well be to become a chief financial officer (CFO). But what does a CFO do and what skills and experience do you need to become one?

Robert Walters accounting & finance division offer some advice on how to increase your chances of getting the job:
The Chief Financial Officer directs a company's financial goals, objectives, and budgets. They oversee the investment of funds held by the company, weighing up and managing associated risks.

As a CFO you will also supervise cash management activities, execute capital-raising strategies to support a firm's expansion, and deal with mergers and acquisitions. Most CFOs are also responsible for managing the corporate investments and will sit on the board.

The Chief Financial Officer directs a company's financial goals, objectives, and budgets.

If you work as a Chief Financial Officer in a smaller company, you may be expected to carry out a range of accounting tasks, while executives at larger corporations typically review reports and data from various divisions within their companies.

Because of their discipline and organisational skills as well as and their ability to present financial information appropriately and with integrity, accounting professionals make excellent CFO candidates. However, you will need several years of experience at a senior management level as well as a degree in accounting (preferably public accounting), finance, economics, business or a related subject.

Many CFOs begin their careers as finance professionals, accountants or managers of small divisions, and work their way up to senior positions within a company.

The number of years of management experience you will need will depend on the size of the company and the extent of the duties involved. Many Chief Financial Officers have an MBA, a Masters or another type of advanced degree. It’s critical to keep up with continuing professional education, especially in today’s regulatory environment.

To increase your chances of becoming a CEO you'll not only need outstanding finance skills but a strong business sense. You'll be required to be a capable and experienced business strategist -  be smart and think like someone on the board of directors and thoroughly understand technology.

Don’t ignore the operations side of the business either as you should be able to look holistically at the company and understand what it needs.

You should also be able to translate financial data into practical information for all levels of seniority across an organisation.  Leadership, interpersonal and communication skills are also essential in such a high level position.

Don't assume the CEO knows you want to be CFO. The CEO will be looking for someone of impeccable integrity and loyalty. Network, develop contacts on the board and with your auditors.

Start thinking like a CFO and a member of the board of directors. You’ve proved you can think like an accountant and have no doubt been a very successful one. Come across as someone who knows what the board wants and the CEO will think of you as a sounding board.

As a CFO, your salary will vary depending on the size of the company that you’re employed by. For example, a CFO in South Africa can expect to earn over R1.3 million a year and will also receive number of other benefits, such as a bonus based on company performance. They will also be able to buy shares in the company if it is listed. For more information on CFO salaries access Robert Walters Global Salary Survey

Looking for your next accountancy or finance role? View the latest opportunities from Robert Walters.

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For more career advice please contact:

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
+27 (0) 11 881 2414

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