What Makes a Successful Chief Finance Officer (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A chief finance officer, or CFO, usually works with numbers and manages an organisation's finances. These professionals offer substantial input into an organisation's financial management system. Learning more about a CFO's role and qualifications may help you refine your skills. In this article, we explain what a CFO does, learn what makes a successful CFO, discuss their skills, review the necessary qualifications, describe their work environment, offer tips for being a CFO and summarise what employers may look for in a CFO

What does a chief finance officer do?

A chief finance officer is a C-suite executive. These professionals usually work for a company or organisation. They manage a company's finances, including fiscal planning, management of monetary risks, record keeping and financial reporting. A CFO engages with both the junior and senior employees of a corporation. They also work closely with stakeholders and investors. A modern CFO also collects financial data and information and uses it to influence operational decisions and strategies.

Some of a CFO's key responsibilities include:

  • establishing internal growth plans to boost the company's revenue while lowering its cost base

  • performing the financial strategy of the organisation and ensuring complete transparency over its financial performance

  • creating and finding new business opportunities

  • supervising the development of the company's financial reports

  • managing the budgets and forecasts for the company's finances

  • providing the chief executive officer (CEO) and other members of the top management team with strategic direction

  • delivering long-term financial planning guidance to the top management team

  • developing connections with the company's senior management team and external stakeholders

  • leading, directing and overseeing the teams in charge of accounting and finance

Related: What is a C-Suite Executive? (With Types and Salaries)

What makes a successful CFO?

Having a better understanding of what a CFO does may help you become more knowledgeable about the role and the responsibilities it includes. Over time, a CFO's responsibilities have changed. Traditionally, a CFO determines whether there was enough money in a company's budget to purchase goods and services. They also analysed financial reports.

Today, a CFO is a strategic player within an organisation. In addition to the fundamental roles of bookkeeping and financial reporting, they make important operational decisions by utilising data and other key financial information. CFOs help guide and influence the decision-making process using comprehensive fiscal reporting.

Related: What Does a CFO Do? (With Guide to Become One and Skills)

What skills does a CFO have?

Given the evolving CFO role, there are additional key skills necessary to improve your resume and your chances of getting hired. Some of these skills include:

Leadership skills

Typically, CFOs have exceptional leadership skills. They prepare and host training sessions and offer advice to members of their team. CFOs also use their leadership skills when they hire fiscal experts to work in the finance department.

Business acumen

CFOs possess a strong understanding of the business and its operations. This corporate knowledge allows them to make constructive decisions. As they have a lot of financial experience, they use their knowledge to drive profitability.

Related: 15 Common Business Degrees to Consider for a Business Career

Management skills

A CFO usually ensures adequate assessment and mitigation of risk. Strong management skills may also help them comply with regulations or other legal requirements. Another aspect is risk management, as the business works on its strategies and initiatives.

Related: Classical, Behavioural and Modern Management Theories: Here's the Difference

Strategic skills

Having strategic skills may help a CFO support strategy development and aid in enabling its proper execution. The CFO also plays a prominent role in ensuring the company can fund its strategies. Handling a company's budget efficiently and strategically is a key skill to own.

Related: How to Become a CFO: With Skills and Salary

Technical skills

CFOs typically possess knowledge of various computer program and financial software. This helps them create complex data sheets and reports. Updating your technical skills as needed ensures that you remain competitive and current.

Time management skills

Typically, a CFO works with a team of financial experts. To perform their daily, weekly and monthly tasks on time, they make use of their excellent time management skills. A CFO completes a company's yearly financial statements and management reports on schedule and can meet other important deadlines.

Communication skills

When providing advice and counselling, a CFO can translate complicated and detailed information into simple and concise terms. Communication skills are essential when leading a department, especially when navigating complex data and sharing that information with the team.

Related: Understanding and Overcoming Common Communication Barriers with Examples

What are some valuable tips for a future CFO?

Here are some tips to help you gain the skill set required to perform the role efficiently:

Gain financial experience

Finance is a core component of any business. So, if a CFO possesses extensive financial experience, it can help them support key functions of a business, such as manufacturing and operations. As you gain experience, you can better perform the tasks and requirements of the position.

Develop a global perspective

To be a successful CFO, you may consider gaining international experience. Working in many different roles, especially in emerging markets, may provide you with a global perspective. Gain a wide range of finance experience, especially in positions that expose you to the operational aspect of a business.

Improve your communication skills

Good communication may help improve your team-building skills. Improve your communication skills by looking for opportunities to speak in public or address an audience. Strong communications skills help CFOs convey clear and concise messages to employees, stakeholders and others.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills (With Tips)

Recruit talented fiscal experts

Hiring a talented group of individuals may help you succeed as a CFO. Recruit experienced staff members and highlight workplace benefits to give them the motivation and dedication to stay. When it's time to hire new staff, you may also collaborate with human resource professionals to create a job advertisement and interview candidates.

Does the CEO hold a more senior position than the CFO?

In many cases, a CEO is in a higher position than a CFO. Typically, the CFO usually reports directly to the CEO regarding company matters. A CFO's position is considered a C-Suite executive, which means that this professional helps in the final decision-making process.

Related: Different Types of Company Titles Within an Organisation

What are the qualifications to become a CFO?

A CFO is usually a university graduate with a degree in finance, business, accounting or economics. They may also have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or can be a certified public accountant (CPA). Additionally, they have several years of experience working in a company's financial department.

Related: Top 12 Finance Careers (With Salaries and Typical Roles)

What is a CFOs work environment like?

CFOs work in a variety of industries. These specialists work for both small and large companies. CFOs may work as full-time employees, but for some companies, they may work as independent consultants. They typically complete their work in offices, and they may spend the majority of their time seated at a desk in a workspace. They frequently use computers, printers and other office equipment. On occasion, they may work extra hours during the week or on weekends. Some CFOs may travel depending on their work requirements, the size of the company and their organisation's geographic location.

What do hiring managers look for when recruiting a CFO?

When recruiting CFOs, hiring managers look for someone with a diverse background. Candidates with a wide range of experience in different industries may have an advantage. A CFO with comprehensive experience and diverse work history can support an organisation's goals, objectives and performance.

When determining a CFO's eligibility for the role, hiring managers also review their accomplishments in other organisations and focus on keywords like increase in cash flow, increase in margins of profit, stronger balance sheets and a good understanding of business operations. Effective CFOs can also analyse the strategic planning of a corporation and its prior financial performance.

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