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There is little doubt that the role of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has changed and as a result, the skills that a modern CFO needs to excel in the role have changed. The CFO was once limited to managing the finance department and managing the financial health of a company. Technology has changed the role. In this article, we discuss the crucial skills you need to showcase to stand apart and be a successful CFO.
Unlike Accountants, Bookkeepers, and Financial Reporting Managers, who are tasked with working behind the scenes through record keeping and reporting, the CFO position takes on a more forward-facing outlook and you will need to be able to provide examples of how you have developed and executed strategic plans in previous roles.
A modern CFO has a greater leadership role and is more strategy-centric than ever before and is responsible for managing the company’s risk, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, and playing a significant role in key decision-making alongside the CEO to develop a long-term strategy that aligns with the company’s goals. They are skilled in forecasting future financial trends and making informed decisions that will drive the company’s future success.
Modern-day CFOs have the interpersonal and communication skills to liaise with multiple stakeholders, both internally and externally credibly. Additionally, a successful CFO can understand the operational aspects of the business and collaborates with other departments to positively impact financial performance. The experience of collaborating with other departments creates an important distinction, setting skilled CFOs apart and allowing them to provide realistic strategic advisory beyond accounting and reporting.
New technologies and software can be a help or a hindrance to many businesses. Part of the CFOs role is to stay up to date with new technology and how specific tools can be strategically implemented to simplify financial practices in their organisation. That is not to say that a CFO needs to be an IT guru or programmer themselves, however, they should be knowledgeable about what is possible and then be able to use these tools to analyse complex financial data, express reports clearly, and make informed decisions.
Post-pandemic the world of work has changed faster than anyone could have imagined. Hybrid working, video conferencing, and more demand from job seekers for flexible working mean that all leaders have had to adapt quickly to new ways of managing and motivating their teams. Contemporary CFO should be able to understand the needs of their teams and be able to show examples of how they have been able to drive them to desired outcomes either in person or remotely and how they have led teams through periods of change without losing focus on deadlines and accuracy. Equally, identifying and hiring staff against key competencies in this ever-changing landscape is critical.
“You could say that team leaders have a harder job than ever when it comes to managing their teams. Not only are their team no longer in a single location but our candidates are telling us they are more productive in an environment which suits their individual working styles,” added John Marx, Director of Halliday Marx. “Successful CFOs can only be as good as the team they put together and those attracting top talent will need to consider how they can incorporate changing working practices.”
For someone who will be involved in the strategic future of their company, it goes without saying that a CFO should be constantly keeping themselves informed of all current legislative and statutory requirements.
Successful CFO candidates will be able to show how they have advised and implemented changes to accounting standards in previous roles and will often be expected to stay up to date with future changes. Often this is through attending conferences, staying up to date with their professional memberships, and seeking the best external advice whether it be around risk, tax, or changes to accounting standards. Successful CFOs are skilled in developing strategies to mitigate risks, and they are proactive in identifying potential problems for the business before they occur.
John Marx, Director of Halliday Marx says “We see many aspiring CFOs at different stages of their careers and while they all have the technical skills to succeed, where they often struggle is showcasing their strategic, management and foresight, that have become central for modern CFOs.”
At Halliday Marx, we know that a successful CFO can be a game-changer for companies and if you would like any more advice on applying for or recruiting a Chief Financial Officer in London please contact us on 020 7096 8200 or email us at [email protected]
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