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Halliday Marx Visions

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The role of the CFO is arguably more important now than ever, as companies attempt to navigate the potentially precarious and challenging financial future.

It is no surprise then, that as London’s specialists in sourcing top financial talent, Halliday Marx are often asked ‘What are the common traits of successful CFOs?’. While there are many different aspects that constitute a great leader, we definitely see typical habits that separate exceptional CFOs from simply good ones. So, whether you are looking to hire or aspire, we have compiled our top 5 characteristics of the successful CFO……

Business Nuance

In recent years, the CFO’s focus has shifted dramatically from purely financial aspects to one of a more strategic nature.

“Our clients need leaders who can link their vision and objectives to the overall success of the company”, added John Marx, Co-Founder, Halliday Marx. “Our CFOs are so much more than experts in financial data”.

CFO’s are expected to work across a wide range of functions, and have a deeper, more holistic understanding of the organisation and how they can support it. As a result, we now see many of our senior level candidates undertaking additional study to further compliment their finance qualifications.

Clear Strategy

Confidence in talking numbers is a given for any senior finance professional, but the ability to communicate clear strategy and technical information in a simple way to people at various levels, often without a financial background, will set a CFO apart from the competition.

In addition, CFO’s need to adjust their style of communication appropriately based on whom they are talking with. This is a particularly important skill for senior leaders in the workplace today, where the finance department is not just responsible for the numbers – but also the interpretation and communication of what they mean in relation to overall business targets.


It might sound obvious, but people management skills are crucial to success. No matter how good your technical skills are, you will not meet your organisations goals and objectives unless you are able to lead people effectively. Senior Leaders are expected to encourage teams to embrace new processes, improve their performance and generate new ideas – so the ability to inspire, set direction and empower others are all part of the CFO package.

It is also vital that the CFO creates an environment of trust, encouraging an open-door policy where employees feel they are able to raise concerns and discuss ideas. This will ensure you are made aware of any problems early on and can tackle issues as they arise.

Build the right team

When we place our senior leadership talent into positions, they often look to us for support in creating a high-performing team to deliver their desired strategy. Having a consistent recruitment process means they can hit the ground running and deliver results effectively.

“Our CFOs never underestimate the importance of their team, ensuring they dedicate a suitable level of time developing leadership skills within their department -it is absolutely true that great leaders create great leaders”, added Andy Halliday, Co-Founder Halliday Marx.

When sourcing a supporting team, our leadership talent require so much more than financial qualifications, they are striving to create an environment that fosters a desire for continuous improvement, adaptability and long-term success.

Organisational Skills

As a CFO you will almost certainly face conflicting priorities on a daily basis. With a broad range of departments and business areas requiring your input and approval, time management and the ability to prioritise will be the element tying all other skill sets together. At Halliday Marx, our leading CFOs know how to empower at the lowest level, they quickly understand which meetings can be delegated, and which absolutely need their direct input and decisions. A great CFO knows that they cannot manage everything, they set clear roles and responsibilities not just for themselves, but for their teams. They are not afraid to question for clarity in order to ensure they work on the correct priorities – and they encourage others to do the same.

In Summary

There are many different aspects that constitute a good CFO, but having business acumen, a clear strategy, leadership mindset and the ability to empower at the lowest level, will move a senior leader from merely good to exceptional.

If you have leadership aspirations or if you are looking for exceptional leadership talent, call us on 020 7096 8200 or email us at [email protected]. Let’s start the conversation.

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Our philosophy is simple: Do things simply, do them well.