Some people say that all CFOs (Chief Financial Officers) have one ambition and one ambition only: to become CEO (Chief Executive Officer). If this were true, however, you wouldn’t get people like Bob Stefanowski, who was CEO and is now CFO. Additionally, the finances of organizations would be in shambles, because every CFO would solely see their role as a stepping stone towards the new one. Rather, the position of CFO is a unique position, and one that builds on very specific strategic skills and knowledge. CFOs today appear to celebrate their position, rather than seeing it as a stepping stone to the next position.

What Is a CFO?

There has been significant research in what the role of CFO actually means. Clearly, it encompasses having fantastic financial skills, but from a perspective that is market facing and strategic. Additionally, studies have shown that the world is changing more rapidly than some can keep up with, particularly on a financial basis, which means that CFOs also have to be agents for change. That being said, it seems increasingly difficult to determine just what a CFO is, what their colleagues expect that they do. In fact, even the perception of boards and CEOs on the role of the CFO is changing.

The Latest Research

Research on the role of the CFO is still ongoing. However, the most recent studies demonstrate that:

  1. 35% of CFOs believe they are leaders in their organization, and that they play an integral part in the development of strategy. They are not, in other words, simply a strategic partner or a financial score keeper.
  2. 73% of CFOs do not have the ambition to move on to the position of CEO. Rather, they want to improve their skills within their current position, rather than seeing the role as a stepping stone.
  3. 66% feel they are their organization’s public face, and therefore feel that they need to improve their influencing and communication skills. These are areas where businesses need to invest in, if they want to make sure their CFOs continue to have relevant skills.
  4. 75% of CFOs have never felt inspired by a different CFO. It is believed that this may be one of the reasons why so little is truly known about what a CFO is. While we all know that the CEO of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, few of us know who the company’s CFO is.
  5. The demographic of the CFO shows them to be 42 years and 8 month old males, with a very high education and a lot of motivation and skill. The average length of time someone remains a CFO is 5 years, 10 month.

This research has revealed at least something of what a CFO is, from the perspective of the CFO. It is hoped that it will provide organizations with a better notion of the importance of this role. At the same time, it aims to inspire others to take on similar roles.

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