Five Steps to a Career as a CFO

August 29th 2023 | Posted by Phil Scott

Aspiring CFOs who succeed in developing a rewarding career do so because they understand the balance between academic requirements, experience, and industry knowledge. They utilize this understanding to help them take career steps forward and upward.

The mix of skills and attributes these prospective CFOs have makes them valuable to organizations. Taking certain steps helps individuals to put themselves in this advantageous position. You will find these steps listed below.

1.      Concentrate on educational requirements

The most obvious step for a student who aspires to be a CFO is to gain a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or a related field. This type of study provides a traditional foundation for a senior financial career.

However, the CFO has expanded greatly in recent years. Successful CFOs now possess wider business and strategic acumen. So, while a master’s degree is not compulsory, an MBA study path is popular with many individuals seeking to become a CFO.

2.      Understand the financial technicalities

While the modern CFO has a more diverse role than their predecessors, they are still responsible for advising the board regarding financial matters. So, they are expected to possess sound budgeting, compliance, and accounting skills. They are also expected to be fintech experts with skills such as data mining and financial modeling.

Given these technical requirements, those who go on to become top CFOs ensure they have a firm grasp of diverse topics. They do this through study, and many of them also take on a variety of roles early in their career, such as that of a staff accountant or financial analyst.

3.      Develop excellent leadership skills

CFOs are expected to be leaders in the boardroom. They also head up the finance and accounting disciplines in an organization. So, excellence in leadership is a prerequisite for anyone aiming for the top of the CFO ladder.

Skills that require development to excel in this area include communication, presentation, delegation, and inspirational behavior. These skills can be developed through use. Some finance professionals also seek out mentors to give them a better understanding of how they can improve.

4.      Improve knowledge across functions

To provide accurate insights at board level, CFOs require an understanding of how the business operates. This understanding allows them to apply finance knowledge and analysis to various programs and operations.

Developing a cross-discipline knowledge can be done by undertaking roles in various departments. It can also be done by participating in job shadowing and secondment opportunities in departments such as IT and HR.

5.      Maintain and display current industry knowledge

Any individual looking to develop a career as a CFO benefits from keeping up to date with the latest CFO news and developments. Doing this allows professionals to display in-depth and relevant awareness during the recruitment process. It also enables them to be aware of opportunities that become available in the industry and could provide valuable development.

These steps are vital in helping ambitious finance professionals succeed in their aim to become respected CFOs.