great CFO 10 qualities to focus

10 qualities required to be a great CFO

You are a finance specialist, you have proven yourself in your previous jobs and you have just landed a CFO / Head of Finance position. Now it’s going to be about becoming a great CFO!
Here are the 10 required qualities that will lead you to success.

You have been promoted CFO / Head of Finance within your organization, congratulations! This promotion means that you have been recognized as a great controller, an excellent financial planning and analysis manager… or any outstanding in one of the positions you were in prior to this promotion. You were exceeding performance! Hence you deserved this promotion. At this stage, your technical expertise is known, well done!

Now, being a newly promoted CFO / Head of Finance, additional skills will be needed to become a great CFO. You may already have some of these needed skills, some will have to be strengthen and/or developed. Let’s review, what in my opinion are the TOP 10 qualities required to be a great CFO.

Before reviewing TOP 10 qualities required to be a great CFO, a few words regarding the CFO function by itself

When mentioning CFO, we agree that traditional CFOs who stick to the core functions, preparing the accounts, managing risk, etc., are now under threat. The role has changed.
The today CFO is more of a captain of the ship (than a policeman). If he remains the number one person in charge of the reliability of the accounts, cash management and the relationship with the banker, he must also position himself as a strategist, and deploy a more forward-looking vision. 

Indeed, the function is evolving into a very complete position, combining technical mastery and communication. Technical skills alone and an appetite for digital technology are no longer sufficient.  

Thus, 47% of the finance managers surveyed felt that, in its current composition, the finance function does not have the appropriate skills to meet the requirements arising from future strategic priorities. 

So, what are these TOP 10 qualities required to be a great CFO?

1. Analytical mindset

Understanding the company’s performance indicators and analyzing the company’s performance in the light of internal decisions and changes in the external environment is the main challenge facing the CFO. Analytical skills are required!

2. Excellent Communication between the GM and teams 

Whether written or oral, communication is a key asset for a CFO. He or she must be able to convey and popularize financial information to the entire company, from the CEO to the employees and the stakeholders. 

3. Vision and anticipation of results

Understanding and anticipating the market allows the CFO to create numerical projections, to anticipate the financial health of the company and, if necessary, to align his projections with those of the CEO. The CFO must clearly adopt a forward-looking approach and monitor performance indicators upstream.

4. Integrity

The CFO is the guarantor of the company’s financial ethics. For sure, he or she must constantly ensure that every transaction is honest, whether it is internal to the company or involves external stakeholders.
But also, the CFO has to lead the organization with integrity, be honest, treat people well.
Be accountable not just to their superiors but also to their peers and staff.

5. Leadership 

Given his many responsibilities, a CFO must work as part of a team. He or she must therefore demonstrate leadership qualities in order to delegate and control the progress of the company’s financial operations. Among the required qualities: emotional intelligence, management skills, self-control and empathy are therefore welcome! 

6. Deep understanding of the business 

A CFO is much more than a numbers person. It is necessary that he/she understands the company in its entirety (see point n°10), from its commercial/marketing aspect, to its R&D, including Human Resources. This will enable him to better arbitrate his financial strategy and make decisions in line with the general strategy of the company. 

7. Flexibility 

In a changing environment, constantly challenged by the evolution of technologies and the emergence of numerous FinTech’s, the CFO must be able to adapt permanently, and to take his teams with him (see point n°9).

8. Customer focus

Insofar as the CFO becomes a true partner of the GM, far from being a simple management controller, it is imperative that he/she measures not only financial data, but also indicators such as ROI, or even customer experience and satisfaction. This will allow him to move from a simple reporting logic to a logic of advice to the GM!

Internal customers are stakeholders who work within your company (employees) and require assistance from another individual or department to get their job done
Maximizing employee performance and running an organization with the utmost agility and efficiency, while meeting compliance and risk mitigation requirements, is critical for finance leaders today in their quest to achieve their most important goals.

9. Change management expert

As the digital ecosystem disrupts the business, the CFO must be able to support the change within his teams. The CFO must develop his department’s ability to accurately assess the implications of each digital project. Many tools for CFOs exist to simplify internal procedures!

10. Be the best of the class in organizations within functional areas

Knowing how to manage several functional areas of the company (supporting functions, purchasing, sales, HR, etc.) will allow him to better understand the structure, and therefore to arbitrate as accurately as possible between expenses and the real needs of each functional area. 

To conclude, in this changing environment, perceptions of what makes a great CFO are harder to pin down, and the expectations of colleagues, including GMs, are shifting and increasing.

Are you ticking all the boxes? Certainly not, and it is ok like this for now.

Becoming a Great CFO takes time, takes experience, needs the right tools to offload recurring tasks, and the best planning to provide essential business data. Do you come to the position with all of these skills? Perhaps not, but many can still be acquired, by making professional development a priority:

  • Developing them step by step.  
  • Having a development plan

My intention is to unpack these areas in different articles so that you can get to grips with planning your development journey effectively.

You surely already have some of these qualities, however other will need to be further developed…
I can help you to take-up your new position in a more serene, calm and confident manner.
Let’s discuss how you, as a newly promoted CFO / Head of Finance, can acquire/develop these top 10 qualities required to be a Great CFO.
Take a free 30 minutes consultation. Book now !

Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed as CFO

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