Reinventing the Wheel for CFOs

Business is continually changing and so are the job duties of a company’s top financial exec: the CFO.


Globalization, the explosion of information, and newer technologies make the CFO’s role an exciting career goal for aspiring professionals. Long gone are the days when CFOs were seen as “number crunchers.” Today’s CFOs are being asked to serve as “chiefs” of leadership and strategy. As diverse as the CFO’s role has become, so too are the career paths for getting there.

As IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) vice president of research, I closely examine the accounting and finance profession, predict trends, and offer insight to the future of business. One of our latest initiatives, with our strategic partner ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), is “Future Pathways to Finance Leadership,” a study of 750 CFOs.

Changing Gears

blog_quote2Through our research, we’ve learned that tomorrow’s financial leaders will need broader business skills and diverse work experiences to adapt to the evolving needs of business. A new mix of technical and soft skills will be in demand. This goes well beyond the nuts and bolts of financial accounting. In fact, 40% of CFOs surveyed had taken a role outside the finance function in their careers.

The most popular stepping-stone to the CFO role was from financial controller. Obviously, you can’t get away from the need for baseline finance skills, but there are so many more capabilities future CFOs will need to bring to the table, too.

What the Aspiring CFO Can Do

Career up-and-comers can get an advantage by gaining a broad set of skills and work experiences early on. The Future Pathways report offers advice from current CFOs to help others prepare for the path ahead.

blog_graphicFuture Horizon

Imagine what business will look like in 10 or 15 years. I believe we’re in for an interesting ride with the ever-changing business environment. What do you think the future holds for CFOs, and how will you prepare?

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA

Related Articles

The Changing Role of the CFO
Beyond Finance: The Future of CFOs
The New CFO: Chief Future Officer

3 thoughts on “Reinventing the Wheel for CFOs

  1. Raef, I really appreciate the advice you shared from current CFOs about gaining a broad set of skills and work experiences to help along different career paths. What other roles do you envision CFOs will take on in the future? Will any responsibilities become obsolete?

  2. CFOs and their teams will continue to perform their traditional roles of transaction processing and financial reporting, but increasingly that will be considered “table stakes”. Given their ability to see things through a “financial lens” and given their analytical skills, the CFO team will increasingly be involved in decision-making. Finally, CFOs -as part of the senior leadership team – will increasingly be involved in strategy formulation. There will also be greater emphasis on strategy validation, which will call into play the analytical skills that CFOs and their team possess. Finally CFOs will support strategy implementation through the design and implementation of effective performance measurement and incentive systems. With all these added responsibilities, a key challenge for CFOs will be prioritization!

  3. Pingback: Paths to become CFO & critical skills required | CFO TotalityCFO Totality

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