Home > CorpFin Cafe, CorpFin Careers, H.R. > Resurgence of the strategic CFO?

Resurgence of the strategic CFO?

January 29th, 2009

      A recent conversation at the trade show I attended had me discussing the expected role of the CFO in the current environment. The conversation, among finance peers, was focused on whether a technical, or “mechanical”, CFO could really be successful in the current economic environment or if we will again see the resurgence of the “strategic” CFO.  If you’ve read my prior posts there’s no question on my opinion. You would also know that my day-to-day activities are focused on a collaborative approach with every functional area of the company and I constantly look for ways to drive efficiencies that will have a positive effect on the bottom line. I’ve also been fortunate enough, prior to achieving the post myself, of working with CFOs who were also very good strategists and mentored me in creating the necessary balance.  The assumption being that any current CFO has the underlying technical skills to support the position.

     The segue for the conversation was a recruiter comment that mentioned they were looking to fill a CFO role but the hiring company was firm on having a CPA. While the scales are slightly tipped as a % towards the number of CFOs who have the designation, there is still a high % who do not, and are simply superior in their skillsets. However, for some time there was the absolute need in many corporations to bring in more of the “mechanic” type profile of a CFO for Sarbanes-Oxley implementations & other peripheral accounting and control functions.  But we now find ourselves in a much more challenging environment and I would table that many of the “mechanics” are simply not equipped, or have educated themselves on the intimate workings of the Company they deal with. That they have not established the necessary collaborative relationships to successufully implement projects. Nor do they have the mindset to work on realistic multi-year strategies that move beyond the simple construction of endless balance sheets. The real difference are the strategic CFOs who utilize their CPA knowledge as a complement versus Accountants who have progressed to the role only through opportunity.

     Yes, these are generalizations, and I have worked with some incredibly talented folks that are also CPAs. However, we are now seeing the absolute need for finance professionals that can work with all the functional areas within an organization and synthesize the information quickly to develop a realistic financial roadmap. Someone that can substantiate the information, really understand the story, and add more value than just changing some variables in a spreadsheet.

Thanks for reading . . . .

Jeffrey Ishmael

Comments are closed.