What CEOs Want in a CFO

June 25, 2024

In today’s dynamic business environment, the role of the CFO has transformed dramatically. No longer just number crunchers, modern CFOs are expected to be strategic partners who contribute significantly to the company’s growth and direction. We spoke to a dozen CEOs to uncover the top traits they seek in their CFOs. Here are the insights we gathered.

Fundraising Expertise

In the evolving financial landscape, CFOs who excel at fundraising have a distinct edge. With diverse funding sources like venture capital, family offices, and debt providers now in play, a CFO’s ability to navigate these waters is crucial. CEOs look for finance leaders who can not only assist in the fundraising process but also lay the groundwork for successful capital acquisition. Key to this is the ability to tell the company’s financial story compellingly and maintain a robust network of financial partners.

Strong Communication Skills

Effective communication is a top-cited quality among CEOs. They need CFOs who can explain complex financial concepts clearly to employees, partners, and investors. A good communicator doesn’t just relay numbers; they craft a narrative that makes the data meaningful and engaging. This involves selecting key performance indicators (KPIs), tailoring messages to different audiences, and avoiding jargon. Honesty and objectivity in communication are also paramount.

Holistic Business View

A deep understanding of the entire business landscape sets great CFOs apart. This involves knowing the ins and outs of customers, competitors, and market positioning. CEOs appreciate CFOs who spend time with various departments, shadowing the CEO and attending key meetings to gain a comprehensive view of the business. This holistic understanding enables CFOs to make better decisions and contribute more effectively to strategic planning.

Proactiveness and Flexibility

In an era of rapid change, CFOs must be proactive and flexible. They need to stay on top of trends in data automation and forecasting to provide valuable business insights. CEOs value CFOs who are visionary planners, anticipating financial challenges and opportunities. This requires a shift from lengthy planning cycles to rapid strategy creation, focusing on core visions, measurable goals, and agile adaptation to changing circumstances.

Technological Savvy

The pandemic has accelerated the integration of technology in business operations. CFOs are now more involved in IT planning and investment decisions. While they don’t need to be technologists, understanding the capabilities and impacts of new technologies is essential. CEOs want CFOs who can balance enthusiasm for technological advancements with critical discernment, ensuring that investments are wise and aligned with the company’s strategic goals.

Calculated Risk-Taking

CFOs traditionally have a cautious approach, but CEOs now seek those who can balance this with a moderate appetite for risk. This involves being strategic partners who can identify financial risks and opportunities, providing growth guidance without being overly conservative. CEOs want CFOs who can contribute to the growth strategy, finding ways to leverage opportunities while maintaining financial health.

Cultural Fit

Finally, cultural fit is crucial. The CFO must seamlessly integrate into the executive team, aligning with the company’s values and working style. CEOs look for finance leaders who not only meet the technical qualifications but also fit well with the team’s dynamics. This includes understanding managerial expectations, team interactions, and employee satisfaction.

The role of the CFO has evolved to encompass much more than traditional financial management. Today’s CEOs seek CFOs who are proactive, technologically savvy, excellent communicators, strategic thinkers, and culturally aligned with the company. By embodying these traits, CFOs can become indispensable partners in driving the company’s growth and long-term success.

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