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CFO Career Path

Most finance professionals, at one time or another, dream of being a Chief Financial Officer. While becoming a CFO is a popular aspiration, it is not easy to achieve. CFOs must possess strong analytical and communications skills to both understand and explain complicated financial data. Today’s CFO must master areas outside the finance arena including: regulation, globalization, technology, risk, transformation, stakeholder management strategy, reporting, talent, and capability. The team at Deloitte summarizes the modern CFO’s job in four diverse roles:

  • Steward: Preserving the assets of the organization by minimizing risk and getting the books right.
  • Operator: Running a tight finance operation that is efficient and effective.
  • Strategist: Helping to shape overall strategy and direction.
  • Catalyst: Instilling a financial approach and mind set throughout the organization to help other parts of the business perform better. reports that the median expected annual pay for a typical Chief Financial Officer in the United States is $315,078. If you are interested in becoming a CFO, the rewards and challenges are clear. What is not always clear is the path to the CFO position. To help you design your plan to get that top finance job, consider the following traits common among CFO’s today:

Internal Hires
The Wall Street Journal reports that almost 70% of the CFOs in the Fortune 100 were internal hires. Loyalty and internal company experience are highly valued among CFOs.

Long Tenures
Seventy percent of internally promoted CFOs had at least 11 years of tenure with their organizations. 41% had more than 20 years of tenure. Finance professionals hoping to become a CFO should find an organization with which they can grow and avoid much job hoping.

CFO Experience
Almost half of the Fortune 100 CFOs previously served as primary liaison between Finance and assigned business units. These Divisional CFO positions are the most popular role from which CFO’s are hired.

Strategy Experience
Nearly half of big-company CFOs appointed in the past three years have strategy and corporate-development experience. This is evidence the CFO role has become more strategic.

The role of a CFO is complex, but offers great rewards. If acting as a strategic partner to the CEO, leading the finance functions of a corporation, and changing business processes to deliver improvements in performance sounds exciting to you, then being a CFO might be your perfect long-term career goal.

CFO Career Path

MBA vs. CPA: Which is Right for You?

Most accounting and finance professionals reach a point in their career where they consider obtaining a certification or an additional degree of designation. One of the questions I get asked most is whether an MBA or CPA is better for career advancement? The answer should be based on the career path you want in the future and in some cases having both is ideal. You might also need to consider the investment of time and money in obtaining one or the other. There are requirements for obtaining the CPA that entail a certain number of hours in accounting simply to be eligible to sit. On the other hand getting an MBA requires acceptance in to an MBA program.

If you are considering a future in management or consulting with a financial services firm, or working as a securities analyst, investment banker or venture capitalists, an MBA might be your best choice. If your dreams for the future include working as a controller, CFO, financial analyst or auditor, a CPA certification is practically a must. Director, VP and C level accounting & finance roles are also where having both can be very helpful.

Below is a table to highlight some of the differences between an MBA and CPA:

Whether you choose the route of MBA or CPA, you will increase your skills, knowledge, network, and earning power.

MBA vs. CPA: Which is Right for You?

Office Politics: How to Play the Right Way

It really is unavoidable. Every office has their version of “office politics” and to some degree everyone has to play their part.

We’ve all seen the employee who seems to get promoted and entrusted with more responsibility – yet you’re scratching your head wondering, “why this guy”? His skill set doesn’t seem strong enough, yet he somehow manages to keep getting the boss’ attention. It’s frustrating to see someone succeed on political savvy over actual ability.

Office politics don’t have to be all bad - and being true to yourself, honest, and ethical will always make you a winner.

  • Be a trusted colleague. Play by the rules. Build trust and alliances by sharing credit for successes with your team and following through on what you say you’ll do.
  • Stick to the facts. Avoid being sucked into office gossip. Focus on doing a great job and avoid playing games in an attempt to get ahead. Seek out other low-drama, high-results employees.
  • Bite your tongue! Think before you speak, know that what you say will usually be repeated to others, and keep your composure. Determine the end-result of your actions before you act. The thought of really putting someone in their place might offer immediate gratification, but know that you’ll likely lose credibility, be seen as unprofessional, and it will take a lot of time to rebuild support after that brief outburst.
  • Be polite. Because being nice does matter.
  • Know your office culture. It’s important to get a feel for the office culture before you accept a job. Once you’re on the job it’s imperative that you are on a team or in a company of like-minded individuals. You don’t always have to agree, but you’re spending a big chunk of your life with these people; spend it in a culture in which you believe and enjoy!
  • Know when to seek help. In the unfortunate case you do work with a truly problematic person, try to resolve the issue cordially. When all else fails, seek the assistance of your manager or your company’s HR director.

Sure, office politics exist in every office. But, they usually don’t define it. There’s no need to engage in the drama. Your good work, good attitude, and good reputation will keep you out of the fray!

Office Politics: How to Play the Right Way