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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.

Salary.com 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.