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Becoming a CFO

If you have a financial background and are already working in accountancy and finance, your ultimate goal may well be to become a chief financial officer (CFO). But what does a CFO do and what skills and experience do you need to become one?

CFOs oversee all the financial operations of an organisation, including accounting and financial reporting. They manage all aspects of financial matters and decision-making.

What does a Chief Financial Officer do?

The Chief Financial Officer directs a company's financial goals, objectives, and budgets. If you work as a CFO, you oversee the investment of funds held by the company and assess and manage associated risks. You also supervise cash management activities, execute capital-raising strategies to support a firm's expansion, and deal with mergers and acquisitions. Most CFOs are also responsible for managing the corporate investments and will sit on the board.

If you work as a Chief Financial Officer in a smaller company, you may be expected to carry out a range of accounting tasks, while executives at larger corporations typically review reports and data from various divisions within their companies. CFOs oversee all the financial operations of an organisation, including accounting, financial reporting, tax, business control and treasury.

Education and training needed

As with all ‘Chief’-level executive positions, you will need several years of experience at a senior management level as well as an accountancy qualification (preferably public accounting), finance, economics, business or a related subject. Many CFOs begin their careers as finance professionals, accountants or managers of small divisions, and work their way up to senior positions within a company.

The number of years of management experience you will need depends on the size of the company and the extent of the duties involved. Many Chief Financial Officers have an MBA, a Masters or another type of advanced degree.

Skills needed

If you are going to become a successful CFO, you need outstanding finance skills, but you need a lot more than that as well. You must have the ability to make smart and strategic decisions on behalf of the organisation, and you should be able to look holistically at the company and understand what it needs.

Importantly, you should also be able to translate financial data into useful information for those across all levels of an organisation. Leadership, interpersonal and communication skills are also important in such a high-level position.

In order to be successful in your role as Chief Financial Officer, you also need to play a leading role in digital transformation efforts. Focusing on being innovative and leading digital transformation initiatives, will help organisations be more profitable. Digital leadership is particularly important for CFOs who oversee the IT function.

Salary of a CFO

As a CFO, your salary will vary depending on the size of the company that you’re employed by. According to our Robert Walters Salary Survey, a CFO can expect to earn between 120k and 250k EUR a year and will also receive a number of other benefits, such as a bonus, based on company performance. They will also be able to buy shares in the company if it is listed.

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