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Financial management in motion


A growing number of investments and acquisitions have created a great need for new top financial managers. And that is a good thing, because these executives are also keen to take on a new professional challenge, after having steered their organization safely through the crisis, says Robert Walters' executive search specialist Christophe Paquay.  

Particularly since the second half of 2021, the number of executives changing employers has increased enormously. How do you explain this? 

"On the one hand, because executives who had steered their organization through the pandemic out of loyalty, started moving again since then. On the other hand, simply because the economy is growing. Many organizations are expanding, also internationally. And there is a lot of money available because several private equity firms and venture capitalists are entering the market, expanding their portfolios. With these kinds of capital injections, you often see investors setting conditions on operations, information provision and leadership, and that is often the time to appoint a new Chief Financial Officer who can facilitate and strengthen the envisaged growth," says Christophe.  

What type of CFO is in high demand now?  

Christophe: "The modern CFO is multidisciplinary. This person thinks like an entrepreneur and helps to build the organization's growth. In practice, that means a CFO who does his work with a more business-like outlook and who assesses the impact of financial decisions on different layers within the organization, such as IT, operations, and HR."  

Are there specific skills that are currently sought after by employers? 

"The modern executive is data-driven and determines business strategy based on insights from data. So, affinity with data and IT is important. In addition, experience with procurement is important now and this is due to the increased cost of materials and raw materials. If you can only partly pass this on in the selling price, then as an organization you want a CFO who can oversee purchasing, and who can possibly expand it with new suppliers or who can negotiate new contracts with existing suppliers." 

What types of organizations do executives like to work for themselves? 

"For many professionals with a corporate background, a move to a start-up or scale-up is an interesting step. It has to do with autonomy, entrepreneurship, and decisiveness; being able to make decisions yourself.  

In a large corporate environment, the largest possible support base is often needed to make important decisions. Of course, with a scale-up you are also actively involved in stakeholder management with, for example, the underlying private equity company or the venture capitalist, but in general you enjoy more freedom, you make a lot of impact, and you can add a lot of value."   

Are there enough executives available to fill all these roles at start-ups and scale-ups? 

"Yes and no. As I said, there is no shortage of professionals who want to make this move, but that does not mean finding the right executive is easy.  Being CFO of a start-up or scale-up really requires specific competences. It is about entrepreneurship and the multidisciplinary view I mentioned earlier. And a certain amount of creativity and pragmatism. But also: you must not only be autonomous and be able to make decisions, but you must also be willing to take them. Leadership is needed. In a large corporate setting, you may have been more of an advisor and a supplier, but now suddenly you are standing in the wind, with shareholders looking over your shoulder,” says Christophe. 

What sectors do executives like to be active in now?  

"E-commerce remains attractive, as does fintech. But organizations that focus on green energy are also popular. There is of course an enormous growth in the number of start-ups and scale-ups involved in sustainability and renewable energy. Think about solar panels and charging stations, for example. I notice in the conversations I have with executives and senior professionals that they find it important to be active in an organization that makes a sustainable contribution to society or is socially relevant. That can also be within the public domain, such as healthcare."  

What does a move to a start-up or scale-up mean for salary?  

"If you have spent 15 or 20 years with a corporate, you know that such a move means you may have to make a concession. But it is often an idealistic choice or a choice for a personal challenge, and that is why executives are willing to do this. In addition, there are of course constructions whereby, for example, co-ownership is held out. And that can not only be lucrative in the long run, but it also creates a more intense involvement if you are a co-owner of the organization you work for." 


More information

For more details about trends on the labour market for CFO’s, please visit our CFO webpage. Looking for a new professional challenge? Check out latest vacancies or contact one of our consultants directly.

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