What Is A CFO?

When it comes to the financial solvency, responsibility, planning, execution and success of a company, the buck stops with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CFO sits at the head of the accounting and finance department and on the executive board, and they often report directly to a CEO or shareholders.

At Parker + Lynch, we have helped successful and aspiring CFOs align with premier opportunities befitting of their skills, experience and goals for more than 25 years. Today, we help leading companies throughout the country connect with the best, most qualified professionals for their CFO jobs. If you’re one of them, we invite you to browse our CFO job listings and apply today.

What does a CFO do?

Due to disparate budgets, industry practices and company sizes, the responsibilities of a CFO can vary wildly. At smaller, leaner organizations, for example, CFOs will assume some duties normally associated with other staff members (financial controllers, audit executives, contract managers, etc.) and will “get their hands dirty” by performing tasks such as managing budgets, reviewing contracts and preparing financial statements.

At larger organizations, on the other hand, CFOs will delegate those more menial tasks to members of the accounting and finance team in order to focus on setting corporate policies, monitoring investment activities, presenting reports (based on research performed by subordinates) to other executive board members and shareholders.

In all instances, the CFO bears ultimate responsibility for the financial health of an organization. As such, they focus on three main areas:

  • Controllership: Ensuring accurate historical financial data is collected and presented.
  • Treasury: Making prudent investments, managing capital structure and weighing risks.
  • Planning: Identifying and forecasting areas of growth and implementing policies and procedures to spur future success.

Related jobs: Finance executive, assistant chief financial officer, audit executive, deputy chief financial officer

Essential skills for CFOs in today’s economy.

Following the recent recession, CEOs began putting more responsibilities on the plates of their CFOs. At the same time, a never-ending stream of increasingly stringent financial regulations – SOX, Dodd-Frank, the Affordable Care Act – put new pressures on CFOs.

In our white paper, “The Evolving Role of the CFO in the New Economy,” we explored the key traits that modern CFOs must possess in order to be successful. These traits include:

  • Great communication: The ability to articulate ideas, lead others, motivate change and illuminate your vision is paramount
  • Ability to translate: The best CFOs know numbers but speak business; they can speak to other business leaders on the latter’s terms while fueling growth.
  • Strategic thinking: It’s important to take a holistic view of your organization and exert your knowledge and influence where you can make a positive impact
  • Transparency: Credibility is critical – for you and for your organization. To build it, you must remain open to scrutiny, own up to mistakes and represent yourself with integrity.

CFO salary information.

As a member of the executive board, CFOs are among the best paid professionals in the accounting and finance department and in the corporate world in general.

The title is even more lucrative when you include bonuses – total cash compensation averages between $244,377 and $1,035,636.

How can you become a CFO?

There are many paths to the CFO’s office, but there are some stops along the way that could make your trip a whole lot easier.

According to a survey by Ernst & Young, the best CFOs have held these positions:

  • Deputy CFO
  • Financial controller
  • CFO (at other companies)

Additionally, some of today’s most effective CFOs are those that have a wide range of business experience on their resumes in addition to finance – from operations management to business development to IT and HR. That’s because CFOs are being charged with handling a lot more than just finance, and having success in a multitude of disciplines can make you more valuable to an organization. Of course, your financial acumen must be superior, as well.

Common CFO Interview Questions

When interviewing for a CFO position, you should expect to meet with multiple members of the company's executive team, including chief human resources executive, the chief operations officer and, ultimately, the CEO. You'll also likely interview with top shareholders and board members, if applicable.

You will be gauged as much for your business and communications acumen as you will be for your financial acumen. Be prepared by rehearsing your answers to common questions, such as:

  • Can you tell me about your relationship with your last CEO?
  • How did you determine the strategic financial approach of your last company, and how did you ensure the approach's success?
  • Could you describe a project or high-level initiative that required you to work with people outside the accounting and finance team?
  • How do you balance the need to safeguard the budget with the CEO's demands for growth?
  • If the CEO disagreed with one of your recommended policies or decisions, what would you do?
  • If a subordinate disagreed with one of your recommended policies or decisions, what would you do?
  • How do you approach accounts payable and accounts receivable differently?
  • How do you motivate members of your department?
  • How familiar are you with ERP systems like SAP?
  • What's your main objective as a CFO?

Networking events for CFOs.

With so much responsibility, being a CFO can be a daunting job. Fortunately, there are other CFOs who share your challenges and who can share their best practices.

If you are a current or aspiring CFO, CFO Rising, is a great place to learn, network and advance your career. There are two events annually – one on the west coast and one on the east coast.

Apply for a CFO job with Parker + Lynch.

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