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UK CFOs are aligning themselves with their CEOs as they prepare for economic growth

The era of number crunching finance departments is over

CFOs must develop the confidence and ability to step into the shoes of the CEO to drive their business forward. However, CFOs do not consider the role of CEO the next natural step in their career progression.

This was the key finding of the latest Workplace Study from recruiters Badenoch & Clark, which analysed the challenges and ambitions of the modern CFO.

The era of the traditional number crunching finance department is firmly closed, according to CFOs interviewed. Commercial acumen, strategic thinking and convincing communication skills have taken over as essential prerequisites for a successful CFO. According to John Schofield, CFO at Network Rail, this positions the modern CFO as the “de facto deputy to the CEO”.

CFOs increasingly see themselves as driving business growth, with Martin Heatlie, CFO at Forest Holidays stating, “A great CFO’s next step should be to take the entire company (including the CEO) to the ‘next level’”.

However, CFOs remain ambivalent over whether the role of CEO is the next natural step in their career. The research found that the nature of their business will determine the suitability of a CFO to progress to a CEO role. Many CFOs interviewed said they naturally act as the business’ conscience, rather than its risk taker.

Alasdair Marnoch, CFO at Equinitl summed up the career aspirations of the modern CFO: “The CFO must have the capability and confidence to step into the CEOs shoes – but taking such a role permanently rather than deputising is a big step and will depend on the personality of the person and the business. It’s not necessarily a natural fit.”

Lynne Hardman, Managing Director at Badenoch & Clark, said: “After a period of cost cutting, rationalisation and downsizing, CFOs are finally starting to see rapid change within their organisations. Although some industries are still feeling the reverberations of the recession, most CFOs are planning for growth.

“Our research shows CFOs see themselves as second in command to the CEO, harnessing some of the characteristics of this top role to drive business development.

“However, the CFOs we interviewed remain committed to the finance department. Even if they possess the skills to achieve this top role, they rarely showed the impetus to move into it.

“CFOs must now ensure their finance departments reflect their own commercial ambitions. It is now necessary to critically assess the current capability of their people, invest in up-skilling them and, where necessary, consider bringing in new blood with the required skill set.

“Doing this will guarantee the whole department is unified in its ability and ambition to lead their organisation to growth”.

About Badenoch & Clark:
Badenoch & Clark is a leading international recruitment consultancy specialising in placing professionals into permanent, temporary, interim and contract roles. The company specialises in recruiting for accounting & finance, banking & financial services, Human Resources, IT, legal, marketing and public sector roles.
Badenoch & Clark has offices throughout the UK and an expanding mainland European presence through subsidiaries in The Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg.

About the research
Over 40 Interviews were conducted between November 2010 and January 2011 by Mark Shanahan of Leapfrog Corporate Communications Ltd. and Badenoch & Clark’s Dave Fleming, Ian Machell, Ben Searls, Penny Penman, Michael Quinn, Richard Hatchett, Mark Norrish, Kay Senior, Danielle Coleman, Jenny Burton, Helen Goold, Maureen Ford and Tom Cliffe.

Mercredi 25 Mai 2011

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