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Desired CFO Skills Shift with the Times - CFO Magazine

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Much has been written lately about the ongoing evolution of the role of the CFO. A recent post in CFO Magazine summarized how the skillset of the perfect CFO has grown and changed over the past few decades:

“Equal-sized foundational skill sets like accounting, strategy, technology, operations, banking, and compliance, blended with such leadership traits as creativity, communication, diligence, patience, and humor. Voila! The uber-CFO.”

The author notes that many CFOs in the 1980s were accountants by training. In the 1990s, CEOs wanted their CFOs to be more than just accountants:

“They wanted someone to help them connect current business performance to strategy, and strategy to the forward-looking operating plan.”

In the next decade, Sarbanes-Oxley was passed which led to an increased focused on traditional accounting skills. However, the evolution of the role of the CFO continues:

“Now, we appear to have come full circle. The CFO is back to being a business-savvy, operations-focused, and strategic-minded person who can lead finance and accounting, knowledgeably talk with the rest of the C-suite as well as company managers, and collaborate closely with both the board of directors and the rarefied realms of Wall Street: banking and private equity.”

Of course, CFOs realize the importance of accounting regardless of their formal training. However, to be a true, value-added business partner to the CEO, a broader range of skills is required:

  • “Today’s CFO must have a solid background comprised of strategic and business skills. That’s how you build a career.

  • Accounting knowledge is more important than accounting experience.

  • You ensure balance sheet accuracy and address growing compliance demands by hiring smart accountants and giving them sophisticated finance and accounting software tools.”

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