The Must-Have Quality For Future Finance Leader

Even headhunters are starting to recognize there’s more to being a CFO than having a good grasp of accounting. It’s a lot more genteel to talk about “recruiting” than “headhunting” — the latter…

Even headhunters are starting to recognize there’s more to being a CFO than having a good grasp of accounting.

It’s a lot more genteel to talk about “recruiting” than “headhunting” — the latter almost sounds a little savage — but in the case of finance department leaders, companies are definitely looking for someone with more than just a good head on their shoulders. Just ask Stacey Nicholl.

A senior consultant with executive search firm Marlin Hawk, which has offices across North America, Europe and Asia, Nicholl was recently interviewed by Director of Finance to discuss the qualities that she and her clients value most in CFOs. As with any senior position, she cited a mixture of soft skills, team-building capabilities and of course the ability to be a close ally to the CEO. Her final must-have trait, however, showed where things are really going:

Headhunters are placing increasing emphasis on CFOs having a penchant for technology. By harnessing cloud-based ERP systems, for example, the finance function can be more agile and scalable and can empower senior management across the business with real-time data they can react to quickly. The CFO does not need to be an IT wizard, but needs to understand that clever application of technology allows the finance team to spend more time analysing and interpreting data, instead of preparing it. The use of predictive analytics will only help this further.

Reluctance To Change

Many CFOs understand the need to embrace cloud-driven applications, but it may be the way they fit into the bigger picture of the organization that’s problematic. Another recruiting firm, Robert Half, published its latest CFO poll in which 25% said their employer’s reluctance to change is one of the biggest hurdles they will face in achieving their goals in the next five years. Almost as many, 24%, said there wasn’t as much being invested in finance departments as there should be, suggesting that you need the right tools to make the right kinds of changes.

“As companies transform for the digital age, CFOs are not only responsible for digital investments, but they also need to leverage the full potential of these investments to improve efficiency, optimize resources and hone strategic insights which makes them perfectly placed to lead this change throughout the business,” the Robert Half report said.

“It’s more than just knowing the numbers. Finance teams need to first understand what the right information is that will drive behavioural change, and then they need to clearly communicate those insights throughout the business.”

Clearly there’s a bit of push and pull here: finance leaders must work hard to push or champion technologies that will bring about necessary changes, and their organizations must pull together the senior management support CFOs need to be successful. Hopefully more companies can do this with the CFOs they have today — because headhunting them is only going to get harder.

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