A recent survey of Fortune 1000 Chief Executive Officers provides documented evidence that the narrowly-focused super-accountant CFO of the past is now extinct and a new species of visionary strategists involved in day-to-day company management has emerged.
The survey conducted by Financial Executives Institute (FEI), a national peer group for CFOs and other corporate finance executives, and the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, drew responses from 152 CEOs.
Nearly all of the CEOs responding to the survey view the best CFO as a strategic partner and an analytical thinker who is immersed in:
-- Business development and top-line growth
-- Investor relations
-- P&L responsibilities
-- Mergers and acquisitions
-- External communications
"As the survey emphasizes, the ideal CFO is more of a business partner to the CEO than accountant," says FEI President-elect Philip B. Livingston. "Today CFOs need to know, for example, how to motivate people, how to maximize the return on information technology and assess the strategic value of M&As, in addition to possessing the traditional financial analysis and technical accounting knowledge."
The results paint a vastly different picture of today's CFO compared to just a few years ago, according to Rucker McCarty, Partner-in-Charge of the CFO Practice at Heidrick & Struggles. "Our research shows today's CFOs are resolving difficult business decisions unrelated to finance, helping to manage the future of the company and developing key strategies for the business."
The survey also turned up valuable information about factors impacting American business. Forty-one percent of the CEOs responding said mergers and acquisitions had the greatest impact on their company operations in the past three years. Second, at 33 percent, was internal re-engineering. About a third, or 32 percent, reported that competition had the most significant impact on their operations in the past three years. Globalization was rated as high-impact by 17 percent of the respondents, while 14 percent cited technology as a high-impact factor.
"The image of the bean-counter CFO is an anachronism no longer welcome at the table with today's senior management team," says McCarty. "Today's CFO is helping to shape the future of the business and contributing to the organizational mission in a variety of ways."
SURVEY DATA ALSO REVEALED:
-- In addition to strategic thinking skills, CFOs of today must be
objective, creative, possess superb communications abilities, have a
willingness to partner with peers, and be innovative people-developers.
-- CFOs and controllers stay in their positions just three to five years
before moving on, with the decreasing longevity indicating an
environment with a high likelihood of change and ongoing transition.
-- Almost three fourths -- 74 percent -- of today's CFOs hold graduate
degrees, most of them MBAs or master's levels, with another nine
percent holding JD or Ph.D degrees.
-- Seventy-two percent of CFOs are openly upwardly-mobile and are
currently grooming successors.
-- Almost two-thirds of CFOs are responsible for corporate information
-- Thirty-six percent of CFOs are on an upper-management development
-- Sixty percent of all CFOs are involved in business development.
-- Over half have P&L responsibilities, and almost half are involved in
Completed questionnaires were received from CEOs with firms reporting annual revenues ranging from $1 billion to $50 billion, with the majority in the $1 billion to $5 billion category. Nearly all of the respondents -- 93 percent -- were in charge of public companies.
SOURCE: Financial Executives Institute
Contact: Chris Allen of Financial Executives Institute, 973-898-4658; or
Christine McManus of Heidrick & Struggles, 404-577-0962; or Andy Bowen of The
Bowen Group Inc., 770-924-7547
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