Score One for Experience and the CFO Role

CFO role and experience

The CFO role has undergone quite a transformation in the past twenty years. A modern CFO role’s competencies have expanded far beyond accounting into every strategic corner of a company. Does your CFO’s experience meet your company’s future goals?

Today’s CFO must have a level of skill and knowledge in technology, supply chain, mergers & acquisitions, talent acquisition and retention, and industry-specific expertise. To obtain competencies in such a wide array of areas cannot be accomplished solely through a CPA or MBA program. It is no wonder then that career experience forms a modern CFO.

For example, here are three CFO announcements with something important in common:

“She [Tara Comonte] has more than 20 years of strategy, finance, technology, and operations experience in the public and private sector, spending much of her career at global media and advertising companies.” – Shake Shack, October 2019

“He [Stephen Farber] brings with him an “extensive” background in corporate finance and more than 20 years of experience in senior-level positions.” – Mednax, August 2020

“Matthew [Friend] brings more than 10 years of Nike experience to the CFO role and will be a great addition to our executive leadership team.” – Nike, February 2020

Each of these three senior management announcements highlight a decade or more (20 years or a score—get it?) of experience.

Note the trend of varied paths to the CFO role. One path is the company way like the Nike CFO, Matthew Friend, who came up through the ranks. Another path is the “finance function” way. Many CFOs have risen to CFO after a career in corporate finance or financial services. Then there is the path that Tara Comonte took to the CFO seat, which highlights the potential of a broader background.

Score one for experience in creating a critical advisor, leader, and agent of change for any company that needs a CFO.


When a CFO’s experience isn’t matching up with your goals

In 2020, the performance of a CFO came into a very sharp focus. For those watching the profession, the most valued attributes of a CFO by a CEO (strategy & business acumen and leadership) differ from what a CFO expects (accounting & finance expertise and industry knowledge).

“The expectations are increasing, the stakes are higher, and the risk is higher. And so, of course, it’s a harder job. But I think it’s a really fun job because CFOs have a platform to be able to deal with all of these issues.” – Kapli Chandra, senior partner at McKinsey

For a CFO to have the insight needed to effectively manage big data, globalization, and a larger amount of ambiguity that digitization brings, they will need to have a performance mindset. The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants ( called attention to the performance of a CFO overtaking conformance (i.e., governance, financial controls, compliance, etc.) as the estimation of the value of the role of a CFO almost ten years ago.

Despite the differences in the CFO attributes that are most valuable, CEOs and CFOs agree that CFO’s role is increasingly vital to success. More attention is needed on the development of our future CFOs. No company can afford a mismatch of the CFO’s experience with its goals.


What kind of experience does a modern CFO need?

A CFO’s role has diverged from a historical perspective to a forward-looking one, from a conformance to performance approach, and from a reporting to an advising role since The Digital Revolution. So, what experience best prepares a CFO for the volatility (i.e., pandemic), complexity (i.e., Brexit), uncertainty (i.e., national election), and ambiguity (i.e., government relief) that are involved in doing business today?

As the role of CFO is changing, the experiences needed to be effective in the role are being evaluated. It’s widely accepted that a CFO must have more than expertise in accounting and finance to be of service to their fellow senior managers, to their board, to their shareholders, to their company’s employees, and their customers.

“It is no longer about the financial statements but the value. A CFO has to make decisions to help other areas of the business to create value. Certain people need support and business partnering on how to create value out of the numbers that they see.” – A CFO’s Key Competencies for the Future

The Big 4 Ways to gain the experience needed to become a CFO

Your CFO does not have to come from one of The Big 4 to be an effective leader. Just take another look at the three senior management announcements above.

CEOs and CFOs worldwide answered the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) when asked what activities they thought would help provide the needed experience of a modern CFO. The survey found that the primary ways for an aspiring CFO to reach the role were continued learning, mentoring, and networking.

A fourth is the practice of secondment (a temporary job outside of one’s usual role). Currently, up-and-coming CFO learn on the job: either a rotation within finance (40%), outside finance (30%), or outside the organization (approximately 20%).

To gain the experience needed to become an agent of transformation, a global thinker, and harness technology takes time. On average, it takes 10-15 years to gain enough experience for the role.


You can’t afford an inexperienced CFO

If 2020 taught us nothing else, it taught us resilience and the benefit of experience. Not all CFOs have the experience to draw on from past economic downturns, M&A, or succession planning that your company needs, especially as it grows. An outsourced CFO is an affordable, efficient, and effective strategy to achieve what you need in the short term while not jeopardizing your company’s future.

indinero is a leading provider of outsourced CFO services. An indinero team offers industry experience, financial expertise at every (start-up, fundraising, IPO, and exit planning) stage, and the leadership capabilities that clients need to grow. Get in touch to learn more about our CFO services.


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Quick Note: This article is provided for informational purposes only, and is not legal, financial, accounting, or tax advice. You should consult appropriate professionals for advice on your specific situation. indinero assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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