Views. Vision. Insights. The evolving role of today’s CFO
Careers in perspective
Our surveys in EMEIA recorded extremely high job satisfaction in the CFO role — a finding in accord with the leadership position these executives hold.
One further finding intrigued us. Our survey results in EMEIA suggest that only a low percentage of these executives aspired to the CEO role. When that finding was presented to our Americas-based interviewees, responses were varied; but it can fairly be said that while our respondents in the Americas are extremely satisfied in their current roles, they are markedly more likely to aspire to a CEO position.
"There’s no reason why the CFO role can’t be as rewarding a career as a CEO’s."Fareed Khan, United Stationers
Navistar International’s A. J. Cederoth was pensive when asked what the future might hold. He is fully engaged with his role on one hand, but also is aware that he has quite some time ahead in his career during which to explore new horizons:
“I’ve been in this role for almost three years. I do find the opportunities when I’m able to act as senior advisor and strategic partner — be that to the business units or to the CEO — far more satisfying than when I’m simply trying to contain the decision-making process, or the spending process, or consolidate the financial statements. When I can help shape the direction of the business and help those that are executing the strategy, I find that very satisfying.
Do I hope that my actions may lead to the opportunity to potentially succeed to the CEO position? I’m very much a financial person.
I’ve had opportunities to make that move over to the operational side in the past, and have deliberately focused on staying on the financial side. But I have between 15 and 20 years left in my career, and I have a hard time envisioning that I would spend them all as the CFO.”×
Painted in broad strokes, two groups of CFOs emerged in our Americas interviews: one whose members are thriving in the role and seem content to remain in it, the other whose members — while fulfilled, engaged and clearly thriving — would consider other opportunities in future, including a role as CEO.
Clearly, individuals’ opinions about their future roles differ based on circumstances, personal preference and the point at which a CFO is in his or her own career. But across the spectrum of different perspectives, it is clear that in this regard ambition drives aspiration — not any present dissatisfaction in the role.