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While CFOs are in demand for roles beyond finance, competition for the top board positions is fierce and getting fiercer.

As regulatory requirements heighten, younger candidates join the fray, and board expectations increase, career planners will win over opportunists for a place on the shortlist.

The guidance from recruiters, and from serving and former CFOs who have successfully secured board roles, is to start planning early. To start positioning yourself for such a role at the time you want it may be too late, especially when boards are looking for an increasingly specific skill set.

Among our respondents, those who identified themselves as long-term planners were significantly more likely to have taken on supplementary roles, than more career 'opportunistic' CFOs.

Our research also shows that CFOs have started to secure non-executive directorships at a younger age, with the increase in acquiring non-executive roles most marked with those under 50 years old.


Eight steps to prepare for a place on the board

Although every role has unique requirements, our research suggests that there are eight key ways for CFOs and future finance leaders to make better career decisions and maximize their attractiveness for executive and non-executive positions:



Develop a coherent CV



Take on roles outside finance – and even business



Build networks



Build relationships across the business



Build your personal profile



Gain international experience  


Don't get stuck at headquarters  


Start planning early



Candidates need to prepare for shifts in board composition

Part of planning is anticipating future change. Over the next decade, boards will increasingly value knowledge of rapid-growth markets, analytics and social media, as structural shifts in the global economy and ever greater use of technology impact business practice.

And, as boards become more diverse in terms of gender, background and experience, opportunities will open for some, while for the 55 - 60 year old male that typically dominates boards today, gaining access to the boardroom may become more competitive.

“The first priority is to do your homework on the board ...You need a good feel for who the other board members are and must be honest with yourself about whether you could fit in.” - Carl Berquist, CFO, Marriott International


The board of the future

Those finance professionals who want a directorship in 5 to 10 years time, cannot assume the scope and responsibilities of the role will be what they are today. So how do you prepare now for a board of the future?



Demands will increase


Prestige no more: functionality will drive board composition


Social responsibility will bring a greater mix of perspectives


Diversity is more than gender: An international board to bring an international outlook


Technology skills will be a differentiator


Boards will drive the shift toward longer-term business planning



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