The DNA of the CFO

A toolkit for the aspiring CFO

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Senior finance professionals hoping to reach a CFO position need to possess a rare combination of technical and interpersonal skills.

But as they reach the top of the finance function, CFOs quickly realize that it is their communication skills that are most important. Asked what would be needed to reach the next step in their career, respondents point to the need to build stronger internal and external stakeholder relationships as among the key attributes.

The perfect CFO

The essential ingredients of a leading CFO from the perspective of those leaders we interviewed were:

  • First and foremost an extremely good finance professional
  • A strong commercial sensibility
  • Deep understanding of the business
  • Good with people
  • Able to think strategically
  • Excellent communication skills — the ability to translate complex issues in a simple, straightforward way
  • Able to manage conflict well
  • A problem solver, not creator
  • International experience
  • Language skills
  • Experience of running major projects
  • A business analyst
  • Able to manage stress and complexity under pressure
  • Good health
  • Operational experience
  • Ability to adapt to change
  • Experience of adversity
  • Passion

What respondents believe they need to do to achieve the next step in their career (percentage)

EY - What respondents believe they need to do to achieve the next step in their career

Shown: Percentage of respondents
Base: all respondents (669)

The CFO’s contribution

The CFO’s contribution is broad — from developing to enabling to executing strategy. We believe these six segments represent the full breadth of the CFO’s remit. The leading CFOs we work with typically have some involvement in each of these six — either directly or through their team.

While the weighting of that involvement will depend on the maturity and ambition of the individual, the sector and scale of the finance function and economic stability, they are all critical to leadership.

We believe there are core skills, areas of knowledge, experiences and relationships to cultivate in order for those who aspire to leadership to excel in each of these six areas of the role. Download a full copy (pdf, 930,91 KB) of the report for further information.

EY - The CFO's contribution