“When we make decisions, we can’t just consider one particular factor. Good decisions take into account many factors, and they are not limited to financial measures. These factors might be tangible, but they may also be intangible. How do I value employee engagement? How do I value the consumer response to our initiatives or engagement with the brand? How do I value the quasi-governmental or other bodies who have an interest in our regulatory compliance, or others who might have an interest in our environmental footprint?”
CFO, adidas Group
When we make decisions, we can’t just consider one particular factor...
“In the future if you want to be successful in a company like Microsoft, you're going to have to have international experience. You cannot just be living in the US or France and only know about this one country. You're going to have to be geographically mobile and get exposed to different cultures, different countries and different businesses. The next generation of CFOs will be people that understand that.
I have CFOs with almost zero financial background. They understand the numbers, they understand P&L, balance sheet, but they have not been an auditor. They are not in charge of accounts, but they are very, very good CFOs - they are leaders, they are people managers and they have international expertise.”
Former Vice President of International Finance, Microsoft International
In the future if you want to be successful in a company like Microsoft, you're going to have to have international experience...
“I still have a coach who is the global CFO of my previous company. We have quarterly calls and meet once a year. Coaches can give you a different way of thinking. They are not telling you what to do, but they can change the way you are thinking about doing business.”
COO & CFO, DDB Greater China
I still have a coach who is the global CFO of my previous company. We have quarterly calls and meet once a year...
“You have to be comfortable with ambiguity because today there is no set path to CFO.
Seek out messy assignments where you learn the most. Learning opportunities often come from situations that are hairy and messy, where you can take on more than just what was in your job description. If you see an area of opportunity that needs fixing, don’t wait — take the initiative to address a problem or add responsibility where you see a gap. Don’t wait for someone else to fill that gap.
Initiative, curiosity and wanting to take on the gnarly assignments are really key. Then you need to deliver results. You need to put some points on the board before you angle for that next position or promotion. You need to build a track record of sustained results.”
CFO, Mary Kay
You have to be comfortable with ambiguity because today there is no set path to CFO...
“My focus has been on developing the top four or five financial people in the organization, mainly because they are the ones who can sit alongside me, contribute positively and learn. I’ve done a couple of things. One is encouraging people to take left-field opportunities or a career risk to broaden their commercial experience. But I also run a very collaborative decision-making process. Rather than me taking their output and forming my own views, I try to workshop those key decisions with the senior finance people, so then they can see how I'm thinking about things.
To me it's not a radical way of doing things; it's the way I've always operated. It’s about making sure those key people don't lose sight of how what they've done or helped craft has input to the final decision. They aren’t just producing data that they’ll never hear anything else about. They actually see how that data gets interpreted, questioned, how different people from different functions have different perspectives on it, and then they see how ultimately the decision is made.”
Former CFO and COO, Nine Entertainment Co.
My focus has been on developing the top four or five financial people in the organization, mainly because...
“In the future, quality assurance, not only adapting, but also helping to form the regulatory environment through stronger collaboration with other social groups, especially the political environment, will become increasingly important. We are becoming more and more public people. The charisma of a wet noodle doesn't help anyone. You have to be able to convince people to do things. Good people are a scarce resource. In the end, it falls down to classical functional skills, leadership skills and the ability to use all the productivity-gaining tools you have.”
Dr. A. Stefan Kirsten
CFO, Vonovia SE
In the future, quality assurance, not only adapting, but also helping to form the regulatory environment through...
“It’s important that a CFO has a strong understanding of business operations and the dynamics of the market. I find that a lot of people don’t, but I think it’s a very important element. For instance, you can’t conduct analytics without covering all perspectives, or the company will be insensitive to the fast-changing market and make the wrong business decision.
When I joined the company, I did a lot of research: the industry, products and suppliers, competition, consumer trends, technology changes, etc. I compared the landscape, collected benchmarks and then I looked at internal data. That gave me a strong perspective. In fact, I hardly had to consult internal colleagues at all and knew a lot more about the company than those that did not look outside. Do your research. You’ll be looking at things from a fresh perspective and maybe learn more than your long-serving colleagues.”
Dr. Guy Look
CFO & Executive Director, Sa Sa International Holdings Limited
It’s important that a CFO has a strong understanding of...
“The advice I would give aspiring CFOs is not to think that the path from where they are today to the role of CFO is a straight line from A to B. Every two or three years they should look to do something that is different: get some accounting experience, get some controlling experience, get some financing experience. And remember that you don’t need to know everything in every level of detail.”
Frank H. Lutz
CFO and Member of the Management Board, Labor Director, Covestro AG
The advice I would give aspiring CFOs is not to...
“I think diversity of experience is important. And that diversity does not necessarily need to be about role – it needs to be about sector and geography. I took an enormous amount from a corporate finance role in Colombia, not just because of the corporate finance experience, but the differences in terms of people, culture and behavior. I would also strongly encourage a stint in an operations role, helping you understand how things truly work on the ground. That understanding is not something you can gain from sitting behind a desk looking at reports and analysis.”
Group Finance Director, Taylor Wimpey
I think diversity of experience is important. And that diversity does not necessarily need to be about role..
“In my experience, there are few senior finance professionals that are female. So, I believe more organizations should encourage the career development of women in the finance function. For example, by implementing proper mentoring or coaching programs. This approach could be rolled out beyond the finance function to other areas of the business.”
Senior Finance Manager at Progress; Former CFO of Telerik
In my experience, there are few senior finance professionals that are female...
“One of the things I tell new people joining our team is that while they have joined the finance function, it does not necessarily mean their end goal is to be in the finance function forever. After a couple of years in finance, they could go into sales, consulting or business operations. I think that the core expectation from the younger generation is a 360 degree exposure. Today, a finance professional is expected to have a good understanding of business strategy and its implications for finance.”
One of the things I tell new people joining our team is that...
“My advice is: don't draw a straight line between entry-level accountant and CFO. Think about what finance and accounting teaches you. Think about how you can leverage what you do really well in a different discipline so you learn something. I want to hire people that are going to have the respect of the business. Otherwise you're not going to have any influence, and if you don't have any influence I don't need you in finance.”
Outgoing CFO, Fletcher Building
My advice is: don't draw a straight line between entry-level accountant and CFO...
“My advice to you is to move - move abroad, move sector, get new experiences. Move. It's so important to get exposure to different markets, to different countries, to different people. You can become a leader in your domestic market, but to reach your full potential you really need multicultural experience.”
CFO, Pirelli & C. S.p.A
My advice to you is to move - move abroad, move sector, get new experiences...
“Management ability in the finance function is so important because you are overseeing a network of experts - you are not managing people with every-day and uniform skills. You are the center of a wider and diversified collective intelligence. You are also managing this team at a distance. This means you must lead a worldwide team and communicate your key priorities: what investors expect, the aims of the strategy, and what our purpose is.”
Group CFO, Gemalto
Management ability in the finance function is so important because you are overseeing...
“The challenge for me and my finance leadership team is how we build the right kind of experiences for individuals to become future CFOs. For me, it's about getting them strong exposure to the business and potentially getting them into business roles, whether in commercial, sales or operations. Giving them a deep business understanding to complement their finance understanding and giving them different geographic and culture exposure.”
The challenge for me and my finance leadership team is...
“I'm very engaged in recruiting and developing people. I believe this is about getting people with a skill set that is not just about technical competence, but also the right mindset. Another is being a role model, even in small details: showing up on time, calling in on time, responding to emails and questions and so on. When people start with a consultancy firm, within the first couple of months they go on consultancy training, looking at how to interact with a client, how to ask the right questions, how to say no. We do a similar training session with all controllers at our headquarters to help them interact with the organization.”
Executive Vice President & CFO, PANDORA A/S
I'm very engaged in recruiting and developing people...
“There's something about our discipline that no one tends to come up and say, ‘I want to learn from you,’ he says. Maybe it's an ego thing But I think getting a good mentor is important because it is such a broad discipline. It means that you have someone to guide you as to what's important today or tomorrow and how to build that skill set.”
CFO, KIDO Group
There's something about our discipline...