Money & Business

Study: Road to the C-Suite Changing for Finance Leaders

By / Sep 25, 2013 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A survey of roughly 800 finance executives shows some of the ways the finance professional’s career path is changing in light of expanding global markets and shifting business priorities.

As the CFO role rebalances between the traditional stewardship role to value catalyst, the skills and capabilities that must be brought to bear will naturally evolve and so too will the career experiences that bring about proficiency in those capabilities.

For finance professionals intent on reaching executive-level status, the path to the C-suite is not the same as it once was, according to a new study [PDF] conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Management Accountants.

The survey of more than 750 international CFOs, finance directors, and C-suite finance leaders found that while most current CFOs landed in their positions after following a “traditional” path, future CFOs will likely face a different career experience.

“As the CFO role rebalances between the traditional stewardship role to value catalyst, the skills and capabilities that must be brought to bear will naturally evolve and so too will the career experiences that bring about proficiency in those capabilities,” noted a report on the study’s findings.

The growing global market is a significant factor affecting the financial professional’s career path. According to the survey, 27 percent of current CFOs have already spent time in an international role, and 25 percent have worked in an emerging market. Market expansion not only affects finance departments operationally—raising issues such as outsourcing and international tax and legal requirements—but it increases the need for finance professionals to understand how to work across diverse cultures.

“Take the opportunities to have different assignments in different parts of the world,” Robert Mello, CFO at GE Healthcare Greater China, wrote in the report, “Future Pathways to Finance Leadership 2013.” “Understand how things are done, become more adaptable in your thought processes to different cultures; working effectively in one country is not always the same in another country. Recognize [that] diversity is powerful. Learn how to leverage it.”

Another changing element for finance professionals is the increased importance of strategy and finance’s role in organizational growth. More than half of survey respondents said strategy formulation and execution was one of the top three areas future CFOs should be experienced in. The report suggested future CFOs seek out experiences and positions outside of finance to get a better understanding of strategic business issues.

“A fundamental skill of significant value is being able to ask the right questions of the finance team and the wider business,” the report stated. “This is a skill that comes from many years of experience and rotation through different finance roles.”

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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