The controversy is back.
Should Chief Financial Officers be required to hold a CPA designation, or not?
It began with a guest post on the FEI blog, with a couple of nightmares, I mean examples, of companies with non-CPA CFOs at the helm, and continued on through the comment section. This has also been a hot topic in Proformative, too.
Non-CPA CFOs say it doesn’t matter, shouldn’t matter because they can still do the job, and companies just don’t understand that fact. Companies “glorify” that piece of paper. What they fail to understand is that it’s not about them. It is about what corporate leadership has decided is right for the company.
The other argument is that CPAs are bean counters and not strategic leaders. I couldn’t disagree more. Many more of my clients began in accounting, secured their CPA, and have gone on to holding a seat at the executive table as strategic leaders.
Statistics from Spencer Stuart support what I see. The number of CPA CFOs has risen from 29% to 45% since 2003. Simultaneously, bean counting is out; driving strategic vision is in high demand. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Rather, I think it speaks more to the wiring of the individual. Some CPAs are numbers nerds. It’s what they love and where they feel comfortable. Their lifelong goal may be accounting. It works for them.
On the other hand, some numbers savvy folks are also quite high on the “D” (dominant) and “I” (influence) DISC scale. They have both leadership and people skills. Those CPA CFOs are both left brain and right brain thinkers and will always be high value targets.
Since you can’t change what a company has decided they need, it’s important as a candidate to identify your target audience. Who needs what you bring to the table? It’s a much easier sale then beating your head against a wall trying to convince someone else that they need / want / should buy something different.
One final thought … the second example in the FEI blog post points to the reason why companies, as a rule, prefer to hire sitting CFOs over candidates who have never held that title.