CFO Wiring

Ernst & Young recently conducted a study of 669 senior finance professionals in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa focused on the DNA of a CFO. I’m wondering how much different these results would be if America had been included in the survey.

For example, our poll this week at SmartBrief for CFOs asks this question around a statistic pulled directly from the E&Y study: 73% of surveyed CFOs see their role as a destination. Only 10% aspire to be a CEO. What about you? Right now, the numbers are virtually tied. Register for the Brief and add your vote.

But here was something else that really jumped out at me:

Describe the essential ingredients of a leading CFO and guidance for the aspiring CFO. 75% of respondents do not record having a fellow CFO they admire, which might be a reflection of their historical lack of focus on external profile building.

Very few role models. I see that as a pretty powerful statement around two key issues for CFOs …whether foreign or domestic.

Networking … CFOs historically have focused on doing their jobs, not building a network. Today, networking is key for the strategic, operational CFO corporately and for his career. If you are a regular reader I know you know this … the definition of networking is who knows about you, not who you know. Are you a subject matter expert? Are you credible? Are you admired? Do the people who need to know about you actually know about you?

Mentoring … Mentoring others, and being mentored, is a great way to become known. 

Grooming future tribesmen is good for your company and great for your resume. Those rising stars bring a wealth of fresh air to the table, and you might even learn something from those younger, tech-savvy whipper snappers.

And there is great value around you seeking out a mentor. It doesn’t matter how old you are or even where you are in your career. There are always things to learn from others who bring different experiences and wisdom to the table. The icing on the cake is that when you are being mentored by a person of influence, you have access to his network. As your mentor, it is in his best interests to help you be more successful. Part of that success means introducing you to the people in his cone of influence (network).

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4 thoughts on “CFO Wiring”

  1. I’m not surprised by the statistics. Being a CFO (internal, retrospective) is very different than being a CEO (external, prospective)in most companies. It is a much different mindset.
    The recession has also opened the eyes of many as to the value of a peer network. A CFO network is most likely comprised of those who can help the company they represent instead of those that can help their career.

  2. I personally do not believe in E&Y survey. Though I agree that most CFO’s are introvert, internal and retrospective (including myself) but at the same time I think most CFO’s are most suited for a CEO position. Yes, a CEO position usually requires a very fluent and loquacious personality but that does mean that a CFO cannot do the job.
    In my career I have often seen Marketing executives get promoted to CEO level but I also seen that they often lack the numerical and financial perspectives of the business.

  3. You make some valid points, Mike. Where I see CFOs with the goal of moving on is when they are operationally-focused and people-oriented vs. the typical “numbers” guy. Interestingly, the poll at SmartBrief is almost a virtual dead heat among those who see the CFO as the destination and those who aspire to be CEOs – a very different statistic and mindset than the middle east results.
    And your peer network comment should not be taken lightly. Nor should the idea that you stop networking once you land!
    Thanks for your comments, Mike!

  4. I agree that many CFOs are well-suited for the CEO role, jnasimi … particularly, as you say, because they bring the financial perspective that COOs and CMOs do not bring. That said, the CFO MUST bring the external, beyond numbers perspective that includes a solid operational understanding and the ability to strategize and guide vision.
    Just a clarification, the E&Y survey polled CFOs and it was the CFOs who responded … resulting in that 73/10 number.
    Thanks for reading and for commenting, jnasimi!


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