CFOs: Moving or Staying?

Long searches, short stints, and position experience vs. industry experience. That pretty much sums up what’s going on nationally for Chief Financial Officer careers today.

First from WSJ

Central Garden & Pet Co. (CENT) named Lori Varlas its new chief financial officer, completing a 10-month search that lasted more than twice as long as the official predecessor’s term as CFO. (emphasis added)

Ten months to replace a CFO who served only 5 months. It is quite possible this will not be atypical over the next several years. Realistically, CFOs should count on a search taking 9-12 months. The savvy CFO will understand that he has the most power and the best positioning for that next move while he is still gainfully employed and entertaining offers from recruiters who are beating down the doors to scoop one more seemingly unattainable high-value candidate.

And from

–a growing majority of those CFOs who are hired come by way of internal promotions.

… 78% of the external hires had been either sitting CFOs or divisional finance executives. That kind of experience was far more relevant than industry experience, as 56% of those brought in from outside came from a different industry. (emphasis added)

The first trend is to promote internally. The article cites 57% of Fortune 1,000 companies doing just that, and that figure is up over the previous two years. Good news for that 2nd in finance command – if the CFO is planning to move or retire anyway.

The other trend is what I find very interesting. The Strategic Finance Leader skill set, rather than industry experience, accounted for more than half of all external hires. This isn’t surprising to me. Companies are recognizing that part of their current challenges might stem from the fact that they are immersed in the industry mindset. If they continue to do what they’ve been doing, they will almost certainly continue to get the same or very similar results. A Finance Leader with an outside perspective might just bring the breath of fresh thinking they need to get unstuck or to reach their goals.

Again, savvy CFOs who are considering a move in the next year will be thinking today about who their target audience is and how to get on their radar screen before they need, or want, to make a move.

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