I doubt the controversy around whether CFOs “need” a CPA or an MBA is going to die down anytime soon. There are lots of opinions … just ask 10 different people.
From a company perspective, a credentialed CFO is a matter of preference … and that preference really is not impacted by what a candidate believes to be true. That fact adds up to a lot of frustration on the part of CFOs who feel they are qualified to do the job despite lacking the required credential.
Apparently, recruiters, who are hired by a company to find candidates who meet a list of specific requirements., also hold differing opinions. Another post on Proformative around this same issue generated this comment from one of the members …
FEI SF recently had retained recruiters from Russell Reynolds and Spencer Stuart spark on what employers are looking for today in a CFO. Financial planning was the top skill being sought as companies need to look forward and develop scenarios in these uncertain times. CPA is not needed and in fact Controller skills are less sought after in this post SOX implementation era. Experience is most important vs degrees.
But there is clearly a growing preference for those with broader business training. More than 2.5 times as many survey respondents (16%) have added people with MBA degrees than subtracted them (6%).
Specifically, companies need finance people who not only bring analytical skills but also influencing skills. They also require staffers with the ability to work across functions and, most important, the confidence to be credible business advisers, says Jeff Thomson, president and CEO of the Institute of Management Accountants.
The most desirable finance staffer, says Donald Kilinski, CFO practice leader at recruiting firm DHR International, is a CPA who then gets an MBA. Such a person may be more able to advise on strategic matters, such as what projects should be funded, whether something should be acquired, built, or bought, and whether products or services should be eliminated.
So there you have it. Everyone’s got an opinion. Here’s mine:
Know your value.
Know who needs what you bring to the table.
Play in that space.
If you don’t have a CPA and have no desire to get one, that’s fine. Focus on the companies who desire the proven ability to solve their problems over credentials. Same for the MBA.
One final comment. While I see the same MBA trend noted above, MBAs have become somewhat of a commodity … unless they are from a top-rated school. So, don’t buy one just to get one. Get one to add overall value to your proven track record of performance.