CFOs: Evolution | Industry Experience | Age Discrimination

A couple weeks ago I did a webinar on Proformative entitled “Getting to the CFO Chair.” You can find the entire webinar here, but let me mention a couple of points in light of the numerous articles that have come out recently on the Crist Kolder volatility study I cited in my webinar.

CFO Evolution

Bean Counters no more
Bean Counters no more

Here’s the evolution of the Chief Financial Officer …

Bean Counter
Operational Finance
International Operational Finance
Operational IT FInance

The CFO really has taken over the operations role (Operational CFOs are the most high-value targets). In December 2011, the number of companies with a COO hit historic lows.

Going forward, those CFOs with international operational experience and operational IT experience will be the two “new” high-value target candidates.

Industry Experience

Among Finance 1000 CFOs, “relevant industry experience” was not as important as being a sitting CFO or divisional finance leadership … with 56% of new hires having been brought in from a different industry.

That trend flies in the face of “industry-only” experience that has been the norm in the past. Another interesting article on industry experience, “The Most Classic Hiring Mistake,” was on today. I thought this excerpt was particularly telling …

 But how many times have you come across someone who has five years of experience that adds up to just one year’s bad experience repeated five times?

Age Discrimination

The average age of CFOs among Fortune and S&P 500 companies is …


That’s right … fifty-one.

Many of my clients have concerns about age discrimination, but the reality is two-fold. First, most companies aren’t hiring a 30-something whiz-kid as their CFO. Second, if they are, you probably don’t want that position anyway.

If you haven’t already seen the Crist Kolder report, it is an interesting read. You can also read a synopsis of some of the report at

CFOs and CMOs Trump CIOs

This is a controversy that just might give the CPA vs. non-CPA controversy a run for its money.

First it was the Chief Financial Officer driving COOs out of their jobs. We’ve seen that evolving for about 5 years now. That trend is continuing as the operational CFO, especially with a CPA/MBA, is a very high-value target.

For almost a year now, I’ve been reading how the CIO was becoming an increasingly rare breed. A few of those articles included …

— Was the CIO necessary?

“There are three very real and current challenges that are the big reasons for demoting the CIO.”

— Couldn’t / shouldn’t the CIO report to the CFO rather than the CEO?

“New research shows that many CFOs are making a power play to take more control of IT.”

— Does the top IT guy really need a seat at the table?

Those who argue that there will always be a need for a CIO don’t understand how many CEOs are asking why this position needs to be part of the executive team…. Perhaps most telling, one in six CIOs are only ‘consulted’ or have no role at all in setting IT strategy, according to the report.”

But this perspective by Larry Tierman is sure to stir the pot even more.

the executive role of the CIO that will be diminished and likely eliminated at many companies. While the title of CIO will survive at some companies, fewer CIOs will serve on the highest-level executive team, initiate technology changes to improve the customer experience and profitability, and drive innovation. Those CIOs will report to the CFO, COO, or CMO.

Interestingly, a SmartBrief CFO poll question about a year ago around whether companies were using the cloud generated these results:

Yes – 21%
No, but we will be by the end of the year – 15%
No and I don’t see the value – 40%
What’s the cloud? – 24%

Notice those last two responses? That is 64% of the respondents. Those stats are certainly not reflective of CFOs who are embracing new media with the goal of usurping the strategic role of the CIO.

CFO-Coach QR Code
CFO-Coach QR Code

Job security for the Finance Chief just continues to grow. But if you want to continue evolving from overseeing operations to also being “the” technology decision-maker in your organization, you must come into the 21st Century and begin embracing the new media.

The next hottest CFO candidate will be both operationally AND technology-focused.

CPA CFOs … the Continuing Saga

There is no hot button in the finance space like the CPA-non-CPA credential controversy for CFOs. Not intending to add fuel to the fire, but merely to point out a few recent articles that may – or may not – shed light on the credentialing trend.

Demand for CPAs is climbing
Demand for CPAs is climbing

According to an education organization, CPAs are in demand. In fact, the demand is actually on the rise. If more companies are hiring more CPAs on their finance teams and there is a succession plan in place, the pool is ripe for grooming those CPAs for future CFO roles. And, internal hires ARE on the rise.

A recent article in the Vancouver Sun said this …

CFOs often have access to the largest amount of information about the inner workings of a corporation. They are responsible for both budgeting and regulatory matters related to company finances; they are also under ever-increasing scrutiny due to tighter regulations and greater focus on good governance.

Maybe it’s just my small mind, but with the ongoing, and always increasing, strangulation coming out of government, it just seems to me that companies will continue to view CPA CFOs as a necessity.

While the CFO skill set is broadening, particularly from a strategy perspective, this rather interesting article was posted on today … “Why Strategy Plays Second Fiddle For Finance Chiefs.”  Perhaps this excerpt sums it up the best: “It’s [the CFO role] a unique dilemma.”

While I personally believe the CPA CFOs are still top-targeted talent, it’s a bigger issue for the candidate. It’s about being the right CFO in the right company doing the right things that fit with your skills sets, passions, and interests while adding value to the organization … irrespective of the credential.

I’m presenting the pre-conference forum at the CFO Corporate Finance Excellence Conference in Dallas this weekend. If you are one of my readers and you will be at the conference, please track me down and say hello!

Executive Job Market Intelligence Report

Career practitioners eagerly await publication of Execunet’s Job Market Intelligence Report every year, and the 2012 edition is due out in early spring. But, Execunet has released some new trends from its 20th annual issue, and with its permission, I’m sharing that information with you as well.

Here’s what Executives said:

  1. They now anticipate spending 5.7 months on average looking for their next position
  2. They expect a 13% increase in salary when taking a new position
  3. Fifty-two percent of executives surveyed said were considering leaving their current position in the last year
  4. Only 30% of employed executives foresee their current organizations will experience high turnover in the coming year

Recruiters said:

  1. They expect a 14% increase in assignments for 2012
  2. The Top 5 industries for job growth in 2012 are:
    • Healthcare
    • Technology
    • Manufacturing
    • Business Services
    • Energy

You can find even more stats at the Execunet site.

With 52% of executives considering a change of scenery, competition is only going to increase among the best-of-the-best. And today, companies are only interested in hiring the “best-of-the-best.”

  • Do you bring a proven record of contributions?
  • Are you positioned as a “high-value” target?
  • Can you be found?
  • Do you have the Two Powerful Weapons in your arsenal that can boost your career competitiveness?

Now, while you are gainfully employed and hold the power of passive positioning, is the BEST time to begin ensuring recruiters and companies see you as the “best-of-the-best” of CFOs.

Recruiter Relationships

A few months ago, the C-Suite Career Catalysts asked C-level and Senior Executives a few questions about their experiences working with recruiters. One of the fascinating responses came from a question about what they (Executives) value in recruiter relationships.

Among both C-suite and Senior Executives, the #1 most-valued response was “Solid Leads / Opportunities.” I believe a few of the comments helped to clarify that selection …

– Match skill set and management philosophy with prospective company
– Knows / understands the company, CEO, opportunity, risks of company and position
– Corporate culture knowledge

What a waste of time for all concerned when recruiters contact CFOs for opportunities that are obviously not a good fit. Which begs the question, who is responsible for ensuring that recruiters can make an assessment based on a crystal clear value proposition and fit for culture?

The rest of the responses were pretty similar with the exception that reputation of the recruiter was much more important to the C-suite than to Senior Executives at large … 58% vs. 38%.

Here’s the breakdown of all the responses to the question “what do you most value in a recruiter relationship.”

ValueC-SuiteSenior Executives
Solids Leads/Opportunities
Landing a Great Position

One other consistent comment from the C-suite was around “honesty and integrity” in their relationships. While probably somewhat tied to the “confidentiality” answer, the list of comments that were added around this issue raises the importance of it in the eyes of Senior Executives and the C-suite.

The “best of the best” are looking to work with recruiters who tell them the truth, keep them informed, and contact them for opportunities that are a good fit.

Recruiters – a Necessary Evil for CFOs?

Say the word “recruiter” to a CFO and you just don’t know what response you might get … but it’s almost always emotive. There is a real love/hate relationship and most of it depends on their most recent experience.

As part of a job search strategy – passive or proactive – CFOs almost always believe recruiters are a necessary component of their strategy. And there is much angst when recruiters don’t deliver … for whatever reason and despite how hard I work to manage their recruiter expectations.

But flip the tables and put the CFO in the hiring seat, and you get a much different response. Here’s the poll, results, and my analysis from the December 7 edition of the SmartBrief for CFOs.

Does your company use third party recruiters to recruit executive candidates?

Yes, and they are worth every penny to get top talent – 21%
Yes, but I’m not sure there is a worthwhile ROI – 45%
No, but I wish we did – 11%
No, and we do just fine recruiting top talent without them – 23%

The results of this poll were both interesting and surprising. Most of my CFO clients believe recruiters are a necessary strategy in their overall job search plan. But, asked differently – as an employer – only 21% of you use them and believe they deliver value. While 45% of you use them, but don’t always see the benefit of using them, another 23% say they hire effectively without using recruiters. Only 11% indicate they don’t use recruiters but wish they could.

Those are some pretty stunning statistics. Are recruiters … a necessary evil?

CFO Search Expert Samuel Dergel had this to say on the topic today in his blog post. What are your thoughts?

CFOs and Their Career Moves

Two interesting articles came out this week. I’ve pulled a relevant excerpt from each and added my commentary following each quote.

The first article is from“Job Hunting CFOs by the Numbers.”

Turnover among large-company CFOs is outpacing the rate of CEO churn in 2011, for the 17th consecutive year, according to the annual “Volatility Report” by executive recruiting firm Crist|Kolder.

What is missing from the numbers is whether the turnover is voluntary or involuntary.

When the CFO is driving the move, on his terms and timing, to the opportunity he both wants and which is a perfect fit … GREAT! Far-from-great, though, when the move is involuntary and the CFO is caught unprepared, and maybe even off-guard. A move today can take a CFO 9-to-12-to-18 months. Passive positioning is powerful, but you give up that power if you aren’t always ready, willing, prepared, and well-positioned to move on a potential opportunity.

The second article is from FINS, “Companies Promoting CFOs from Within.” While most of the article is focused on the trend of plucking a CFO from within the ranks of the company rather than going externally, I thought this was a telling statement at the end of the article:

Companies want to promote individuals who possess the technical skills of the CFOs but also have the operational skills of a CEO. Hanson’s firm has been hired to fill three or four Fortune 500 CFO spots with individuals who are capable of assuming the CEO role within the next 24 months.

Is the CEO slot your goal? If so, are you poised and visible as a candidate who could assume the CEO role? Technical skills are great, but they will confine you to finance. Proven operational skills (how you used them to deliver bottom-line and strategic impact) as part of the executive management team are critical to showcasing your broader leadership ability.

If you are a CFO and you haven’t yet joined the CFO Careers Group, a private, invitation-only group on Linked In exclusively for CFOs, please send a request to join. We would love to have you.

The CFO-Recruiter Love-Hate Relationship

Does it feel like working with recruiters is great when things are good (i.e., they’re accessible, responsive, communicative) and horrible when they’re not (the only noise you hear are crickets)?

Are recruiters cozying up to you when you’re the decision-maker with the authority to sign that nice, big commission check … and then MIA when you’re in the hunt for your next opportunity?

In a survey a few months ago with my C-suite colleagues, 12% of the responding senior executives indicated recruiters were a very effective strategy and 35% effective … with almost identical numbers on the ineffective side: 42% somewhat and 12% not at all effective.

CFO recruiter Samuel Dergel and I have been discussing this love-hate relationship over the past several months and we are eager to hear specifically from Chief Finance Executives and Senior Finance Leaders on what bugs you most about working with recruiters.

Are recruiters a necessary evil in the C-suite? What’s your biggest beef in the recruiter relationship saga? Please add your voice to our one question survey … and watch for our blog posts – and more – as we address your biggest CFO recruiter beefs.

CFO Core Concerns Conference Day 1

What a jam-packed day!

The conference actually kicked off last evening with a great reception and the opportunity to meet a few of the attending CFOs. My little group was joined by one of tomorrow’s speakers, Tim Giehll, CEO of Bond Talent US and author of “Human Capital Supply Chains.” An interesting, and very lively, conversation around hiring, retention, and the conundrum of finding skilled talent in a 9% unemployment environment ensued.

This morning began with Dr. John Graham, Co-director of the Center of Financial Excellence of Duke University providing an overview of the Global Business Outlook survey. Lots of great information and you can find all of it on my Facebook business page.

With projected growth in domestic full-time hiring at an anemic .7% (yes, that is point seven percent), we are looking at a minimum of another 12 months of 9+% unemployment. Here’s the kicker. Despite high unemployment, US employers are having a difficult time finding skilled workers.

The survey revealed that 21% of employers are in hiring mode and 16% would like to hire. Of those 37%, 9.3% can’t find the talent they need and 25% can’t hire due to a lack of resources or an inability to find the right talent.

One CFO I talked with indicated finding good finance talent in the Philadelphia area was next to impossible. Another CFO from California said starting salaries for new grads in finance was $80,000 and they can’t find the talent they need.

Now, for some good news.

Of those surveyed, 61% expect to restore hours worked per week and 46% intend to restore training & development to pre-recession levels.

And my own personal PS … the CFO market is still moving!

CFO Optimism is Down

So is hiring according to the latest Duke / CFO Global Business Outlook Survey. Dismal numbers by any standards …

“Full-time domestic hiring will continue to be anemic, with finance chiefs saying they will increase staffs by less than 1% in the next 12 months. That number, also down from last quarter, means that unemployment will likely linger at its current rate of just over 9%. Twenty-one percent of CFOs say they are actively hiring, while another 16% say they are short-staffed but lack the resources to hire. Nine percent say they are short-staffed and would like to hire but are having trouble finding the types of employees they need.”

While this survey addresses who CFOs are hiring, it does NOT address CFOs who are being hired. According to my clients and recruiters with whom I network, movement among CFOs is definitely up, and so is demand!

— In the first few months of this year, there were 4 simultaneous private equity-backed CFO searches in the Tampa Bay area. A first according to a 20-year recruiting veteran.

— Two of my clients have recently juggled multiple offers.

— Recruiters, with great opportunities for Chief Financial Officers, are targeting those Finance Leaders with branded, compelling, value-oriented Linked In profiles for those potential opportunities.

— Recruiters are calling me for leads to great CFO candidates.

Today, more than any other time in history, being a competitive candidate means having World Class positioning. I’ll be hosting a roundtable at the CFO Core Concerns Conference in Chicago on Tuesday morning, June 14, to discuss why that positioning is critical to your career and must-take steps to secure it. Hope to see you there!