Seven Core Skills of Great CFOs

A recent article in CFO, written by Sandra Beckwith, points out that communication, data analysis, and tech savvy are just some of the core skills CFOs need to further their company's mission. “They increasingly require additional skills that weren’t in the CFO job description even five years ago.” Her article identifies seven skills that top CFOs need to master in today’s evolving business climate. 

Solid Communicator: It’s not enough to be able to present financial performance reports to the board and investors effectively. CFOs are called upon to tell the story behind the numbers to a wider range of stakeholders, including customers and employees. Communication skills are also essential to innovation and change. “If we can’t communicate to influence a different outcome, all of our data analytics insights may not be understood. I’ve seen situations where there’s been great information but because the message didn’t land appropriately, or because people didn’t quite understand the impact, the information shared wasn’t always used,” said Claire Bramley, CFO of data analytics platform provider Teradata.

Able to Analyze: Data, data, data. It’s all about the data. And the modern CFO knows how to analyze all that data. “More and more, my role as CFO is about ingesting and managing massive amounts of data and turning that data – predominantly through technology – into useable intelligence,” says Colin Cunningham, CFO of OnBoard, a board management software provider.  

Technology Aficionado: If you’re already tech-conversant, you’re ahead of the game in the finance department and elsewhere in the organization.  “CFOs should be thinking about how they can build a tech stack that will help them and their team be as successful as possible. That means both reducing manual work and having the data and insights more easily attainable,” said Sarah Spoja, CFO of fintech provider Tipalti. 

Risk Awareness: Financial risk management remains a top priority for finance leaders. Tipalti’s Spoja cites a recent conference panel prep call where she and other CFO panelists talked about managing risk in a constantly changing and uncertain environment. Inflation and the possibility of a recession were top of mind. It doesn’t stop with financial risk, though. Today’s CFOs also need to help assess enterprise risk. “Managing cyber risk specifically has now become front and center for CFOs. They’re partnering with their CIO to determine the risks and how to confront them across the entire organization,” said executive recruiter Arnold.

Look Beyond Finance: For many finance leaders, focusing solely on the organization’s finances is a luxury of the past. The modern CFO must understand other functions and their metrics while also being aware of what’s happening outside the organization. “The skill set is around being intellectually curious about all the departments of business, your peers, and understanding things outside of the core CFO purview to be a good contributor,” said Spoja.  

Strategist: CFOs are increasingly being seen as strategic business partners to the CEO and other C-suite leaders so learning to develop this skill is crucial.

“Helping them think about what’s around the corner and the trajectory of the company, particularly in an ever-changing environment, is incredibly important,” said Priest. To do that, he adds, finance leaders need to be looking forward and anticipating change. 

Alert to Social Issues:
Forward-looking CFOs are increasingly involved in setting a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy and monitoring outcomes. They also have a lot to do with attracting and retaining socially conscious talent. 

For the details, please go to: 7 Core Skills of Great CFOs.