Toolkit for the perfect CFO

Ernst & Young survey offers up a list of ingredients that make a successful CFO. How do you measure up?

Ever wondered whether your mix of skills is actually right for the CFO’s post? Or what makes a truly successful CFO today?

In its recent report, The DNA of the CFO, Ernst & Young identified what it claims is a toolkit for the perfect CFO. According to the professional accounting and consultancy firm, today’s CFO needs to blend technical and interpersonal skills, and have a healthy dose of communication skills.

The report was based on a survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit of 660 senior finance professionals in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, followed by an in-depth interview program with CFOs across all these regions.

So what are the essential ingredients for being a perfect CFO? It goes without saying CFOs first and foremost have to be extremely good finance professionals with a strong commercial sensibility. But perhaps some of the other findings will surprise you:

  • Deep understanding of the business
  • Good with people
  • Able to think strategically
  • Excellent communication skills – the ability to translate complex issues in a simple, straightforward way
  • Able to manage conflict well
  • A problem solver, not creator
  • International experience
  • Language skills
  • Experience of running major projects
  • A business analyst
  • Able to manage stress and complexity under pressure
  • Good health
  • Operational experience
  • Ability to adapt to change
  • Experience of adversity
  • Passion

Ernst & Young also identified six areas where CFOs contribute to an organisation. On the development level, these include business strategy along with communication to the external marketplace. In terms of enablement, CFOs should be funding organisational strategy set by the CEO, and lead key initiatives in finance that support the company’s overall strategic goals and get its ‘house in order.

From an execution point of view, CFOs should also be providing insight and analysis to both the CEO and other senior managers, as well as ensure that business decisions are grounded in sound financial criteria by trusting the numbers.

So how do you measure up?

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