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The six habits of highly successful CFOs

Simon Davidson Simon Davidson

During our latest series of Financial Director Programme events across the country, we aimed to explore what it takes to be a truly successful Chief Financial Officer. Simon Davidson summarises six tips from our guest speakers and the CFOs who attended.

Our FD Programme of events brings together our experts and CFOs and FDs from across the country. One topic of focus was the question of what makes a really great CFO.

From all the fascinating opinions on this, I've managed to distill the six key points that came up time and again:

1 Be clear on what kind of CFO you want to be

What kind of finance function do you want to lead? Do you want to focus on delivering technical accounting expertise, or do you want to be a strategic voice in the business, or other priority areas?

The CFO Scorecard is a useful tool to help decide and communicate your vision. Bear in mind, your focus may need to change as the needs of the business evolve. Most of the hundreds of participants at our events said they had to focus on business protection and stakeholder management during lockdown, but are now looking to move towards value creation again.

2 Get the enablers in place

Be selfish when setting up your team, as this is the engine room that will allow you to do your own job brilliantly.

Enablers are summarised in our Value Drivers Framework and include tangible aspects such as the technology being leveraged, the processes undertaken, as well as intangibles like the culture and skills of the team.

Indeed, the future talent in finance was a key discussion point, covering both new skills in demand, such as python programming or deep analytics, and the desirable soft skills that have been emphasised as a result of the last four months. “Curiosity” and “hunger” emerged as common words.

3 Manage the stakeholders

The current disruption to the economy has no doubt brought more stakeholders to the table than before, all of whom are looking for more information , and having to source it remotely.

Do you have a clear understanding of their needs so that you can meet them or even pre-empt them? Have you considered what type of communication might work best for them, based on their priorities, personality and expectations?

4 Brutally prioritise

There are limited hours in the day. As the leader of the finance function, are you concentrating on the areas where you will have most impact?

Our CFO room helps you to thrash out a clear, six-month roadmap of actions for finance leaders, focussed on your urgent and important priorities.

5 Accelerate change

Many organisations are now looking to push on with changes that they put off previously.

For example, the business case for robotic process automation has grown louder because of lockdown, because of the resilience, accuracy, and cost advantage it can bring.

Whether there are cost pressures on finance or if the wider organisation is positioned to grow rapidly, improvement projects need to be deployed quickly so that finance is set up to succeed.

6 Acquire key data and MI

Businesses need to make well-informed decisions, which means that quality data, and the speed of reporting and analysis are even more important than before. There's a desire to move from the 'what' to the 'so what' and, preferably, the 'now what'.

If you would like more details on the topics covered, to discuss a health check of your own enablers, or details of how to book a CFO room session, contact Simon Davidson.

FD Intelligence
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