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Navigating the high-turnover CFO job market: Essential soft skills for success

For CFOs looking to navigate the current job market, it is essential to focus on developing both technical and soft leadership skills

As the financial landscape evolves, so too does the role of the CFO. Today’s CFOs must possess a unique blend of technical expertise and soft leadership skills to navigate the ever-changing business environment.

The CFO role has traditionally been one of the most stable executive positions. However, recent years have seen a significant increase in CFO turnover. In 2020 alone, over 1,500 CFOs left their positions, a 15% increase from the previous year.

The reasons for this trend are varied, but they include retirement, career advancement, and a desire for a new challenge.

At the same time, there has been a surge in CFO appointments. Since January, Jamie Miller has been appointed global CFO of EY, Jane Fraser was announced as Citigroup’s CFO successor, and Vasant Prabhu will be replaced by Ryan McInerney as Visa’s CFO.

Many companies are seeking to replace outgoing CFOs with individuals who possess the skills and experience necessary to lead their organisations through economic uncertainty and technological disruption. This has created a highly competitive job market for CFOs.

The changing requirements for CFOs

Historically, CFOs were primarily responsible for financial reporting and compliance. However, as the role has evolved, so too have the requirements for CFOs.

Today’s CFOs must be strategic thinkers who can provide insight into the financial implications of business decisions. They must also be able to communicate those implications to non-financial stakeholders.

Additionally, as technology continues to disrupt the financial industry, CFOs must stay abreast of new developments and be able to leverage them to improve their organisation’s financial performance.

This requires a strong technical background and the ability to identify and implement new technologies that drive business results.

The importance of soft leadership skills for CFOs

While technical expertise is still essential for CFOs, it is no longer sufficient. Today’s CFOs must also possess a range of soft leadership skills, including communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.

These skills enable CFOs to work effectively with cross-functional teams, build relationships with stakeholders, and drive change within their organisations.

Soft leadership skills are particularly important in times of change and uncertainty. CFOs who can inspire and motivate their teams, communicate effectively with stakeholders, and navigate complex financial landscapes will be better equipped to lead their organisations through challenging times.

Many successful CFOs have demonstrated the importance of soft leadership skills in the modern financial landscape.

One such example is Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet. Porat is known for her ability to communicate complex financial information in a way that is easily understood by non-financial stakeholders. She also played a key role in the restructuring of Google’s business units to improve financial accountability.

Another example is Brad Dickerson, former CFO of Under Armour. Dickerson was credited with improving the company’s financial reporting and building strong relationships with investors. He also played a key role in the company’s transition to a direct-to-consumer business model.

The role of executive search firms in identifying trends

Executive search firms play a critical role in helping companies identify and attract top CFO talent.

Heidrick and Struggles, a leading executive search firm, has identified several trends in the CFO job market. These include an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, a desire for CFOs with experience in digital transformation, and a greater emphasis on soft leadership skills.

For CFOs looking to navigate the current job market, it is essential to focus on developing both technical and soft leadership skills. This may involve pursuing additional education or training in areas such as digital transformation, communication, and emotional intelligence.

Networking and building relationships with executive search firms can also be a valuable strategy for CFOs seeking to advance their careers. By staying up-to-date with industry trends and developing strong relationships with recruiters, CFOs can position themselves for success in the competitive job market.

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