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DNA of a CFO

Man with DNA of a CFO running a team meeting

What does it take to become a Chief Financial Officer?

It’s not hard to see the appeal of the top finance job. But how do you get there? Career paths can vary, but those who become Chief Financial Officer share something in common – the DNA of a CFO.

We spoke to 500 CFOs across Australia and New Zealand to uncover this DNA, and we are very grateful to them for their time. From qualifications and experience to personal development and work-life balance, our report gives you an insight into what it takes to reach the top finance job.

If you are considering your career options and want to become a CFO, our report will give you an insight into what it takes. And if you are already a CFO, or well on your way to becoming one, we hope you find what your peer group have to say about success to be interesting and engaging.

Key Findings:

Background and qualifications

CPA is the most popular qualification for CFOs (44%), followed closely by CA/ICAA (41%) and NZICA (11%).

Of those questioned, 99% have a degree, the majority in business, commerce, finance or accounting. Over half (57%) have an MBA while 44% have a masters degree. 29% sit on the board. Overall, as you may expect, the majority (71%) have always worked in finance.

International experience

57% have worked outside Australia and New Zealand at some point during their career; mostly in the UK (58%), Asia (32%), North America (20%) and Europe (17%). The large majority (96%) say that the experience has definitely benefited their career advancement.

Career development

Encouragingly, 76% say that if they had their time all over again, they would still choose the profession, and most would either like to stay in their current post or take on a higher finance leadership role in the future.

65% have recently attended a networking event, while 44% like to stay up-to-date with industry changes. Almost all are on LinkedIn yet less than a third use social media to network.

Business partnering

Almost two thirds (64%) rated commercial acumen as the most important skill for a CFO to possess. People management took second place (57%), while strategic planning ranked third with 51% of the vote.

27% believe that the operations function is the most important discipline to partner with.

The importance of hard work as a component in career success was a key contributor for over 66% of the CFOs surveyed.

Interests and inspiration

The main tip for the next generation was to get involved with their organisation’s operational activities and not just focus on the numbers. When asked for their source of business inspiration, well-known business entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Gerry Harvey and Rob Fyfe were frequently cited.

Outside of work CFOs are generally active, as 78% of those surveyed choose to play sport or exercise in their spare time.

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