CFO of tomorrow is no monkey

The slowdown may demand a new breed of CFO, whose leadership is as sharp as their mental arithmetic...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Of course, we all know that in a downturn the finance department is in the ascendant. Cost control and cashflow become the new corporate watchwords, and no-one knows these things better than the CFO and all his – or her - accounting minions. Even the glamour boys and girls in sales and marketing have to kowtow to the finance people these days.

However, although razor-sharp numeracy and a way with a spreadsheet are necessary skills for any CFO, leadership is a less obvious talent for the custodians of the corporate coffers to possess. But according to headhunter KornFerry International, it has never been more important if CFOs are to make themselves heard at the boardroom table, to have their say over corporate strategy and even to act as a kind of ethical arbiter for corporate decision making. Blimey - and you thought the CFO just had to make the books balance at year-end.

The research paper, exotically titled ‘The CFO – A Moral Rudder in a Perfect Storm’ suggests that the most progressive firms – and the most able and ambitious CFOs - will realise that their finance heads have a vital role to play in the sober analysis and re-organisation that is now the order of the day, after the past decade of (what looks increasingly like) irrational exuberance. The party is over, and the mess must be cleared up and the cost counted – we think that’s the kind of thing they're driving at. And it’s certainly true that in a slowdown, more CFOs make CEOs than they do when times are good.

This super-CFO of the future will be someone who not only safeguards the financial side of the firm, but sets strategy, drives growth and even calls a halt to ill-advised or excessively risky undertakings initiated by other members of the board. That might just be the most fun job that will be on offer in most companies for the next year or two – time to dust off the CV, dig out the slide rule and bag yourself a seat in the finance department.

In today's bulletin:

DSG and B&Q wobble as MFI and Woolworths collapse
Builders bounce as fall in house prices slows
Glass half-full for Britain's Most Admired
CFO of tomorrow is no monkey
MT's Little Ray of Sunshine: Stores bag green result

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Could coronavirus lead to gender equality?

Opinion: Enforced home-working and home-schooling could change the lives of working women, and the business...

Mike Ashley: Does it matter if the public hates you right now?

The Sports Direct founder’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn criticism, but in the...

4 films to keep you sane during the coronavirus lockdown

Cirrus CEO Simon Hayward shares some choices to put things in perspective.

Pandemic ends public love affair with Richard Branson et al

Opinion: The larger-than-life corporate mavericks who rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s suddenly...

The Squiggly Career: How to be a chief strengths spotter

When leading remotely, it's more important than ever to make sure your people spend their...

"Blind CVs don't improve your access to talent"

Opinion: If you want to hire socially mobile go-getters, you need to know the context...