The demand for skills is changing along with the rapidly evolving business environment, so what do CFOs need to offer to maintain their front running for the top job?
S E N I O R M A N A G E R F I N A N C E , B A N K I N G A N D FINANCIAL SERVICES, ROBERT WALTERS
I think adaptability will be a highly sought-after skill for all accountants, especially those in senior leadership roles who are looking to step into the top job.
If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it’s the importance of being able to adapt to change. As a result, I think adaptability will be a highly sought-after skill for all accountants, especially those in senior leadership roles who are looking to step into the top job. Openness to change and a willingness to experiment will also be greater expectations. I think this is now part of the territory for all senior leaders. Communication skills have always been important, but COVID-19 has really put them in the spotlight. Employees looked to their CEO for guidance during a year of wide-scale uncertainty, and I think CFOs need to be willing to have open conversations with their teams and to genuinely listen to concerns. However, it’s not just about communicating within the organisation. If a CFO wants to become a CEO, they must be prepared to be the public face of an organisation. Stakeholders, such as customers and the broader community, now have higher expectations of business, and CFOs must be capable of clear and confident communication. Exceptional strategic skills will also be a requirement if CFOs are to continue to be considered for the CEO role. As we’ve seen over the past year, businesses have had to shift operations quickly and, while there has been a focus on reducing costs and managing cash flow in a challenging economic environment, they are also looking to increase profitability. This needs to be supported by a sound strategy.
PHIL RUTHVEN AM
F O U N D E R, I B I S W O R L D AND RUTHVEN INSTITUTE
Knowing how to lead a business successfully is key, more so than the functional path chosen by aspirants to get into the running to be CEO.
Once upon a time, production managers were in line to become CEOs, then it was marketing managers, and more recently CFOs or chief operations officers. Knowing how to lead a business successfully is the key, more so than the functional path chosen by aspirants to get into the running to be CEO. For a very long time, only one in 10 Australian corporations have achieved world best practice (WBP) profitability of 22 per cent return on shareholder funds after tax, compared with four in 10 in the US. The Ruthven Institute and IBISWorld have the statistics on the nation’s 2000 largest businesses (47 per cent of the economy) going back decades. The golden rules that result in a WBP leader are: – Focus on one business at a time – Know your industry and its lifecycle phase – Be forever innovative – Emulate world’s best practice – Develop strategic alliances – Be the master of your own destiny – Outsource non-core activities – Don’t own hard assets – Manage your finances wisely – Develop a unique organisational culture – Plan from the outside in – Lead from the inside out These seem simple, but they are implemented by only a tiny minority of CEOs. CFOs are clearly finance and management accounting savvy, so have a flying start. However, without the above strategic pathway, those skills are nowhere enough. Good luck in adding them to your kitbag.