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The Modern CFO

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If you had to write a classified add to find a new Chief Financial Officer, it might read something like this: Wanted: Experienced executive to manage all corporation financial activities. Must be highly motivated and intelligent, possess exemplary communication skills, and must be able to articulate long term goals and strategies to board members and shareholders alike.

As you might imagine, people that could answer an ad like one this are in extremely short supply. In fact, the position of CFO is often the hardest one to fill. The process consists of more than just a resume, a twenty minute interview and a handshake. Both the board and the shareholders must be considered when a company chooses a new Chief Financial Officer. The job is generally regarded as second only to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the company hierarchy, but it is every bit as demanding and as stressful a position to hold.

How the Job has Changed

Years ago the Chief Executive Officer was believed to be the most stable and sober individual in the entire company. He was an executive that dealt with graphs, charts and numbers and he was often a certified accountant. He was also often a no nonsense executive who didn't enjoy taking undue risk and was always the voice of reason. But thanks to a slew of high-profile scandals and a number of new rules and regulations, a career that was once as predictable as the tides has now been thrown into ambiguity and doubt. That is why the average tenure of a new CFO has gone from decades to years, if the company is lucky. Many new chiefs complain that they are expected to be modern day alchemists and change lead into gold overnight, and when they fail to pull off this neat trick they are either fired or become so stressed out that they quit. Then the process of locating a new CFO begins all over again.


At a bare minimum the CFO is in charge of managing risk, accounting oversight as well as the company's budget. He is also expected to be the moral compass of the company and people rely on him to project confidence and honesty with regard to all financing and accounting issues. In today's business environment it is no longer possible to be a CFO who stays out of the spotlight and simply does his job. The modern CFO is an important public figure for his company and if he neglects this new responsibility he may quickly find himself out on the street.


Some of the larger companies go through CFOs faster than they go through non-dairy creamer. In fact, it is not uncommon for a new chief to either be fired or voluntarily depart after only a year or two. When a CFO leaves a company of his own volition, usually it is because he has accepted a better job offer at another company.

On the hand, when a CFO is fired it can often be attributed to the board of directors. Over the years board members are under growing pressure from stockholders and they are often impatient and start to panic at the first signs of failure. In many ways, they see the Chief Financial Officer as a possible savior who could change the culture and direction of the company.

Another change that many insiders have recorded is that the relationship between modern CFOs and CEOs is much closer than it has ever been. In fact, many times there exists a partnership between them, which means that the average CFO is far more involved with the day to day business than ever before.
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 CEO  stockholders  careers  CFO  honesty  board members  pecking order  accountants  company  cultures

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