Finance professionals need soft skills to be part of the C-suite

According to Hays Accountancy & Finance the role of CFO has evolved in recent years. He or she must now be a business leader and decision maker who can provide insights into both future performance projections and strategic planning.
This means that if you are an aspiring CFO, you need to show that you are in tune with the operational and commercial drivers of a business and are aligned with management to be able to advise and drive operational efficiency and maximise commercial profitability.
“Employers are looking for accountants to step outside the traditional finance function and be involved in ‘big picture’ business strategy,” says Chris Mead, Regional Director of Hays in Malaysia & Singapore. “Soft skills can be underestimated by candidates, but employers are increasingly looking for potential CFOs with leadership, management, and interpersonal skills - skills that can also determine the employee’s ability to fit into an existing team.
“We advise candidates to focus on these skills when stepping up to the CFO role and not just their technical skills. It is critical for candidates to develop communication skills. This becomes even more important if they want to broaden their horizons regarding strategic input and possible progression to CEO, if they are interested in pursuing that path,” he says.
In addition to strong communication skills, Chris says employers want candidates with a strategic mindset and business partnering experience. They are looking for people who are good at numbers, have a commercial mindset and can work closely with the business to help it grow and make it more efficient.
This is even more important for CFOs who want to progress to a CEO role since a strong commercially focused CFO is now certainly perceived as a successor for the CEO role.
Hays Accountancy & Finance’s advice to CFO’s looking to move up
For progression to the CEO role, CFOs should consider the following points:
  • Be seen to be a business leader who can deputise in the absence of the MD. This means CFOs need to be able to communicate effectively across all levels of the business, relate with operational staff, and drive key business outcomes by influencing and engaging the broader teams. 
  • Develop your problem-solving skills. When faced with a problem CFOs need to be able to look at something abstractly and say “How do I approach this” or “How do I solve it without having a how-to book in front of me?”
  • Continue education – it doesn’t stop at the age of 35 because someone has 15 years of experience – it continues.
  • Develop yourself as a brand. Many people forget how important it is to protect their personal brand – especially when prospective employers have the ability to see what a candidate is doing online.
The constant refinement of skills – communication, leadership and teamwork – is key to career development. Strength in these areas will set apart a senior accountant from a CFO and a good candidate from a great candidate.
Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.

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