A total of 411 CFOs and finance leaders were surveyed to produce this report. Survey questions were related to education and qualifications, career path, international experience, skills and attributes, responsibilities, challenges in the finance field and personal life. We also conducted five in-depth interviews with CFOs, whose insights are shared throughout this report.

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

✔ Build a solid technical foundation

It’s no secret that in order to become a CFO, you must have a solid technical foundation. However, these skills are not only built in classrooms. While most CFOs have relevant degrees and certifications, many found they learned more through practical training and work experience. 77 per cent of CFOs have a degree in business, commerce, finance and economics and 50 per cent hold an MBA. 42 per cent of CFOs have worked for at least four to five companies, and 21 per cent worked for six or more companies over their careers.

✔ Manage broadly and effectively

A recurring sentiment voiced by CFOs was the need for them to work across departments and understand how all areas of the business come together to achieve its goals. The vast majority of respondents (40 per cent) agreed that it was important to work with all departments (HR, procurement, marketing/communications, IT, sales, legal/compliance, operations) rather than one in particular.

It goes without saying that a CFO must expand his or her vision beyond the finance department in order to be a true strategic partner.

✔ Develop a multitude of business skills

As businesses globalise, CFOs must be able to communicate clearly, lead multicultural teams, and exercise sophisticated people skills. Many CFOs from our survey recognised the importance of having strong business acumen with 54 per cent of respondents nominating 'strategic planning' as the top skill needed to be a good CFO along with 'commercial acumen' (38 per cent) . Nominated closely behind 'strategic planning' was 'people management' (52 per cent).

✔ Think beyond the numbers

Contrary to stereotypes, CFOs are not limited to crunching numbers and making complex spreadsheets. Their role continues to evolve and today's CFOs are increasingly expected to play bigger roles in the performance and operations of the organisations they work for. We asked respondents to share tips with aspiring CFOs on the skills necessary for the role. Their responses demonstrate the importance of developing not only analytical and technical skills, but also management and people skills. 52 per cent of all respondents said it is important to be 'commercially aware', 48 per cent said that it's vital to 'develop your people skills', and 45 per cent advised future CFOs to 'get involved with the operations rather than just the numbers'.

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