The role of Chief Financial Officer is evolving. Beyond financial management, the modern CFO must have communication skills, lead teams, and more.

10 Skills CEOs Look for in Hiring a CFO

June 12, 2024

Every CFO hire can have a transformational impact on a business. At best, they can supercharge performance. At worst, they can tank an organization’s vision and culture.overture - CFO skills (1).png

To navigate these high stakes, it's crucial to understand what makes a great CFO. We’ve compiled a list of the top ten qualities mid-market CEO’s seek when hiring a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). 

1) Honesty, Trustworthiness, and Integrity: CFOs take the lead on all financial matters – it’s there in the title – and they must exemplify the highest possible ethical standards. Of course, trust is typically earned, not given. They should demonstrate trustworthy behavior—actively listening, adhering to commitments, and taking responsibility. More than any other relationship in the organization, ongoing trust between the CEO and CFO is essential.

2) Strategic Insight: A CFO must be able to understand the entire business and align financial strategies with overall goals. Grasping the broader business landscape is crucial because it ensures that financial decisions support long-term success and growth.

3) Proactivity: Being proactive in identifying and addressing financial challenges and opportunities is essential for a CFO to steer the company in the right direction. They must also be proactive in avoiding losses, using risk mitigation techniques to identify business threats before harm occurs.

4) Analytical Skills: CFOs need to be adept at analyzing financial data. Numbers might not reveal everything, but they certainly tell a lot of the story. A CFO’s specific analytical skills might include:

  • Financial statement analysis
  • Financial ratios
  • Trend-spotting
  • Cash flow management
  • Data visualization

5) Effective Communication: 82% of CFOs believe the role is steadily expanding, and that expansion often includes extensive people-management responsibilities. According to some finance experts, CFOs are transforming into “enterprise leaders who just happen to be in charge of finance.” Leading teams requires outstanding verbal and written communication.

6) Collaborative and Team-Oriented: The ability to work effectively with cross-functional teams and foster a collaborative environment is crucial for a CFO to drive financial success. In fact, large industry leaders like Amazon Web Services are promoting high-performing operations staff to CFO roles precisely because of their cross-functional strengths.

Cross-functional experience can be especially helpful in small-to-medium businesses where staff size doesn’t permit leaders to maintain a narrow focus on a single department.overture - CFO skills (2).png

7) Coaching and Mentoring: A CFO should take an active role in mentoring and developing future financial leaders. Business continuation is a major concern in mitigating risk, and 38% of CFOs believe their retirement will damage the business they lead. Coaching rising stars doesn’t just mitigate risk, it can foster a company-wide culture of continuous learning and improvement.


8) Decision-Making Ability: The capacity to make sound and timely decisions, especially in high-pressure situations, is a critical skill for CFOs. The ability to make sound decisions on your feet is strongly influenced by a combination of the skills mentioned before. A CFO who has proactively analyzed data and developed a strategic vision, informed by collaborations across all departments, will be well-prepared to act when needed. 

9) Financial Reporting: Strong financial reporting and analysis skills are fundamental to a CFOs technical skill set. But understanding data isn’t enough. A CFO must be proficient in communicating insights to stakeholders at every level, removing jargon, and understanding both internal and external audiences.

10) Multi-Disciplinary Expertise: CFOs should possess a broad understanding of various disciplines, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, legal, employee benefits, systems/IT, operations, risk management, and international business.

The role of CFO in a mid-market company certainly goes far beyond financial management. A successful hire should have a diverse skill set and the ability to navigate complex challenges, all while contributing to the organization's overall strategic direction. CFOs with these skills can be financial game-changers, building sustainable growth for their companies.

Connect with the Overture Group now to discover talented professionals who can elevate your business.

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