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Identifying the Right Path to the CFO Post

Identifying the Right Path to the CFO Post

While the ever-changing role of the chief financial officer has been well-documented in recent months, there are still a number of skills and levels of experience that are necessary to moving one's career towards the C-suite.

A recent CFO World post examined this changing landscape, and identified the common denominators often seen in finance chiefs today.

Inevitably, experience within the finance industry can be a major plus for those looking to make their way to the CFO position, the publication notes. Citing a recent Ernst & Young survey, CFO World said that 66 percent of today's finance bosses came up through the finance function, with controllers and financial directors (FDs) leading the way.

Rob Edwards, a group finance director at telecoms operation Saiph Group and the financial director for Next Generation Data, told the publication that a regional or divisional FD has a solid foundation to become a CFO in the future.

"It can be a big step up," he says. "But a good regional FD will not only have sound internal reporting skills, he will also have a thorough understanding of the business and how it operates at a regional level while also have an understanding of the rest of the group."

Still, Edwards notes that, as in any promotion, some aspects of the new position will take time to get used to, including external communication with analysts and shareholders and responsibilities with the board of directors.

One of the major character traits the publication names for prospective CFOs is the ability to welcome challenges of all kinds. As finance chiefs of companies who endured the financial crisis can attest, it is of paramount importance to be prepared for the unexpected, whether this means similar market downturns or potential cyberattacks.

Growing one's company during periods of economic uncertainty is another major challenge CFOs are faced with, but having the right mindset and attacking this issue - whether through venturing into new local markets or expanding abroad - can be critical.

Still, while financial experience and a willingness to face challenges may be two critical resume boosters for prospective finance chiefs, there is no set path, particularly as the role changes to encompass more big-picture responsibilities.

During a recent lecture series at the University of Connecticut's School of Business Career Center, Thomas Gustinis, the managing director and CFO of Group Treasury at financial services company UBS, referenced his brother, who also works with the company but followed a much different path.

While Gustinis is a CPA who was interested in accounting beginning in high school, his brother studied political science, but still ended up with the financial services company due to his confidence and strong communication skills, the Daily Campus reported.  

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