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When recruiting a CFO what kind of background and skills set should you be looking out for?

Kwesi Blankson's Profile


Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Generally, a CFO should be a mix of Finance/Accounting and overall business management. The actual background should be related to the industry and size of the company. The CFO for Chase Manhattan Bank would not easily transition to be the CFO of Walmart or Google.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I would add that they should have familiarity or understanding of the culture of the organization. A CFO who wears jeans and a golf shirt isn't going to fit into a 3-piece suit organization - or visa versa easily.

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

Ditto on Regis, and;

CxO implies a certain scale of business. Certainly, a 3 person shop can have a CFO, CEO et cetera...however I look at those roles quite differently. My Mom (a CFO) counseled me when I was doing my first start-up to avoid the CxO people like her would look at the title as a bit of a wanna-be.

My shortlist of skills / exp (although industry and company needs will color this);
-Treasury...should have knowledge of how to manage cash, currencies, and related assets.
-Management...should have managed at least Controller / Director level reports with staff.
-Business Partnering...Should have worked at the board level and with Cx0 or VPx peers.
-International / Divisional / Multi-company...experience in working with divisions and managing the interactions between them.
-Accounting....SOX, IPO, RevRec, Fund accounting, etc. The flavors will likely be specific to your industry and situation; a good CFO can pick up on them, but if you want them to hit the ground running, specific experience can matter.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |


I like your mom's comment on titles. If you look at some titles of people on LinkedIn, you begin to scratch your head.

Sometimes less is really best!

Topic Expert
Randy Miller
Title: Partner
Company: CFO Edge
(Partner, CFO Edge) |

Depending on the size of the company and the other C-levels present, your CFO may also need to help build the strategic direction of the company and help the President/CEO manage the other departmental heads. For many entrepreneurial companies, the ability for the CFO to be either a team leader and/or a consensus builder is also important.

William Williams
Title: Consultant
Company: Self
(Consultant, Self) |

That would depend primarily on where in the life cycle of the company you are. Does a start-up need someone with experience managing a payables department of 20? Probably not. Can a company needing to replace $75 million in bank debt do it with a controller who couldn't make it to manager at a Big 4 accounting firm? Probably not. As you grow, not just in terms of size but in terms of financial complexity, you need different skills and experience.

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Operational CFOs along with those who know/understand IT are both high-value targets ... but it is really what your specific organization needs rather than what is generally acceptable.

Ken Kaufman
Title: CFO
Company: Community Dental Partners
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, Community Dental Partners) |

On a general level, I think Ben Paramore's post on this site actually gives a good overview of what you should look for in a CFO:

His post compares the CFO to a controller, and is very effective at highlighting many critical skills and attributes.

Topic Expert
Barrett Peterson
Title: Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis
Company: TTX
(Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis, TTX) |

The answer varies highly by entity. CFOs generally have to have a good knowledge of operations, treasury, accounting/control/financial reporting, planning, IT, and taxes. Other positions used by an entity [Treasurer, Controller, VP Taxes, CIO, etc], and the skill levels of the persons occupying those roles, as well as the nature of the entity's business model, will drive the particular skills deemed most critical to be "specialities" of a CFO candidate, particularly in larger organizations. People, project management, and organizational leadership attributes are also important, and also vary in importance by entity.

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