Job Hunting

The CFO of the Future

Robert Half survey of 1,400 finance chiefs offers some surprising conclusions.
Stephen TaubJune 29, 2001

Traditional accounting skills will always be in demand. What’s more, a growing number of corporate boards of directors include CFOs who can make strategic decisions based on thoughtful financial analysis.

This said, CFOs will need to supplement their core skills with strong communication and technical skills.

These are the conclusions of comprehensive research conducted by Robert Half International Inc., which included results from surveys of 1,400 chief financial officers as well as dozens of interviews with other experts. Read the Research Summary or read the PDF version.

Among the findings:

  • Issues and responsibilities outside of traditional accounting functions will occupy 37 percent of a senior accountant’s time five years from now. Asked which skills, aside from financial expertise, will be most important for financial professionals in the future, CFOs ranked technology expertise (44 percent) first, followed by strong communication skills (24 percent); general business knowledge (16 percent) and leadership abilities (11 percent).
  • 52 percent of CFOs say IT training will be their first priority in supporting professional development for their accounting staff in the next two years; 22 percent ranked traditional financial skills development as most important.
  • 82 percent of CFOs said their accounting departments have become more involved with their companies’ technology initiatives in the last five years. More specifically, almost half (49 percent) of CFOs said their accounting departments have become more involved with e-commerce in the last three years.
  • 52 percent of CFOs polled said the most effective way for accountants to build their nonfinancial skills is through classes and seminars; 36 percent said on-the-job learning was most valuable.
  • 85 percent of CFOs believe that a professional certification, such as CPA or CMA, helps in career advancement.
  • 43 percent of CFOs say the number of management-level posts held by female accountants has increased since 1995, most notably in such positions as controller, vice president and chief financial officer.
  • 58 percent of CFOs believe the number of women accountants who hold management-level positions will increase in the next five years.
  • When CFOs were asked which factor, other than compensation, is most important to college graduates when evaluating job offers, 51 percent of the respondents said the possibility of career advancement; 17 percent said the company’s financial stability and 12 percent said corporate culture.
  • 73 percent of CFOs today work more than 40 hours each week.
  • 37 percent of CFOs said the greatest source of professional stress is rising workloads.
  • Asked which aspect of their jobs they would like to change, 32 percent of management accountants said they would decrease job stress; 22 percent would like greater professional autonomy; 16 percent said they’d want a more flexible work schedule, while 15 percent cited fewer hours at work.
  • 75 percent of CFOs say a career in consulting is attractive to senior-level accounting and finance executives. When asked which is the most appealing aspect of a consulting career, 35 percent of CFOs said the variety and challenge of the work; 30 percent cited the flexible schedule; 13 percent said the compensation.