Human Capital & Careers

Survey: CFOs Lack Succession Plans

Why bother, when 74 percent of finance chiefs believe they'll stay put?
Sarah JohnsonJuly 13, 2007

Despite the high turnover in the CFO profession, most financial executives have no intention of leaving their jobs. Even if they did, their company has no backup plan for filling the position, according to a recent survey from Robert Half Management Resources, a job-search firm.

Indeed, 83 percent of 1,400 CFOs told Robert Half they have not identified a successor for their position. Why bother, when 74 percent of them believe they’ll stay put?

Finance executives who don’t have at least one person in mind to replace them aren’t doing their company any favors, according to Ryan Sutton, regional manager in New England for Robert Half Management Resources. “Like any executive, you should have the best interest of the organization in mind — what’s best for the organization in the long term, not just what’s critical to your career,” he told

While most survey respondents said they don’t have a plan in place because they don’t think they’ll leave anytime soon, a few cited other reasons, including that they’re too busy (6 percent) and lack qualified replacements (12 percent).

The talent crunch in many finance departments has moved CFOs to crimp on filling the lower ranks rather than grooming their own successors. Some finance executives are spending much of their time going over the slim pickings among accounting graduates and training new hires to simply keep their group running.

College grads with accounting degrees are also demanding more money, which could keep smaller companies from ramping up their finance departments. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary offer for accounting grads has risen 2.3 percent, to $46,718.

Half of CFOs aren’t even being picky about what college their new employees attended, according to a recent survey from staffing company Accountemps. Nearly 50 percent of them said the prestige of a job candidate’s alma mater has no effect on their hiring decision, while the other half said it is a very or somewhat important factor.

For those executives simply hoping their jobs are set in stone until they retire, they should snap out of it, Robert Half advises. Change is inevitable and companies need a backup plan. “Responsible leaders always want to be sure the organization outlives their tenure; that’s part of being an executive,” says Sutton. “You have to ensure that the organization lives on and continues to prosper beyond your time.”