Employee Retention

87% of CFOs Say CEO Relationship Drives Retainment: Weekly Stat

Additionally, 24% of CFOs surveyed say retirement is their next step, per a recent SSG report.
87% of CFOs Say CEO Relationship Drives Retainment: Weekly Stat
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz

With the end of 2022 bringing a near five-year high in CFO turnover rates, labor issues are impacting every level of talent within organizations. Even with talent retainment efforts becoming more of a focus, CFOs still tend to be consistently on the move looking for the next best gig. 

Whether it’s autonomy, workflow, decision-making, or leadership issues, the CEO-CFO relationship has a significant impact on the likelihood of an organization’s ability to retain its finance chief. Recent findings from over 200 CFOs in Salveson Stetson Group’s (SSG) CFO career survey report indicate that, above all other factors, the relationship between the CFO and the CEO is the biggest driver in whether or not the former decides to make a career jump.

Despite Satisfaction, CFOs Still Job-Curious

With SSG’s findings indicating three quarters (75%) of CFOs are satisfied with their jobs, the data still indicates job satisfaction doesn’t guarantee retainment. Over half (56%) told surveyors they would be likely to consider opportunities outside of their current company. 

When analyzing the CFOs’ desire to look for different employment opportunities, John Touey, SSG’s financial officer practice leader, instructed CEOs that not only is CFO turnover inevitable, but proactive executive officers must have communication strategies for their CFOs in place, in order to create the best working relationship possible.


John Touey

“Before thinking about designing or redesigning roles, open and regular communication between the CEO and CFO is critical to CFO retention,” Touey told CFO. “We suggest unstructured time be a regular component of CEO/CFO conversations to allow for a more expansive discussion of career aspirations and business strategy.”

“Effective interventions we have observed include creating more time for board interaction beyond traditional finance committee exposure, special project leadership, and M&A activity is a great source for interesting projects [for example], as well as expansion of operational and administrative responsibilities, often leading to a move into a chief operating officer position,” Touey said. “While the last intervention does not technically retain the CFO in their current position, it promotes a more orderly and thoughtful transition.”

Outside of the relationship with the CEO, CFOs are finding other reasons to depart. More than three quarters (76%) said both company culture and compensation were very important in considering whether to stay with their current employers.

“Anecdotally, there is a fear of missing out factor at play as well, given the coverage on talent scarcity and increased compensation,” said Touey. “This combination of influences means that CFOs are both being solicited more than ever before due to increased openings and are, perhaps, more open to having conversations due to what they perceive as a candidate advantage in search conversations.”

Mending the CEO-CFO Relationship

Despite 40% of executives saying they’ll quit in 2023 late last year, SSG findings go deeper, indicating some CFOs are leaving with no intention of reentering the workforce. Almost a quarter of CFOs told surveyors that their next career move is retirement.

With the tendency to job hop alongside the retirement option, SSG reports a large percentage of CFOs could be leaving their positions soon. This trend could open up positions to new candidates, who filled a third of new CFO positions last year. 

According to Touey, today’s CFOs are looking to be at the same level in the decision-making process as the CEO. “CFOs we speak to are looking for a true and open partnership with their CEOs, where they are seen in a co-pilot role,” he said. “Open communication and an interest in development also are hallmarks of a good CEO/CFO relationship. A good sign of a positive relationship is reflected in the CEO’s openness to taking feedback from the CFO.”

“A lack of openness to different points of view is a sign of a negative relationship,” Touey said. “Using the CFO as a strategic advisor who happens to be a strong financial manager, versus someone who simply ensures the veracity of the numbers and reports on results, is also a sign of a good relationship.”

CFOs we speak to are looking for a true and open partnership with their CEOs, where they are seen in a co-pilot role.

Regardless of the reason a CFO might leave, those who focus on their communication skills with their staff, especially their CEO, are more likely to be happy and content with their current working situation. Communication is more valuable than ever, and talent retainment inside the C-Suite is dependent on it. 

Whether it is a first-time fractional CFO, or a highly experienced corporate finance connoisseur, the foundations of communication between leadership and their employees are a pivotal factor in the C-suite’s health. If SSG surveyors are correct in saying CFO turnover is inevitable for organizations regardless of industry, CEOs who wish to retain their CFO must prioritize the positivity of the relationship between themselves and their CFO through fluid communication.