Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » All the way to the top

FOR AMBITIOUS members of a business’s finance team, making the step up to FD can be a daunting task, and one that can prove frustrating and seemingly insurmountable barrier. It’s something that requires subtlety while also making one’s talent and diligence known.

One key element, according to Andrew Stoves, senior consultant of Balance Recruitment – who addressed a roundtable of finance hopefuls in November – is “aligning yourself with your industry”.

“People need to align [themselves] background-wise and industry-wise, so that would make the transition a lot easier in relation to the types of businesses,” he said, noting market conditions dictate drastic changes of industry are difficult.

“At the same time, if you’ve aligned yourself in relation to your background and experience, it’ll be much easier to make that move to the FD role in the industry in which you’ve specialised,” he said.

The size of the businesses in which candidates have experience matters too, Stoves noted, and while it is the ultimate goal to attain the top FD or CFO role, those at large companies should be prepared to take on divisional FD roles.

That method, recruiters say, offers the easiest way into FD-level jobs at large corporate organisations, with the added benefit of giving candidates familiarity with the corporate culture. An alternative, of course, is to move to a slightly smaller business in the same sector.

“If you come from a slightly smaller business then, again, obviously trying to make the move into FD role within the large corporate organisation is probably a little bit unrealistic,” Stoves said. “I think a realistic timeframe is anywhere between six to 12 months, especially in today’s economy, but also it gives you the right balance to look for the right opportunities for you. You need to maximise your knowledge and experience in your current role.”

What is crucial, according to experts, is to prepare early.

Stoves said: “You need to maximise your knowledge and experience in your current role. You need to make sure that you’re trying to get as much diversity within your experience as you can. Can you shadow the FD? Can you shadow the CFO? Can you ask for more workload within different areas that is going to maybe fill in some of the gaps that you might have on your CV to date?”

Earmarking bridge positions helps too, Stoves added.

“You need to maybe think about a stepping stone position. If you’ve come from a commercial background then ask if you need more financial controls experience. Or if you’ve come from the other side, from a financial controls background, ask if you need a little bit more commercial, strategic experience to really get those gaps filled in as much as possible,” he concluded. ?