Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » CFOs’ skills must evolve to meet changing needs of companies, EY study finds

Finance chiefs of the future will need a revised set of skills as companies face a more connected, globalised and regulated world, EY research suggests.

The role of the CFO is at a “turning point” and over the next five years aspiring CFOs should look to adapt their communication and performance measurement skills to meet the needs of the changing organisation, EY research The DNA of the CFO revealed.

According to an EY global survey of 769 finance leaders, more than half said that if aspiring CFOs are to become the future finance chiefs in the next five years, they need respond to a full range of pressures, including digital, data, heightened scrutiny and ongoing uncertainty and volatility.

James Meader, EY’s Finance Performance Improvement Advisory Leader, UK & Ireland said: “The CFO role, like many other roles, is at a turning point. As finance organisations face a more connected, globalised and heavily scrutinised future, tomorrow’s finance leaders need to think strategically about the know-how and experiences they will need to succeed in the future. Only those who will be quick and versatile in adapting the profiles, experiences and skills to the strategy, culture and maturity of a particular business or industry will have access to finance leadership roles.”

CFOs will need to develop skills outside the traditional skillset of the finance chief, according to the study. CFOs interviewed said that mentoring, coaching and talent spotting would be critical to the role in the future.

Despite efforts, more than half of female respondents (57%) and almost half of male respondents (49%) said not enough female future finance leaders were coming up through the ranks. According to 62% of the respondents, “visibility for women leaders who can act as role models for more junior employees” was the top strategy to increase appointments of female finance executives to the CFO position.

Meader said: “Diversity is key to high-performance and when it comes to the finance function women are still highly outnumbered. However companies are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of having a more balanced finance leadership. Creating development paths will be crucial for making the finance senior leadership accessible for women. We are optimistic that awareness around the issue will encourage more future women CFOs.”

Recently, Suzanne Baxter announced that she is stepping down as finance director at Mitie next month following the departure of CEO Ruby McGregor-Smith, ending one of the few all-female duos at the helm of a FTSE 250 company.

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