Oh My Job is a web series that helps you learn about specific roles from the people who carry them out every day. In this episode, Chris, a CFO, shares his professional insights and talks about his daily work life at Meero.
A CFO, or Chief Financial Officer, is responsible for managing a company’s cash flow, debt, and fiscal and financial analysis. CFOs report their figures to company executives and suggest strategies for a range of issues, from financing plans to corporate investments.
A CFO acts as the CEO’s second-in-command. In charge of a company’s financial management, a CFO makes sure that finances are balanced and works alongside the CEO to build a long-term business management strategy.
As a result, CFOs take on a variety of tasks and responsibilities. They set KPIs, forecasts, and budgets, put tracking tools in place and maintain good relations with fund providers such as stockholders and banks. They even build overall financial literacy within the company. It is an essential role that provides a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in real-time.
“A CFO’s primary responsibility involves making sure accounts are reliable and presenting dependable sales figures, performance results, and records regularly. Also, if you’re at a fast-growing company like the one where I work, you’ll be looking closely at the company cash flow or treasury.”
“After that, there’ll be some tasks that come up on an ad hoc basis such as raising funds and facing situations dealing with mergers or acquisitions. The scope of a CFO’s role might also extend into wider territory, namely human resources or legal services.”
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Even if it is a profession that requires specific technical expertise that can only be acquired by having studied finance or accounting, many CFOs come from top business schools or universities. Nevertheless, a background in auditing is a significant advantage, because it allows future CFOs to develop critical thinking skills and teaches them to be meticulous. Above all, it gives them in-depth knowledge of key accounting documents such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow reports. Finally, a stint at one of the Big Four accounting firms – KPMG, Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – is often the standard way to gain experience in auditing or transaction services. The latter also provides an opportunity to build up a solid analytical foundation.
“Being a CFO is still relatively technical. It takes a minimum of credentials or skills in accounting and finance, so a stint at an auditing or consulting firm, an investment bank or strategic consulting firm – that’s incredibly useful for gaining the skills that you’ll need for the future.”
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Contrary to popular belief, CFOs need more than analytical abilities and advanced numerical skills; the role is also compatible with a creative mind. Creativity differentiates a great CFO from a merely acceptable CFO. These professionals must be prepared to rethink internal methods and challenge their inherent reluctance to change. They must think outside the box to increase their individual efficiency. The role requires someone capable of being a proactive force within the company. CFOs must also be aware of their power to create value – inventing new processes from scratch, along with tight deadlines for implementation. This will build up the agility required to handle hectic growth periods.
Additionally, CFOs must love what they do and possess a strong desire to understand operational issues. If an accounting and administrative approach alone is taken, then the CFO will lose out on the rich potential the profession offers.
“You could be the world’s best accountant and still be an awful CFO.”
Humility and dependability are the keys to success, and CFOs often play a central role in startups, where cash is a precious resource. Proven leadership skills and reliable financial forecasts will build trust between a company director and their CFO, resulting in the latter becoming a primary decision-maker.
“Reliability: being a CFO is a bit like being a goalkeeper, meaning that if a CFO makes a mistake, it’s quickly apparent, with relatively serious consequences for the company’s cash flow and viability.”
“I think the most serious mistakes are the ones that endanger the viability of a business, especially when making cash flow forecasts.”
Internally, CFOs are in constant contact with their CEO. The CEO provides strategic and operational direction, whereas the CFO approves these decisions from a financial point of view. After that, CFOs work closely with almost every team involved in business operations, whether it’s checking with sales that what they’re selling is profitable, approving the recruitment choices of the HR department, or consulting with the product teams.
Outside the company, CFOs work with lawyers, tax specialists, and auditing firms; they sometimes find themselves working with external accounting firms, particularly during fundraising periods.
In the United States, the average annual salary is $102,000.
It should be noted that this figure largely depends on context and company size.
While this role can be viewed as the culmination of a successful career, CFOs working for startups are sometimes more interested in the operational details of the business. Consequently, these CFOs might wish to take on top management positions, such as becoming the CEO of a particular country or subsidiary.
“Being the CFO for a CAC 40 company is a sign of success in and of itself.”
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