The classic career path from staff accountant to CFO is coming to an end, according to a new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and the Institute of Management Accountants.
The report, “Future Pathways to Financial Leadership,” surveyed nearly 750 CFOs worldwide and found that the most popular stepping-stone to the CFO role was from financial controller. Many latter-day CFOs said they have taken the usual finance stepping-stones toward the CFO role, but believe tomorrow’s CFOs will need new experiences to meet the evolving needs of business. Forty percent of the CFOs polled said they have taken a role outside the finance function in their careers, and more may need to do so in the future.
“We can expect a different premium to be placed on the capabilities that will really matter for future finance leaders,” said Jamie Lyon, the head of ACCA’s corporate sector, who wrote the report. “The survey suggests you can’t get away from the need for retaining baseline finance skills, but there are so many more capabilities future CFOs will need to bring to the table.”
Nearly 50 percent of the survey respondents said they had six or more finance roles within their careers. Twenty-seven percent of the CFOs said they have spent time in an international role, with 25 percent indicating they have worked in an emerging market.
The survey revealed the “classic” career path of current CFOs was largely domestic in nature, but that too is in flux. “The finance construct in larger organizations is changing,” said IMA vice president of research Raef Lawson in a statement. “With shared services, outsourcing and increasingly global business service models, traditional career routes through the finance organization are being disrupted. The current crop of finance leaders is adapting to the changing role of the CFO, which requires a broader, strategic approach to the business, and they can see that gaining those skills early on in the career journey will be a major benefit to future CFOs.”
He and Lyon expect the change to accelerate in the years ahead. “If we fast forward 10 or 15 years, we can see some significant factors shaping the business landscape: faster business change, rebalancing growth across markets, new finance function models, the proliferation of information, and the advent of social, mobile and cloud technologies,” said Lyon. “These developments will impact how and where business is done and how the finance function operates. But also it means the capabilities that finance leaders need will evolve, too.”