Five characteristics to look for when employing a finance executive

Five characteristics to look for when employing a finance executive

They don’t pick up the universal flack that lawyers and politicians do, but accountants certainly enjoy their share of bad rap when it comes to generalizations about the profession. If you’ve decided to hire a finance executive, you’ve probably got a set of expectations in your mind about the kind of person he or she will be, and the roles they will fulfill.

Research has shown that finance executives do tend to show certain personality traits. Among them are an attention to detail, a relish for conformism, and often a level of introversion or a lack of affinity for interaction with people. The joke often goes that an extravert accountant is one who looks at your shoes instead of his when talking.

This may well be true, but don’t feel like you are consigned to a deadbeat personality if you’re looking to hire a competent finance executive. In fact, research shows you should actively seek for the opposite. Who you need and what character traits you seek out will depend on the role you are looking to fill, but there are a few universal pointers to seek out. Bluefront Capital suggests that your candidate will more likely excel in his or her role if he exhibits these (among other) attributes.

  1. Financial foresight: It’s one thing to be a competent technocrat – which in and of itself is highly important – but a senior financial executive needs to be able to anticipate financial management issues and opportunities before they hit. It’s the difference between being a guard on the ground and a watchman in a watch-tower: critical dangers can be pre-empted rather than reacted to.
  1. Excellent communication skills: Finding a finance executive who has the gift of the gab is no mean feat. Accountants are generally not marked for their talking skills, and this was a trait traditionally overlooked in favour of other “harder” competencies.  But business owners and executives are identifying the ability of a finance executive to effectively and timeously communicate financial needs and implications for the business as an essential trait. If communication sounds like a soft skill to you, wait until your CFO or financial manager neglects to tell you that a current project has way overshot costs or that salaries will need to be paid late this month.
  1. A deep understanding of business: If your finance executive has at least a four-year commerce degree and some experience under their belt, you would assume this goes without saying. However, as corporates become more and more juniorised – the product of labour laws and shrinking recruitment budgets — true, valuable insight into the workings of the business becomes more difficult to find. Pick someone who has worked in the industry in which you operate, and who has a trial and error appreciation of some of the difficulties they will be facing.
  1. Risk perspective: This is an area that especially requires a good fit between your business and the finance executive you take on. If your finance executive has got a gung-ho, never say die approach to risk but the business has outlined a more conservative growth path, chances are you will come to blows in a number of key areas. Conversely, if you’ve identified an aggressive growth strategy, you’ll want a finance executive who catches your vision rather than one who is constantly shaking his head at the risks you propose.
  1. Results-orientated nature: Bluefront Capital describes it this way: “The ability to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and traceable.” Finance is an inherently measurable discipline, but the finance executive you hire might be the only one able to measure it. He or she should seek for opportunities to meet measurable outputs, rather than shrink from them. Beware of an officer who clouds his reporting in vagueness. Look rather for one who aims for clarity and transparency.

The Finance Team, through our director level involvement and experience, focuses on experience and “fit” to identify the strengths of various finance executives in our network. We can help you identify a suitable finance executive at the level you need him or her; someone who fits the traits you are looking for and only works for the amount of time you need them, reducing your overall cost and ensuring the benefits.


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