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Three traits of a great chief financial officer

A google search will reveal that the position of chief financial officer is one that is highly sought after. Each year, thousands of hopeful young students enroll as accounting students with the aim of one day filling that role. In the business world, the position of chief financial officer remains one of the most prestigious positions in the company. So what if you’re already there? What if, after years of working away at the grindstone, you’ve finally been appointed at the head of the company’s finances? Have you received an automatic ticket to success? Some might pat themselves on the back in the self-congratulatory acknowledgement of having “made it”. But great leaders know that you’ve never made it. As a chief financial officer, your responsibility to strive for betterment is stronger than ever before.

The fact is, that chief financial officers are a dime a dozen. Every company of a certain size needs one. In fact, there are about 500 000 companies in South Africa, and every single one of them has someone playing a finance leadership role. So now that you’re one of this group, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you stand out from the crowd.

There are several examples of excellent financial leaders to follow: people who have managed to turn companies around and lead businesses into great prosperity. Here are a few traits that the great CFOs have in common.

  1. Forward thinkers. Great chief financial officers are constantly looking ahead. Every time they contemplate a decision, they think: “What does this mean for the future?” They view the business in terms of its envisaged potential, rather than what it is at the moment. If great chief financial officers were road builders, they would build roads with space to expand by three lanes on either side. They put processes and systems in place that accommodate for the future growth of the business.
  2. Performance enhancers. The traditional chief financial officer was a financial controller. He or she put budgets and forecasts in place, and then tracked expenditure to keep it in line with budget. While this remains an important part of the role of the CFO, it has expanded far beyond that nowadays. A great chief financial officer doesn’t monitor the business for bad behavior and crack a whip if a department steps out of line. He or she aims to enhance the performance of departments and the business as a whole. He partners with the CEO to focus on how to grow the business, and how to provide the finances to do so.
  3. Quick adapters. A great chief financial officer is able to react quickly and appropriately to change. This requires a few key traits from him or her. Firstly, it means they’re up to speed with structural and legal changes that will affect the financial performance of the business. This means knowing about changes in accounting laws, tax requirements and financing rules.

It also means being comfortable with technology. A chief financial officer should be an expert in the software and systems the company uses to manage its finances. When the system changes, the CFO should be the first to know and understand it.

Lastly, this means anticipating changes in the environment. A great chief financial officer knows what’s going on in the world around them. They look forward to economic growth or stagnation and how it will affect the business. They draw on their knowledge to react positively to change.

Does your company need the influence of a great chief financial officer? If so, The Finance Team has your answer. We have a network of highly qualified finance professionals who can provide acting CFO services to your business for the amount of time that you need it.

 

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