What Does it Take to Become a CFO?

There are different ways to get to the top of your profession, but the starting points are all the same – in short, if you don’t have the right foundation to build upon and use as a stepping stone, you’re going to find the going tougher than usual and face more setbacks than you have to. So if you’re interested in becoming a CFO, you already know that you need to have a strong accounting background. However, you need to be much more than a CPA to make your dreams of making CFO come alive, because a chief financial officer does more than just look over and maintain accounts in an organization.

In general, if you’re aiming to become CFO, here’s what you need to do:

  • Ensure that you know the basics of the job – without a sound knowledge of accountancy, there’s no way you can succeed as a CFO. You may make it to the position, but without knowing the nuts and bolts of the business, you cannot make the right decisions to ensure financial success for your organization.
  • Broaden your range of skills – while you don’t really need an MBA, it pays to know how a business is run and be familiar with the strategies that are adopted in the day-to-day management of an organization.
  • Enhance your experience in the corporate world – your job will involve more than just looking over the accounting operations of a firm, so you need to know how a corporate entity works and be aware of the CFO’s role in the overall strategy of the firm. Unless you know what the firm is all about, you’re not going to be able to coordinate accounting operations, prepare financial statements and raise capital as and when required.
  • Be perceived as a person with integrity and ethics – a CFO has to be honest and open in all their dealings; he or she is answerable to the shareholders and other stakeholders in the company with regard to all financial operations and decisions, so it is imperative that the CFO is someone who is trustworthy and ethical.
  • Work towards becoming a CFO by moving your career ahead every few years – look for opportunities to move ahead and take them, even if it means changing companies or moving to new locations. It’s a gradual climb to becoming a CFO, and at each stage, you must prove yourself worthy of the next and find ways to get there.

It’s a slow process to get to the top, and although you can hurry it along with your drive and determination, you get to be a CFO only after you’ve gained more than a few years of experience and proved yourself worthy of the designation and the responsibility that comes packaged with the job.