What makes a great CFO?

Luke Johnson writes in today’s Financial Times of the list of requirements for a great CFO. He recommends:

  • Someone fundamentally conservative to balance the optimism of a CEO.
  • A qualified professional who can assemble and analyze financial statements.
  • An eye for detail, in absolute command of the financial basics such as debt ratios.
  • Something of an IT expert able to master accounting software.
  • A knowledge of property leases, grounded in corporate law.
  • The strength of character to deliver the truth to business owners.
  • Absolute integrity and a capacity for hard work.

Finally, and most noteworthy from my perspective:

“The CFO must also be able to explain treatments, policies and consequences so that every executive can understand them. The best accountants do not hide behind jargon or technical mumbo-jumbo.”

As with all subject experts, it’s the capacity to covey complex information in a way that does not go over the listener’s heads that is often crucial.

I recently noted some ways financial professionals can deliver complex information so that people understand them. I help create presentations for CFOs and CPAs that make people sit up and take notice when you speak. If this is an issue for you, and you need professional help, call me.

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Ian, I once worked with a CEO and a CFO who were BOTH fundamentally conservative/pessimistic. I respected them both but thought they held our company back. You’re right; there needs to be a yin/yang relationship.

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