CFOs 'need to go beyond numbers' to lead change

A study leading recruitment agency Hays found chief financial officers need much more than just financial skills.

Developing excellent people management skills and being proactive are critical for anyone aspiring to become a chief financial officer in China, according to a latest research released yesterday by recruitment agency Hays.

It's latest report, “DNA of a CFO,” shows that while most CFOs build their careers exclusively within finance, they see non-finance skills and attributes as key for career development.

Based on a survey of 411 senior finance professionals in Asia, 161 from the Chinese mainland, the report provides finance professionals with insight into what they need to focus on if they want to rise to a position of leadership.

“CFOs are typically the right hand of the CEO and — as our research shows — must have superior leadership skills, excellent interpersonal skills and a thorough understanding of how every part of the business impacts costs and earnings,” says Simon Lance, managing director of Hays China.

Eighty-four percent of the Chinese respondents have a bachelor’s degree in business and finance and 46 percent are certified public accountants, compared with 77 percent and 36 percent respectively across Asia.

Most of those surveyed advised aspiring CFOs to focus on developing interpersonal skills and not just technical knowledge.

The top three skills CFOs in China advise the next generation of finance leaders to develop are commercial awareness (61 percent), involvement in the business rather than just the numbers (37 percent) and people skills (35 percent).

Respondents from China nominated the top five personal attributes needed to become CFO as having being proactive (52 percent); hard-working (40 percent); influential (35 percent); analytical (31 percent); and, collaborative (30 percent).

CFOs still consider overseas experience necessary to progress their careers while those from China are also optimistic about the career opportunities on offer at home.

The study also found that the biggest challenge facing CFOs is the changing industry and economic conditions. Around one-fifth of respondents also identified the digitization of the economy as a major challenge.

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