Report: The DNA of the CFO Summary (Ernst and Young)

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How the CFO Role has Changed

“Organizations will look to CFOs to offer innovative solutions to business issues, when in the past creativity might well have been discouraged. CFOs are no longer just seen as the “No. 2” in the organization, but as the partner of the CEO and board.”

Guiding Principle 1: Build Your Passport to the CFO Role

Collecting Stamps

A CFO’s career path will largely be defined by the “stamps” collected along the journey. Gone are the days where finance professionals follow a linear path of progression through various positions. CFOs are now expected to diversify, accruing non-finance personal and professional experience. This passport system is designed to forge well rounded CFOs and encourage a wide array of skills and experiences.

Some of these stamp-earning roles include:

  • Leadership of finance transformation project
  • International exposure
  • Strategic business planning
  • Developing digital partnerships

Survey respondents expressed critical needs for strategic and commercial experience, where CFOs will play a direct role in setting the business agenda and aid in growing the company.

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Guiding Principle 2: Learn to Behave Like a Leader

Balancing the Brains

Prospective finance leaders are being increasingly assessed for their less tangible assets or “soft skills” like interpersonal communication, innovation, and emotional intelligence. Traditionally, these ranks have been filled with left-brained, analytical minds. However, the commoditization of knowledge has de-emphasized these attributes.

Lens of Purpose

Additionally, integrated performance is being seen as a defining factor, where CFOs must take organizational development and achievement into account. This practice ventures beyond the bottom line, and favors growth and sustainability.

Widening the Talent Pool

Inclusiveness and diversity are both being utilized heavily to  bridge talent gaps. This includes currently existing cultural and gender disparities. Roughly 2 in 3 survey respondents claimed that organizations must recruit from diverse talent pools to find the next generation of CFOs.

Creating the action Plan

  1. Assess finance team development programs
  2. Vary experiential learning
  3. Implement feedback loops
  4. Facilitate organizational mentorship:
  5. Begin leadership development early


Read the full report “The DNA of the CFO,” here.