CFOs play a vital role in any organisation. They are more than just a finance professional; they are a business partner – in every sense of the word.

A good CFO will be across every aspect of an organisation, they will know and understand how each function operates, as well as the people within those teams. They will lead, share, and develop others.

Speaking at our most recent panel event on how businesses can prepare for growth and how CFOs, CEOs and HRDs can best work together, Maria Phillips, CFO, Velocity Frequent Flyers said that, “the first role of a CFO should be as a leader. The second is as a CFO.”

Attributes of a successful finance leader

  • More than anything, CFOs are business partners – relationship building is key. Finance teams touch every part of an organisation. In order to be truly effective, a good CFO will be operationally-focused and know and understand every aspect of the business.
  • A good CFO will always be accountable, transparent and make well-thought out business decisions, with the view to continually move forward, not backwards.
  • Creating a good culture is critical in any organisation and it needs to come from the top – senior leadership set the tone for the culture for the rest of the organisation. The role of any good leader is having the ability to be empathetic, understanding and most importantly, “walk the talk.” It’s not just up to HR to drive culture, it’s everyone’s responsibility.
  • The relationship between CEO and CFO is incredibly important in a business. There needs to be the right balance between vision and action, strategies and deliverables.

As a CFO, your relationship with your CEO and the Board is critical. CEOs and CFOs often counter-balance each other and so it’s important to play to each other’s strengths, know and understand each other’s roles and ensure you’re both working towards the same goals with the same shared vision.

At the same time, Board’s are playing an ever-increasing role within an organisation, particularly when it comes to the strategy of the business.

meeting, board, business leaders, finance

Building effective relationships with the CEO and Board

At one of our most recently-held CFO breakfasts, we discussed this topic, with some fantastic insights shared by the CFOs and Board members in attendance. Some of the things they spoke about were:

  • Build trust with the Board. The CFO owns the numbers and the Board needs to trust in those numbers. Be open, honest and upfront about the situation, and share your viewpoint on how the business is going.
  • When presenting to the Board, it’s important that the CEO and CFO are aligned and can clearly articulate the strategy. Board members will tend to look for patterns and the bigger picture.
  • CFO’s are well positioned to make the transition to be a Board member as they tend to have the right skillset to be able to add value to a Board – especially when it relates to being able to simplify and translate complex numbers and information into an easy-to-understand format.

For some more great insights on this topic, check out our video from a recent event we held about how CFOs, CEOs and HRDs can work together to drive effective business growth.

You might also like the below articles in this series: 

Connecting numbers with culture

Big data and the AI revolution

Navigating the world of Not-for-Profits