The majority (61%) of finance professionals in the UK are aiming to become a chief executive officer (CEO) in their career, according to a UK survey of the industry by AccountsIQ, the award-winning accountancy SaaS provider.

Overall, young professionals are more ambitious about their prospects of moving out of the finance department and into the CEO’s chair, with 63% citing this aspiration compared to 59% of senior professionals. However, of those wanting to become CEO, just 46% of the younger respondents would like to do so at their current company. This is in comparison to 64% of senior professionals who are targeting the CEO job with their current employer.

The findings provide evidence to the growing connection between the role of the CFO and that of the business leader, with accounting teams increasingly relied upon to drive business strategy.

The data also reveals that finance leaders are succeeding in providing a clear development pathway to junior members of the team. In fact, 81% of young professionals report having a clear understanding of what they must do in order to achieve their desired career goals at their organisation.

Commenting on this, AccountsIQ COO, Darren Cran, said: “It’s inspiring to see the ambition of young accountants to work their way to the top of corporate leadership through the finance team. The accounting department has always been a team which works closely with the CEO, but as the volume of data collected by the function has expanded, so has the pathway to leadership positions for those analysing it.”

Whilst ambition within the finance team is high, the survey revealed aspects of the role which cause issues with morale and culture. Over one-fifth (21%) of all finance professionals cited manual data entry as a leading cause of feeling undervalued. Additionally, when asked about the culture within the finance team, 30% of young professionals said better software and more automation of burdensome tasks would be key. 

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Cran added: “To truly enable these professionals to make that leap from finance to the CEO role, it’s essential that we liberate them from the shackles of manual, time-consuming tasks. By automating and streamlining financial processes, we can open up opportunities for talented individuals to engage more deeply in strategic decision-making, better preparing them for business leadership.”

The research was conducted among 502 finance professionals and accountants in the UK:

  • 251 young finance professionals between the ages of 18 and 35 who have up to three years’ experience, and who work in companies with between 40 and 500 employees up to middle management level
  • 251 senior finance professionals in companies that have between 40 and 500 employees, and who have 11 or more years of experience and are aged 31 or more