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September 25, 2013

Vertical pathway to CFO less feasible, ACCA, IMA

Narrow and vertical careers through financial organisations leading to the position of chief financial officer (CFO) will become less feasible in the future, a report by the Association of Chartered Certificated Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) has found.

Instead, those wishing to become CFOs should focus on strategy understanding, risk experience and stakeholder management to improve their chances of promotion, according to the report.

The report, called ‘Future pathways to financial leadership’, queried around 750 CFOs globally, many of which had followed standard finance career paths to reach their positions.

Respondents suggested that future CFOs will need different experiences to meet the changing needs of business.

ACCA head of corporate sector and author of the report Jamie Lyon said: "the survey suggests you can’t get away from the need for retaining baseline finance skills, but there’s so many more capabilities future CFOs will need to bring to the table too."

The survey revealed that the career path taken by most current CFOs did not generally involve work abroad. However this is changing with 27% of CFOs having worked in an international role, and 25% having worked in an emerging market.

IMA vice president of research Raef Lawson said: "The current crop of finance leaders is adapting to the changing role of the CFO, which requires a broader, strategic approach to the business, and they can see that gaining those skills early on in the career journey will be a major benefit to the future CFOs."

The role of financial controller was found to be the most popular stepping stone to CFO. Almost half of them had 6 or more finance roles in their career. The survey also found that while 40% of CFOs had taken a non-finance role during their careers, more will likely have to do this.

Lyon went on to say that in 10 to 15 years finance leaders must be adept with technology, work successfully cross culturally and have a deeper understanding of their industries and sectors, among other things.

"They’re going to have to build all these leadership and business skills on that platform of finance expertise which means they will need different, broader career experiences which will help build those capabilities," Lyon said.

Article by Sebastian Clark

Related links

The Association of Chartered Certificated Accountants

The Institute of Management Accountants

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