The role of the CFO involves a high degree of financial understanding. A strong CFO must navigate the ins and outs of their company’s balance sheets, and they must competently explain the company’s financial status and needs to members at various levels of management.
While financial reporting and a strong understanding of how money moves around a company are crucial to a CFO’s job, there is one non-financial trait that experts consider even more important: being honest with their organisation, partners, and customers.
In a 2013 survey from the American Society of Association Executives, Jeffrey Shields, executive director for the National Business Officers Association, said, “Above all else, the CFO must be seen as trustworthy and knowledgeable.”
Shields’ sentiment was echoed by Joanne S. Barry, executive director for the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants. She said, “Honesty and integrity must be at the core of a CFO.”
Honesty and integrity has been a major concern of employees for more than a decade. In 2003, CFO magazine surveyed more than 500 employees, and 24% of respondents ranked honesty as the top trait they expected to see from executive-level leaders.
Four years later, Robert Half Management Resources conducted a survey of 1,400 CFOs in the US that asked about the most important quality of business leaders. Nearly one third (31%) of those surveyed said “integrity/honest” was the most important trait. Honesty and integrity outranked experience and communication skills, which were selected by 27% of respondents.
“History has shown the importance of integrity in all aspects of business, from managing assets to managing people,” said Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. “Corporate scandals of the recent past have underscored the need for sound corporate governance practices and transparency in financial reporting.”
The Overture Group, an executive-level staffing agency that works directly with CFOs, compiled a list of the top 10 traits employers are looking for in a CFO. Above all, companies said CFOs must be “honest, trustworthy, and high in integrity.”
The future CFO is expected to have a high-level understanding of analytics, big data, and various other financial skills, but their character and values will be viewed as just as important.
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