5 Tips for Financial Directors of the Future
Don’t be the next Carl Rogberg.
If you’re newly qualified and looking for some direction, look no further; here’s some of our top advice for aspiring finance directors!
The obvious start is a strong educational background in finance, accounting, business, economics or management. Including a bachelors and masters degree alongside other accounting or finance-related accreditations.
However, according to a survey of Fortune 100 Chief Financial Officers, by Russell Reynolds, only 12% acquired their undergraduate degree from a top-tier university.
So while education and the relevant qualifications are all-important, the quality of your working experience and professional track record is an equally vital component to building the foundations of your career.
1. Plan your Journey
Have an understanding of where you want to be and how you are going to get there. Aim to broaden your experience, it is all advantageous in the long-run.
A financial reporting role in industry can help you get into FP&A (financial planning and analysis), and at this stage you will be making strategic, operational and tactical decisions to tackle an array of issues often focusing on adjustments to the underlying business. If you have a background in audit or strong business acumen, consider a technical accounting route which will allow you to strengthen your technical skills and knowledge of accounting principles.
Developing skills through varying your role will allow you an understanding of a wide range of financial areas. Additionally, it’s very important to spend time in subordinate positions because this ensures you can relate to your team through shared experience. From there you can work towards progressing to an FD role down the line.
For example, whilst it is possible to progress to FD with commercial awareness alone it is much more beneficial to have experience in a technical role, as you risk low credibility within your financial accounting team – they need to have confidence that you can guide them.
But remember, there isn’t one set career path to take and many different routes may present themselves to you on your journey. Have a plan, but don’t be limited to it. Take time to reflect on where your career is going, don’t assume that every step will be progression, you may need to take a sideways or backwards step in order to advance your skills and experience.
2. Size Matters
Both large companies and SMEs have their benefits, but many leading FDs agree that getting your foot in the door of a big organisation is a valuable start to your career.
You will get the experience of seeing what a world class finance function looks like and the distinction of having a well-known name on your CV.
Equally, smaller businesses can offer the opportunity for a broader role, as there is more room for growth and opportunity without the restrictions of a narrow role.
It is important to take the size of the company into consideration, rather than focusing solely on salary. Instead, go for the role which will benefit you the most in terms of skills and experience. Plan around learning and developing and the money will find you.
3. International experience
Gaining international experience will be incredibly beneficial and open up more doors for you as your career progresses. Additionally, with the world becoming increasingly globalised and businesses constantly looking to expand their markets it is a good idea to establish at least some experience internationally whilst working towards a FD position.
Dr. Ulrich Bergmoser, the CFO of the German Football Association, encourages aspiring FDs to gain international experience, in his words “I would go as far to say it is crucial. Almost all businesses have overseas divisions, or are looking to expand overseas. If at all possible, I would recommend aspiring FDs try to take at least one role in a new market.”
PwC predicted in a report earlier this year a number of changes to the global economic market by 2050, their main findings were that emerging markets will take centre stage and continue to be the growth engine of the global economy. By 2050 China could be the largest economy in the world, accounting for around 20% of world GDP.
With stats like these it’s clear that international business will continue to grow and therefore ensuring you have experience on an international level will benefit and strengthen your advancements towards FD.
Embrace networking, meet as many people as you can, push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Not only because being a good FD requires excellent interpersonal skills. But also because establishing a network of connections is beneficial to you for advice, feedback, and recommending you to others, amongst other things.
Including headhunters or recruiters in your network is crucial, because they can often be the gatekeepers to those senior positions.
Who you know is just as important as what you know.
5. Be the best at what you do but be honest
Always strive to be better. Take everything as an opportunity to learn and develop. Being the best FD requires great technical skills, judgement, leadership and knowledge. Set a goal and fulfil it.
But your greatest asset will always be your credibility. It will travel with you wherever you work. Maintain that credibility by being honest. Recognise when things go wrong, and be prepared to talk about them when they do. Denial never looks good, and claiming perfection is suspicious. When dealing with investments tell it as it is; talk about risk as well as return. People will respect you for doing so.
Aim to be the best and the rest will follow. Self-development is key but not everyone will take the same route. Opportunities will arise when you’re least expecting it, but a little bit of forward thinking can go a long way.