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The Path to CFO: How to Groom Yourself For the Top Job in Finance

Published on Wednesday, 08 Jun 2016

Business and finance are extremely lucrative and successful careers to pursue, especially in Hong Kong, a major financial hub not just in Asia, but in the world. With so many people entering the field, the path to CFO and other top jobs in finance isn’t always so direct. For those working in the finance sector with an eye on a future CFO role for themselves, here are some best practices to follow in order to groom yourself for the top job in finance. 

Get the right education. Unless you are a founding member of a startup, it’s going to be extremely difficult to move into a C-level position without the right education and degrees. Take the cue from more than half of Fortune 100 CEOs who have a degree in business, economics, or accounting, and be sure that you’re getting the right education for your dream CFO role.Once you’ve received the right bachelor’s degree, look into business school. A CPA or MBA degree from a well-known school, Harvard being the top in the world, will set you on the right path towards getting a seat at the head of the finance table. 

Build a strong foundation in finance. Most large companies and international corporations want CFOs who can create value for the company and understand what drives a company financially. This includes knowing what financial consequences will be the direct result of certain business decisions. Many top CFOs have put in time prior to taking on their top position working in sales, marketing, or accounting early in their careers to help build a solid background in financial practices.

Follow a clear career path. A majority of CFOs have held positions in the treasury or controller function prior to becoming CFO. By following the right career path that clearly aligns skillset and professional growth and progression, it will give you the exposure and experience in funding, executing strategy, and financial processes required to excel as a future CFO. 

Hone your presentation and communication skills. In addition to knowing the financial industry inside and out, it will be crucial to have stellar presentation and communication skills as CFO. Throughout your career, you should be striving to improve your public speaking and communications skills, as well as your management skills. Recruiters and top CEOs often point out the difference between a great CFO and a controller rests solely on a person’s ability to communicate effectively and persuasively.

Form strong relationships inside and outside of the finance department. Being the CFO for a company is no easy task and will require people within the company to trust and value you, your decisions, and your abilities. Oftentimes, it may fall upon the CFO to make or execute unpopular decisions. It is during these periods where the respect and support of others inside the company will come in handy.

The job of CFO is a rewarding and challenging position for anyone who puts their mind to it, but the job isn’t one that will easily land on one’s lap without any prior experience or financial acumen. If you’re considering a future as CFO of a company one day, follow these best practices to start grooming yourself for the role. 

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