End of the road for the ‘classic’ finance career? | ACCA Global
ACCA - The global body for professional accountants
If we fast forward 10 or 15 years we can see some significant factors shaping the business landscape; faster business change, rebalancing growth across markets, new finance function models, the proliferation of information and the advent of social, mobile and cloud technologies
—Jamie Lyon, head of corporate sector, ACCA

Narrow, vertical careers through the finance organisation will become less common. Strategy understanding, risk experience, and stakeholder management key skills for future CFOs

Tomorrow's finance chiefs will need deeper business acumen balanced with core finance understanding gained from a broader finance and business career, says a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA (Institute of Management Accountants). 

Nearly 750 CFOs from across the world were surveyed for the Future Pathways to Financial Leadership report. Many of today’s CFOs had taken classic finance career paths and the usual finance stepping-stones to the CFO role, but they suggest new experiences will be needed by tomorrow's CFOs to meet the changing needs of business. Consequently the career experiences of most value will shift. 

Jamie Lyon, ACCA head of corporate sector and author of the report said: 'We can expect a different premium to be placed on the capabilities that will really matter for future finance leaders. 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. 

'We already see this now with finance leadership roles today, but it’s going to be more prominent in the future because the environment and business need will demand it.' 

Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research, said: 'The finance construct in larger organisations is changing. With shared services, outsourcing and increasingly global business service models, traditional career routes through the finance organisation are being disrupted. In some respects they're much less obvious.' 

'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.'

Bigger footprints

The survey revealed that the ‘classic’ career path of current CFO was largely domestic in nature, but we are already seeing that changing with 27 per cent of CFOs having spent any time in an international role, and 25 per cent having worked in an emerging market.

The most popular stepping-stone to the CFO role was from financial controller. Almost 50 per cent had six or more finance roles within their career. While 40 per cent of CFOs had taken a role outside the finance function in their careers, more may need to do so in future.

Raef Lawson said: 'The whole point of seeking the views of today’s global finance leaders about what the future CFO will need in terms of skills is to help those future finance chiefs choose the right career path to best equip them for a future finance role. IMA and ACCA are both strong advocates of developing the finance career model across the world and this study and the findings give us an insight into what the route to the ideal future CFO position should look like.'

Jamie Lyon said: 'If we fast forward 10 or 15 years we can see some significant factors shaping the business landscape; faster business change, rebalancing growth across markets, new finance function models, the proliferation of information and the advent of social, mobile and cloud technologies. 

'These developments will impact how and where business is done and how the finance function operates. But also it means the capabilities that finance leaders need will evolve too, from being skilled in leadership in a change environment, being adept with technology, working successfully cross culturally, as well as deeper understanding of the industry and sector, and so on. 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.'