What a CFO does and what it takes to be one

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As the individual tasked with keeping a company’s fiscal affairs in order, a chief financial officer is crucial to the organization’s overall success and long-term growth. In a business world increasingly driven by data analytics and predictive insights, the impact of these leaders has only become more pronounced. Consequently, many professionals are interested in pursuing a career path that leads to the CFO’s office.

To reach that goal, you need a deep understanding of financial management and business strategy. One way to gain the knowledge and skills needed is by pursuing an MBA online. Equipped with an understanding of the duties that go along with this executive position, you can begin building the background necessary to rise to the highest levels of a company.

Responsibilities of a CFO

The CFO’s job is complex and varied, since it involves overseeing all aspects of the organization’s financial well-being. That means supervising the accounting department, sharing key data and analysis with relevant stakeholders, and ensuring that the business acts in compliance with all applicable regulations. Tasks like filing and paying taxes, or providing shareholders with dividend payments, can be key responsibilities for the executive.

At many businesses, the work of a finance chief has evolved with larger changes in how companies measure their accomplishments and strategize for the future. Along with advancing how the company addresses its finances in a fast-paced, globalized economy, a CFO must also push the company’s operations forward by aligning enterprise-wide strategy and tracking outcomes.

The CFO is positioned to identify a company’s financial advantages and weaknesses, making it possible to achieve organizational goals. This leadership role is both a weighty responsibility and a rewarding one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for financial managers was $121,750 in 2016. Further, The Wall Street Journal reported that at larger companies, CFO pay is even catching up to that of CEOs thanks to higher annual raises.

The skills to take charge of an organization’s finances

Successfully meeting the challenges of serving as CFO takes a thorough knowledge of the principles behind financial planning and strategy as well as the specific industry in which the company operates. To shepherd corporate finances, these executives must be adept at planning ahead while taking into account factors like the company’s capital, the costs of maintaining facilities and the demand for staff. They should be ready to seize opportunities for expansion while vigilantly monitoring and acting upon any unforeseen shifts in the organization’s fiscal situation.

Scrupulous attention to finances and compliance is vital, but it’s not enough to get the best results in a data-driven business landscape. In today’s corporations, a CFO is often called upon to set the agenda proactively, making it crucial to keep an eye on the big picture and not get bogged down in the day-to-day details of maintaining the books. That means having a strong command of up-to-date analytics tools and techniques, finding opportunities for growth-oriented initiatives and putting them into action.

In addition to possessing extensive technical know-how, a good CFO is a skilled leader who is able to get consistently excellent performance out of teams. Making the connection between the numbers in the ledger and interactions with personnel is one aspect of the job that can make a huge difference, bringing about meaningful results throughout the organization. By showing strong communication skills, ethical conduct and a willingness to help execute operational plans, the executive promotes best practices for everyone involved in finance and accounting.

Gaining the education to be a CFO

To become a financial manager and rise to the level of a CFO, a professional must be thoroughly versed in corporate operations and finance. According to Business Insider, many individuals who take on the title at top-earning companies have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting or economics. However, the most common academic credential among these professionals is an MBA. That’s because MBA courses provide the necessary combination of training in business technology, corporate bookkeeping and soft skills like leadership and collaboration.

Villanova University offers an online MBA program designed for today’s data-oriented businesses. With a choice of four concentrations, including finance, the curriculum includes deep dives into the concepts that are essential to a career as a CFO, such as corporate finance, team leadership and data analysis. Visit the program page to learn more and find out how to apply.



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