The chief financial officer (CFO) is an executive level position that oversees the financial operations and strategic planning within a company or organization. Generally, this position is regarded as second-in-command to the CEO, or chief executive officer. However, many types of chief financial officer jobs are on the same level as that of chief operating officer, since both are concerned with operational performance.
As the title suggests, all chief financial officer jobs involve exercising leadership in terms of directing the financial activities of a company or organization. Specifically, this includes budget creation and administration, fundraising campaigns, investment strategies, risk management, and presiding over acquisitions and mergers. In addition, some chief financial officer jobs involve duties that extend beyond in-house investment and growth, such as the development and implementation of programs designed to promote economic development in the local community through education, charitable contributions, and internship opportunities.
Like all executive level positions, chief financial officers are typically focused on day-to-day operations as well as long-term objectives. For instance, many kinds of chief financial officer jobs require a proficiency in managing routine daily operations that impact the financial stability of the company or organization, such as the allocation of materials, spending controls, loss prevention efforts, and billing and collection practices. As such, the chief financial officer usually plays a significant role in developing procedures and policies to facilitate the management of these tasks.
Those who hold chief financial officer jobs within large companies or organizations usually enjoy the benefit of having a skilled support staff to assist them. This particularly applies to those employed with agencies outside the private sector, such as the government. The chief financial officer may also take an active role in hiring and training support personnel, as well as the utilization of human resources. Of course, there is also a considerable need for effective coordination between departments and staff, which usually translates to frequent meetings and written communications.
In some environments, chief financial officer jobs are much less varied. In fact, they may specialize in only one particular aspect of operations management. Most often, the responsibilities are divided among financial department heads and are targeted to the direction of purchasing, acquisitions, capital raising, investments, etc. In addition, government agencies typically retain a chief financial officer for each of its segments. In the U.S., for example, the financial operations of all 23 federal agencies are managed by a separate chief financial officer pursuant to the CFO Act of 1990.
Most chief financial officer jobs are held by certified public accountants. However, others may hold a master’s or graduate degree in business administration instead. In any case, success requires an ability to analyze financial data, exercise sound investment decisions, and demonstrate leadership qualities and management skills.