Four Career Tips for Financial Executives

That's not a valid work email account. Please enter your work email (e.g.
Please enter your work email

Career SuccessChief Financial Officers and other financial executives have usually already journeyed a long career path  to get into their current position. However, once professionals have reached the realm of financial executive management, many find it hard to stay there, or worse, hard to even keep their job.

The difficulty of keeping and grooming your financial management career is of course interwoven with the scarcity of options. Executive jobs in finance and CFO roles are few and far between. Even for professionals not directly in the search for a new job, the scarcity of alternative positions does not help the relative strength of the executive’s position with their current company. With usually very few alternative career options available to them, it is all the more imperative for financial executives to mind their careers and follow a plan.

Financial executives are usually highly analytical – even in relation to their own careers. They tend to plan better than average when it comes to their professional advancement. However, there are of course many common mistakes that financial executives make. These four career tips are meant to help drive continued career success.

1. Be careful when divining the future

Financial executives are judged not only on their ability to report and interpret past results and drive new business decisions, but also on how they forecast future growth and budgets. Financial executives often get trapped into “divining” the business results on operations that they know little about. Remember to be very cautious when providing forecasts. One key rule to follow is to involve the business operations of particular projects in your data plans. Get sign-off from the executive management of each department on your numbers and let them be the one to look into a crystal ball.

2. Network outside your company

Financial executives are not only judged on the internal controls and management which they drive, but also on their external relationships which they cultivate. Top financial executives network in areas which will benefit their company. If you work at a public company, financial executives should build strong relationships with investment banks; if at a small start-up, they should be involved in the venture capital community. Get involved with the financial community that most directly impacts the future of your company.

3. Branch out within your company

Financial executives often surround themselves with number crunchers and other executive managers. As it is very important to involve the stakeholders in your forecasting, it is as vital to develop business understanding through conversations with other departments. The number one differentiator between a good financial executive and a great one is depth of business and industry knowledge. This knowledge can only be developed through a deep understanding of your own internal company workings. Network with line management, Human Resources, product development, R&D, and IT – the goal of a top financial executive should be to become the employee with the most comprehensive knowledge of how the company operates.

4. Get involved with developing talent

Executives are often judged more on the performance of their department and their reports than simply on their own merits. However, financial executives often find “people management” and talent development skills quite foreign from their background and skill-set. The ability to select, nourish, and sustain talent in a department is however a very important differentiator between financial executives. If you often delegate the responsibility of selection and development of your people to either management or an outside consulting firm, you are missing out on a very important opportunity. Simply put, the people behind you will make your career. Ongoing advancement of those employee’s skills and abilities will be the compounding factor in your performance.

Keeping your career in financial management moving forward is a difficult task. CFOs even feel that their careers have plateaued once they reach the top financial role. Being overworked and under-appreciated often aggravates the feeling of malaise.

However, a properly cared for career can always be advanced. These four career tips are designed to help keep your financial management career moving forward and to put you in a place of strength in your negotiations. Hope you enjoyed these suggestions – if you have additional thoughts, let us know!

By Marie Larsen