Becoming a Chief Financial Officer

Interview with a Chief Financial Officer had the pleasure of speaking with Jeff Beard of Kansas City, about his career path to becoming the CFO of a large advertising agency. Jeff discusses his road to success and his education that helped to get him there. Jeff received his undergraduate degree from Duke in Engineering and after a few years of industry experience, he pursued his master's at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. Learn more about what a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) does and the path Jeff took to get to this point in his career.

Interview questions we asked Jeff in the video below:

  1. Talk about your education and your path into the accounting field.
  2. What classes in accounting did you enjoy the most?
  3. What was the most challenging part of completing your education?
  4. Describe your career path to the role you are in now as CFO.
  5. Explain the importance of the CFO to the success of any business.
  6. What do you enjoy most about your role?
  7. What has been the most challenging experience of your career?
  8. For those who are thinking about entering the accounting field, what advice would you give?
  9. What would you tell current professionals who want to be a CFO?

Chief Financial Officer Job Description

A chief financial officer (CFO) plays a vital role in a company's overall success. The CFO is responsible for advising board members and the company's chief executive officer (CEO) about financial transactions that ultimately affect the direction of the company. If you choose to seek employment as a chief financial officer, you need to combine an extensive amount of experience with a strong proven working knowledge of the following:

  • investment strategies
  • taxes
  • business taxes
  • finance operations
  • general business skills
  • computer Information systems
  • modern accounting issues
  • financial accounting

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CFO's are responsible for a number of operations within a company, including, but not limited to:

  • establishing yearly financial ojectives
  • overseeing the budgetary planning
  • developing strategic, tactical and executive initiatives
  • building relationships and engaging with investors, auditors, and key stakeholders
  • As CFO, one must be certain all financial reporting for the company is complete and accurate, so it pays to have a strong background in a number of accounting career fields. Because of the nature of work that a CFO deals with on a daily basis, a number of interpersonal skills are required, including: strong leadership and analytical skills, the ability to communicate professionally and to work effectively under pressure.

    Education Required to Become a CFO

    Most people who advance to the level of CFO have a minimum of a master's degree in accounting, tax and auditing, investing or finance. In addition to the master's degree and several years of work experience, chief financial officers typically are licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as well. As you earn your degree, some of the courses you can expect to complete include the following:

    • Applied Statistics
    • Auditing
    • Business Taxes
    • Corporate Financial Reporting
    • Computer Information Systems
    • Financial Accounting

    Although there are no continued education opportunities once you hit this coveted status, CFO's are urged to participate in the American Society of Association Executives, the U.S. Chief Finanacial Officers Council and The CFO Alliance to continue to grow professionally.

    Career Outlook

    Even with an advanced degree, you are not likely to become a CFO early on in your career. Along with a lot of hard work, it usually entails up to 10 years of increasingly responsible managerial positions before you can be considered a viable CFO candidate. Positions you are likely to hold include:

    • Senior Accountant
    • Vice President of Finance
    • President of Finance

    Accounting Salary and Career Outlook for Chief Financial Officers

    The latest BLS statistics reported that the average accounting salary of CFO's is over $176,000, making it a highly sought after goal for most accounting professionals to obtain. Similar to most all other professions, a CFO's salary will ultimately depend on the education level, experience, past success of the candidate as well as the company itself.

    Looking at the BLS, the job growth for all top executives, including CFO's, is anticipated at five percent annually through the end of this decade. While this growth rate is substantially lower than that of other careers, it should not come as a surprise. Top management positions do not grow at the same rate as other positions because fewer people vacate top management positions to move on to something else. Often times, those who have attained the level of CFO may desire to stay there for the remainder of their careers.

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