A report by recruitment company Hays – DNA OF A CFO: The makings of a chief financial officer in Asia – looks at some of the key skills needed to advance a career in corporate treasury or finance towards the role of CFO. Based on a survey of 411 financial chiefs, the report also incorporates interviews with five prominent CFOs in Asia, one of which is PayPal's CFO and deputy general manager for Greater China, John Jin. Jin moved to this wide-ranging role at PayPal after working for 10 years in a number of different financial roles at GE in China. He pinpoints some of the key requirements needed to get to the CFO role:
- Technical skills including accounting, reporting, controllership, corporate governance, etc.
- It helps to be clear about the career path you intend to take and Jin explains: “You need to be clear about your short-term and long-term career goals, and then find the right job opportunity to practice yourself”.
- Soft skills and commercial depth are also needed and according to Jin, these are particularly important in companies where industry knowledge is key.
- Knowing how to work with other people is also critical to success so CFOs need emotional intelligence and the ability to communicate well to “unify a team, clarify a goal, and foster a sense of unity and cooperation”.
- Showing interest in colleagues and understanding how they work is another key communication skill that enables the CFO to engage with co-workers.
- Having a flexible approach and open mind also helps the CFO to deal with stressful situations and Jin notes that “Those that are more open minded are better adapted to knowing how to respond to emergencies and communicating it to the right people.”
- Being able to deal with pressure and tension is also part of the role. Jin adds that taking time to exercise, read books and relax has helped him stay calm during pressing situations and remain positive.
What else makes a CFO?
It's no surprise that more than three-quarters of CFOs have a Bachelor's degree in finance, business, commerce or economics. The report by Hays also found that the majority of CFOs put in very long hours – 75 per cent of them work far longer than statutory requirements and a third work more than 56 hours a week. The top five characteristics CFOs said they needed to succeed in their careers are being proactive, hard-working, analytical, goal-focused and collaborative. A fifth of CFOs surveyed had fewer than six years of experience in finance before becoming CFO, while the majority – 59 per cent – said they had six to 15 years of experience in finance before their first CFO role. And the majority – 69 per cent – said they had worked for between two and five companies before landing a CFO job.
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