A recently published study by the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation (CFERF), the research arm of Financial Executives International Canada, reinforces the growing and diverse role of contemporary chief financial officers and highlights that CFO training has not quite kept pace with the evolution of the role. In response to this gap, FEI Canada launched the CFO Leadership Beyond Finance Program and its first cohort will start this week at Queen's School of Business.
"CFOs play a critical role in a growing number of C-Suite responsibilities, including strategic planning, cross-divisional key business decisions, spotting market opportunities as well as predicting changes in the business environment," according to Branding the CFO: Greater Focus on the Value and Position of CFOs.
The CFERF study emphasized the importance of the CFO "earning" increasing levels of trust from their executive peers, CEO and board, as the major factor in the CFO's ability to expand his or her role in their organization. The study depicted this as a 'CFO Trust Pyramid', based on the pillar of understanding (monitoring and reporting on financial numbers), then building on that pillar towards facilitation (helping operational divisions deliver on the business plan) and leadership (helping to map out the company's future strategy).
Study participants, representing a variety of senior financial executives and CEOs across Canada, also confirmed that CFOs could benefit from more guidance to meet these new responsibilities. The study found that CFOs need to hone certain so-called "soft skills", including communications, strategic capabilities, and the ability to see the wider picture in terms of organizational and industry issues. FEI Canada's executive education program endeavours to ensure senior financial executives bridge these gaps by focusing on three strong themes: Leadership, Strategy and Leading Change, and Strategic Execution.
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