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CFO survey reveals top priorities for today's financial leaders

From May to June 2014, nearly 3000 financial leaders from over 70 countries participated in an online survey for Michael Page’s CFO & Financial Leadership Barometer. The results were weighted according to country market size, industry, level of seniority and organisational size. 

Jonathan Firth, managing director at Michael Page Finance, says the survey revealed that CFOs are still focused mostly around cost management, but that growth orientated challenges have become more important.

“Company priorities have certainly shifted since PageGroup last conducted the survey in 2012. While cost and process optimisation still hold the top rankings, we are witnessing a reversal in the trend towards greater globalisation and the state of the regional economy is indeed affecting company priorities.

“For example, CFOs see mergers & acquisitions as one of the top priorities at 32%, a fact which can perhaps be attributed to the more strategic nature of the CFO role as markets improve. Interestingly though, 48% of respondents now specify cash and liquidity as a top company priority, showing the uncertainty that still exists and the fragility of the growth being experienced,” said Mr Firth.  

Additionally, there is evidence that the scope of a CFO’s role continues to be increasingly varied with 58% handling company administration, 41% IT, 37% legal, 34% human resources and 24% procurement & supply chain.

“As their remit increases, CFOs are working more independently from CEOs and are driving changes which impact the organisation as a whole. Where finance leadership was once widely regarded as a stepping-stone to CEO, financial leaders are now strengthening their position and escalating in importance. Their growing involvement in shareholders’ meetings, investor relations and corporate strategy underlines this development,” said Mr Firth.

“As their responsibilities are expanding into other departments financial leaders are recognising the opportunities for personal and professional development, and thus are much more satisfied in their ever-evolving and complex roles. CFOs are increasingly acting as change leaders and it is this which is helping to make the position of CFO an attractive aspiration for young finance professionals.”

The survey also identified that CFOs in the banking & financial services and healthcare sectors are most confident about the outlook for the future. This highlights a significant development for banking & financial services in light of the recent downturn and economic crisis of the Eurozone.

Another noteworthy find is that CFO salaries differ broadly according to gender and that female financial leaders still earn significantly less than their male counterparts. Only 52% of female leaders are earning more than &pound92k per annum, compared to the 64% of male leaders.    

“The salary difference between male and female financial leaders is alarming and certainly reflects the gender gap in the workplace and the fewer opportunities for women compared with other functions. Companies must realise that future demand for qualified personnel cannot be met solely from the existing pool of male employees,” said Mr Firth.

“As highlighted in the survey, today’s financial leaders cannot be complacent and must be committed to constant learning in refreshing and extending their formal qualifications, learning new methods and technologies and improving their communication and change management competence.”


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