• The most effective CFOs understand the importance of complete transparency when discussing financial results with board members, investors, and other stakeholders.
  • Empowered by accurate data, contemporary CFOs demonstrate heightened proficiency in conducting cost/benefit analyses, executing well-informed investments, and championing strategic initiatives.

In the ever-evolving aspect of modern business, the role of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) has significantly transformed. Beyond traditional financial responsibilities, today’s CFOs play pivotal roles in shaping strategy, fostering innovation, and driving organizational growth. As the expectations placed on  Chief Financial Officer (CFO) skills and habits continue to evolve, it becomes imperative to delve into the changing dynamics and explore the essential practices that successful CFOs cultivate to navigate the complexities of the modern business environment.

From being confined to the realms of the modernized IT department, the modern CFO now emerges as a strategic leader, steering organizations through dynamic business landscapes.

How Has the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Skillset Evolved?

The stereotype of the CFO as a mere bean counter focused solely on internal controls and compliance is a relic of the past. Today, CFOs are more visible internally and externally, requiring a blend of analytical prowess and personable communication skills.

Unlike the green visor-clad, insular figures of old, modern Chief Financial Officers’ skillsets include excellent communication, exuding credibility, and confidently discussing various aspects of the business, not just financials.

  1. Adhere to a code of ethics

In the aftermath of financial scandals and economic downturns, corporate boards turned to CFOs for better insights into the financial health of the businesses they oversaw. The turmoil brought on by the pandemic has once again thrust CFOs into the spotlight, making stakeholders scrutinize companies for their ability to sustain growth. As key spokespersons for the business, CFOs are responsible for managing expectations transparently.

The most effective CFOs understand the importance of complete transparency when discussing financial results with board members, investors, and other stakeholders. Moreover, adherence to high ethical standards is crucial as the CFO’s purview expands to include oversight of functions like human resources and information technology.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) skills include developing and implementing corporate strategy, sales plans, and new products. Their role extends beyond financial matters, acting as moral compasses for the business, thereby building credibility for the next steps.

  1. Build and maintain relationships

A successful CFO’s checklist includes recognizing the significance of relationships within and outside the company. Internally, strong relationships with the CEO, other C-suite executives, and direct reports are essential for effective collaboration. However, the most effective CFOs go beyond their immediate circles, striving to build relationships at all levels within and across all departments.

Some CFOs take relationship-building further by embedding finance personnel in different units. This approach fosters a deeper understanding of company performance, and these embedded team members report back to the CFO, providing valuable insights.

Externally, CFOs skillfully cultivate relationships with a spectrum of entities—board members, stakeholders, customers, vendors, community leaders, and other external associates. This extensive external network proves instrumental in steering business success.

It concurrently opens avenues for career progression, emphasizing the importance of honing effective Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Skills in internal and external engagements.

  1. Spot and advocate for opportunities

While CFOs are responsible for business spending management, successful CFOs focus on long-term growth, evaluating opportunities based on potential revenue and costs. When discussing new initiatives, they assess possible benefits and quantify the value, aiming to fund projects contributing to the company’s growth.

The approach is not about being blindly optimistic but about proposing ways to offset or minimize downsides. Rather than defaulting to a simple “no,” effective CFOs use data to support their positions, providing a rational perspective on the state of the business. A logically sound argument backed up by solid data helps mitigate the effects of emotion and intuition that often lead to suboptimal decisions.

  1. Develop, nurture, and trust your team

Exceptional leaders, particularly top CFOs, recognize the significance of assembling an outstanding team. They actively seek individuals with the essential Chief Financial Officers skills and experience, emphasizing intangible attributes such as passion, work ethics, and intellectual curiosity. In an environment where the demand for finance and accounting talent consistently exceeds supply, the ability to retain exceptional individuals becomes a critical aspect of optimizing Chief Financial Officer (CFO) skills for sustained success.

Effective CFOs actively engage with all team members, fostering transparency and understanding. They ensure staff understands corporate strategy, provide information during disruption or uncertainty, and actively solicit input on departmental policies and decisions. Professional development is a priority, and while not every company can provide extensive skills training, effective CFOs look for ways to help staff members develop professionally.

  1. Always be attuned to what’s next

In a rapidly changing business environment, successful CFOs remain proactive. They regularly seek feedback from colleagues and clients to understand how the company can better serve its customers. Keeping an eye on the competitive and political landscapes, they prepare their organizations to respond effectively to market threats or pending legislation.

Once confined to the IT department, the responsibility for technological advancements has now extended to CFOs, particularly in organizations without a Chief Information Officer (CIO). While technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and edge computing garner attention, top CFOs prioritize using existing data better. Understanding that data shows how they stay up-to-date on the latest technology trends, ensuring their organizations are prepared to adapt to industry changes.

In an era where information is paramount, we’ll unravel the symbiotic relationship between the evolution of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) skills and the strategic utilization of data to fuel continuous improvement within organizations.

How Data Drives Improvement?

The final habit of staying attuned to what’s next is incredibly time-consuming without smart use of data. Business intelligence and advanced analytics serve as foundational elements supporting the strategic practices adopted by leading CFOs. Although organizational data is an underutilized asset, it becomes a source of competitive advantage when fully leveraged.

Empowered by accurate data, contemporary CFOs demonstrate heightened proficiency in conducting cost/benefit analyses, executing well-informed investments, and championing strategic initiatives. Incorporating data-driven decision-making significantly alleviates the hazards associated with intuitive or emotion-based choices.

Leading CFOs accord paramount importance to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) skills in data and analytics, positioning them as fundamental cornerstones for propelling organizational improvement. Their active promotion and assimilation of cutting-edge digital platforms, such as Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relation Management systems, not only furnish real-time access to comprehensive business data but also facilitate the optimization of operational processes.


In an age where transformation and innovation are mandated from all fronts, the role of the CFO has undergone a dramatic shift. Developing Chief Financial Officer (CFO) skills and habits that empower them to confront disruption head-on entails a steadfast commitment to ethical leadership, adept relationship-building, proactive opportunity advocacy, fostering team development, and maintaining a vigilant awareness of emerging trends.

Effective CFOs succeed because they embrace innovation and use it to achieve the organization’s financial and business goals. With the right data and technology platforms, top CFOs can navigate future risks with the foresight that few other C-suite members possess. By incorporating ethical practices, fostering strong relationships, identifying opportunities, leading a dedicated team, and staying attuned to future trends, the contemporary CFO assumes the role of a strategic leader in the ever-evolving business world.

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