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Key Capabilities for the Modern CFO

In today’s talent marketplace, we have seen a significant shift in demand towards the “Modern CFO”.  The CFO role has evolved towards a forward-looking strategic business partner who oversees a broad functional range of responsibilities and has strong relationships across the organization.  Gone are the days of CFOs as gatekeepers in a back-office function. The Modern CFO asks every day, “what can I do to support the business?” and “how can we best leverage our capital for future growth?” Given the current global uncertainty, now is a critical time for CFOs to be courageous and look ahead of the curve for new opportunities to unlock business value. Below are “must have” capabilities we have observed in Modern CFOs.

Jack Of All Trades

The Modern CFO “knows enough to be dangerous” in many areas of the organization.  They understand the business issues that cross functional peers face and how they can be a strategic partner in supporting key initiatives.  It is critical for finance leaders to insert themselves into the business as the “voice of reason” when needed.  CFOs are evolving towards generalist C-suite leaders focused on driving transformations within and outside of finance.  

Soft Skills

While financial capabilities such as accounting and FP&A are table stakes for CFOs, soft skills truly differentiate the Modern CFO.  Communication and empathy capabilities are in high demand as organizations continue to deal with the unexpected.  Best-in-class CFOs have expanded beyond technical skills to develop people-oriented competencies.  The Modern CFO can inspire, mentor and motivate people to achieve the mission critical objectives.


If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that CFOs must scenario plan for a changing future.  In a crisis, all eyes are on CFOs, and they need to be decisive in the face of incomplete information.   The Modern CFO moves at a lightning pace to strategize how best to balance short term concerns with long term mission critical objectives. Top CFOs have shifted from reporting the past to embracing an unknown future and leading transformation.  


With digital dashboards widely availability across organizations, the Modern CFO ensures the executive team understands the strategic implications of the data.  Top CFOs communicate “the why” behind the data and incorporate their findings to contextualize financial results and shape future strategic initiatives.  The Modern CFO partners closely with IT leaders to create a “decision-ready” organization with robust data quality and accessibility.  

Digital Fluency

Today, the CFO must be a key player in developing and executing digital transformations across the organization. More and more companies are leveraging technology to automate processes, reduce risk and create new innovative business models. It is critical for CFOs to be the driver of these digital initiatives to fully capture the return on investment.  

As the largest executive search firm specializing in consumer and retail sectors, CFOs in our network are uniquely situated to drive transformation.  With a sustained shift in consumer behavior towards e-commerce, there are many opportunities to invest in omni-channel customer experiences that differentiate their brands.  At the same time, consumer/retail CFOs face global supply chain volatility and inflation challenges that require significant risk management.  Modern CFOs are best positioned to be the “game changers” that their organizations need to thrive in these uncertain times.

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