Many chief financial officers, if not all, undeniably aspire to take on the top job of their organisations one day in the future.
Although this aspiration is not new, this raises two key considerations: the need for finance leaders to stretch their skills and the importance of developing new talent to fill the CFO role when incumbents move to a CEO position.
The EY DNA of the CFO 2023 report found that CFOs will be increasingly chosen for their strategic and inspirational leadership rather than pure finance domain expertise.
According to EY's study, more than two-thirds of Southeast Asian finance leaders said their companies are willing to appoint CFOs with limited finance experience. Businesses are now considering CFOs from business development, investment, analytics, operations management or legal and compliance pathways.
Many respondents consider highly developed emotional intelligence as the top attribute for successful CFOs of the future as required skill sets are also changing. Fifty percent said they are updating the finance career path in the organisation to include the new skills and experiences needed to succeed.
Furthermore, when looking into the development of the next generation of leaders, 64% said they are investing enough time in mentoring aspiring senior finance leaders, compared with 49% of global peers.
As CFOs prepare themselves for the CEO role, respondents said their greatest challenge is finding time to build knowledge and skills through exposure to external expertise and access to thought leadership.
To free up more time for their own professional development opportunities, finance leaders could delegate more responsibilities to the next tier of emerging finance leaders.
For example, CFOs could delegate financial reporting responsibilities to financial controllers. As financial reporting becomes largely automated, some finance roles could be repurposed to support the CFO in partnering with the business.
Despite the challenges of the finance function, there has never been a better time for finance leaders in Southeast Asia to showcase their leadership skills and commercial acumen. Whether acting as a C-suite consensus builder, delivering successful digital transformation or embedding financial insights into business decisions, the CFO is becoming more prominent as an enterprise transformational leader.
By delivering strategic results for their organisations and continuing to mentor future finance leaders, CFOs could find themselves in strong contention for the top job down the track.