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Considering a CFO role?

An interesting poll appeared on Linked in last week :

“In the next 10 years, what will be the most common path to a CEO?”- Chief Financial Officer or Chief Technology Officer?

With 2022 goals firmly at the forefront of individuals minds and with Venari Finance specialising in the Senior Finance market we spent some time delving into some of the core skill sets/experience CFO’s should consider adding to their arsenal when looking to make that move into a CEO role.

CFO's are often overlooked for the chief executive role. An analysis of the FTSE 150 shows that only 17 current CEO's previously held a senior finance/CFO role in their careers, and only 12 of these CEO's were promoted directly from a CFO role (2019 data).

Below are 10 areas to consciously consider developing in advance of taking your first step up into a CEO role:

Chart your internal progression

When the CFO does become the CEO, it is most often an internal promotion, analysis shows nearly 90% of CFO's were named CEO within the same organisation. If you are a CFO looking to become a CEO and considering a move to another company, choose carefully and weigh up the pros and cons of staying the course in your current CFO role.

Develop your skills as a leader

The CEO is the leader of leaders rather than a coordinator of functional experts. Ensure that your direct reports as CFO are of high calibre so you can develop that skillset.

Plan your own succession

Make it easier for the Nominating Committee to realise you from the CFO role by ensuring you have a strong successor(s) within your own team. Recruit people who are as good, if not better than you and certainly ones who are strong in the areas you are not.

Increase your span of control

The best way to show that you have the bandwidth to become CEO is to start to demonstrate this as CFO. Aim to add additional development areas to your scope of responsibility.

Practice humility

The CEO does not have to be the smartest person in the room or know all of the answers. A survey of 2,500 women and men at various levels of leadership across seven countries pointed to humility as one of the top three traits desired as a leader. Work to develop this mindset as CFO.

Sell the Vision

Take opportunities as CFO to sell the vision of the organisation both internally and externally and talk about your own personal values as preparation for doing this as the CEO.


Test and retest your own motivations to becoming the CEO. Why do you want it? How does being CEO match your own sense of purpose?

Get out of the CEO's shadow

The board wants to see you as CFO making contributions in the boardroom to reassure them that you could do this as CEO. This requires careful coordination with the CEO.

Challenge the CFO sterotype

Be aware that there is a broad perception that the CFO is often a brake to the CEO's accelerator. Be prepared to challenge this opinion and show that you have both archetypes within you.

Perform well

Boards are much more likely to promote a well performing CFO, so don't neglect your day job.

With the fallout of the pandemic and subsequent government support tail off, 2022 could see a number of organisations fall into financial difficulties. Research has shown that the CFO has a 71% better chance of being promoted in a period of financial uncertainty and in a more positive light when a organisation is going through a period of M&A activity. The current economic climate means we will be sure to see M&A activity rise as a consequence of organisations who have weathered the storm of COVID well begin to take advantage of others who have not.

Seek out a Mentor

Mentors are potentially invaluable, and if you are being coached by the current CEO for their position you should enlist that person to mentor you. A board member or someone outside your organisation who has recently made the transition successfully may also be a useful mentor.

Understand you will need to have someone else assessing your growth and letting you know where you still appear to have “gaps” in your experience. They will also be useful in identifying your strengths and areas of improvement. One of the key areas you should focus on is blending your finance expertise with operational experience in order to have a chance of taking that step up into the more rounded CEO role.

Should you wish to discuss your career and potentially the next step or would like to be potentially connected to a mentor please feel free to get in touch with John Ramsay at Venari 0141 536 0796


Venari voted Best Legal Services Firm in Scotland in 2021. Amazing achievement here for Adam! We are all so proud of you.



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Quick video from Victoria about coming back into the workplace after having kids....



Contact Adam if you’re getting the dreaded ‘fear’ on a Sunday night. Not only has got amazing opportunities at the moment, he can also offer impartial advice.