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CFO & Audit Chair

New Global Survey from Egon Zehnder Reveals the CFO Role is Bigger Than Ever, “Super CFOs” Continue to Evolve Beyond Finance, Aspire to be CEO

Survey of nearly 600 CFOs shows a major shift in CFO perspectives on business priorities and leadership dynamics - and demonstrates aspirations to land the role of CEO

ZURICH – March 7, 2024 – Egon Zehnder, the world’s preeminent leadership advisory firm, today announced the results of a study that surveyed 581 CFOs worldwide to capture how the role of the chief financial officer has shifted over the past five years. The findings demonstrate a major evolution that has “Super CFOs” tackling new challenges, addressing new priorities, and aspiring even more for the CEO role. 

Of the nearly 600 CFOs studied, 82% reported that their role has grown significantly, with the vast majority of CFOs citing how new complexities across environmental, social, and governance matters, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate strategy are driving sweeping change - and opportunity - within their role.

“Our study reveals a momentous evolution with ‘Super CFOs’ not just reacting to the changing business environment, but in fact driving it,” said Arun Dhingra, Global Head of Egon Zehnder’s CFO & Audit Chair Practice. “Through my work, I’ve witnessed this transformative era firsthand, and our CFO study reaffirms the reality that the complexities of the CFO role have propelled these leaders to the forefront of their organizations due to the profound shift in their priorities and substantial growth in their role.”

Guiding the Business: 82% of CFOs report they have taken on new responsibilities that were not part of their remit just five years ago

As business dynamics have changed over the past five years, so too has the nature of the CFO’s workload. When asked what new responsibilities have been added to their plate, CFOs ranked ESG, M&A, and corporate strategy as the top three – signaling not only a reaction to shifting industry and market priorities but new reliance upon CFOs as strategic partners to the CEO and the board. This drastic increase in scope is inspiring CFOs to consider their roster of priorities and what could be excluded from their remit in favor of more pressing tasks. As their mandates expand, nearly half (47%) of CFOs report needing to allocate more time to business strategy to meet the new expectations demanded from them.

Looking to the future, the trend of increased responsibilities is expected to continue. When asked about the competencies that will matter most over the next five years, CFOs ranked driving change, shaping strategy, and developing talent as the most important. In particular, female CFOs were adamant about driving change—57% named this the key competency compared to 40% of male CFOs.

Leading their People: Over 40% of CFOs say it is harder to attract top financial talent today compared to two years ago 

While CFOs would like to allocate additional time to strategy and talent development, CFOs view finding talent and IT as least central to the future remit of the role. Two-fifths of CFOs agree that it’s harder to attract top financial talent today than it was two years ago. 

Over half of CFOs surveyed are ensuring they’re building and developing the right bench by employing the following strategies – more open and honest feedback to the team, rotating top talent throughout various financial roles, and targeted development programs. CFOs largely agree the top two team members they rely on the most are the Head of FP&A and the Controller/CAO. For finance professionals aspiring to become a CFO, when reflecting on their first CFO role, respondents identified board interaction, external credibility with investors, and co-leadership of the organization with the CEO as key areas that required the most growth.

Managing their Careers: 62% of CFOs want to be chief executives at some point in their career, with 7 in 10 reporting they feel prepared to take on the role now

CFO sentiments are also shifting and expanding when it comes to personal career aspirations. While an expanded, more multifunctional CFO role may help them seize those new opportunities – nearly half say networking and visibility is a major barrier to becoming CEO. What’s more, 44% of CFOs are being approached more often for opportunities, a sign that the significant level of CFO departures seen in 2023 is not slowing down. Among CFOs who reported being approached the most, recruitment outreach is especially strong for female CFOs – women reported being reached out to more often (17%) when compared to men (12%), a sign that organizations are continuing to prioritize gender diversity within the C-Suite.

With growing competition for CFO talent, 60% of respondents say they value a high-quality executive team as well as growth prospects (for 45% of respondents) when considering whether to pursue a new opportunity. The focus on whom they’ll work with, over company valuation and revenue, signals that companies that are more intentional about executive development are better positioned to attract top talent than those that aren’t.

“Maintaining the role of corporate ‘Superhero’ is no easy feat,” said James Stark, lead author of the Super CFO Survey and consultant in the CFO & Audit Chair Practice at Egon Zehnder. “As signs point to the CFO role continuing to grow in complexity, financial leaders will need to keep growing their leadership skills to drive success in their current role – and to help them reach the next step in their career trajectory. From talent development to leading their organization's ESG initiatives, the role of the CFO today is a central figure in charting sustainable growth and ensuring organizational resilience in any industry.”

For more information on Egon Zehnder’s services and the study cited in this press release, please visit

About Egon Zehnder 

Egon Zehnder is the world’s preeminent leadership advisory firm, inspiring leaders to navigate complex questions with human answers. Our 600 consultants across 65 offices and 36 countries are former industry and functional leaders who collaborate seamlessly to deliver the full power of the Firm to every client, every time. We believe that together we can transform people, organizations and the world through leadership. For more information, visit and follow us on LinkedIn and X.

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