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A Report on Shifting CFO Responsibilities

Faster than a speeding bullet in risk calculations, stronger than a locomotive in team building, and capable of leading tall transformations in a single fiscal year, CFOs are doing more than ever. We asked 600 of them to share what’s next for one of the most important roles in the C-suite.

Chief Financial Officers are organizations’ (often unsung) superheroes. They are masters at managing risks and planning for the “what if” moments. They are the architects of business resilience and growth. They have taken on new responsibilities in environmental, social, and governance matters; mergers and acquisitions; and corporate strategy, to name a few.  

And they are doing more than ever.  

Our global survey of nearly 600 CFOs found that 82% say their role has significantly grown in the past five years.  

The good news? These added responsibilities haven’t drained CFOs. They continue to be energized by the role, and most of them report their work-life balance is good.  

The bad news? These additional responsibilities don’t necessarily make CFOs “must-see” candidates for future CEO positions—an aspiration 60% of survey respondents share. However, CFOs say limited networking and visibility are their biggest hurdles to the chief executive role.  

Read on for a closer look at how CFOs are shaping the future, sourcing talent, and navigating career aspirations, and what it means for your organization. 

Survey Demographics

CFO profile


Base: 581 interviews with group CFOs

Company Profile

Main activity

CFO Survey: Five Key Findings

Finding 1 - Evolving CFO Role

Finding 1 - Evolving CFO Role

The CFO role is bigger than ever before, with 82% noting that they have taken on additional responsibilities, including environmental, social and governance (ESG),… Read more

Finding 2 - Work-life Balance

Finding 2 - Work-life Balance

Only one-fifth of CFOs say their work-life balance is poor. Read more

Finding 3 - Attracting Finance Talent

Finding 3 - Attracting Finance Talent

Two-fifths of CFOs say it’s harder to attract top financial talent today than it was two years ago. Read more

Finding 4 - CFO Career Motivations

Finding 4 - CFO Career Motivations

Forty-three percent of CFOs are being approached for new opportunities more often, but their main motivations for considering a new role aren’t driven by… Read more

Finding 5 - From CFO to CEO

Finding 5 - From CFO to CEO

Most CFOs aspire to be CEOs—either right now or in the future. But a few steps may remain to get there. Read more

This Looks Like a Job for the CFO

CFOs are not just meeting but embracing new demands beyond their core functions, with 8 in 10 experiencing significant growth in their roles over the past five years. They are going beyond their technical expertise, truly evolving into indispensable “superheroes.” As one CFO put it, “CFO is not a finance role. It is a strategic business role whose mandate is finance. CFOs should continue to be seen as a full partner to revenue-generating business lines and used as a counterpoint to ensure the right level of challenge, investment, and productivity is achieved to maximize long-term business strategy and financial outcomes.” 

But every superhero has a kryptonite. For some CFOs, it may be stagnancy. CFOs are clear about their goals—for many, the move to CEO is imminent, with only a few steps remaining until they reach their next career destination. For other CFOs, it may be that continually adding new responsibilities will eventually become too much to bear alone. In these instances, companies must continue to build and develop a strong finance team and find others in the C-suite who can help to shoulder the load. “As the responsibilities have broadened, often it should be the CFO who best understands the risks and should be the most front-footed. That requires others around the table to adapt their role,” the CFO of a real estate company explained. 

Whether they continue to be CFOs or have their sights set on the CEO or a board role, Chief Financial Officers are a critical piece of safeguarding organizations’ futures. “CFO fundamentals are often not talked about—fiduciary duties, legal exposure, hardcore controls, fraud prevention, transparency, facts versus stories,” a CFO of a Healthcare/Pharmaceuticals company explained. “These create the largest challenges inside organizations, and a CFO is not there to make friends, but to report and protect honestly.”  

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