So what really makes an outstanding Finance Director in today’s climate?

Today’s outstanding FD has emerged as a much more rounded, commercial business leader than his or her counterpart of ten or twenty years ago. A great communicator, the modern FD can win the trust of colleagues across the business and he/she is a partner to the CEO.

Very often the modern FD is a CEO-in-waiting.

Closer to the customer than most would expect, they really understand what drives wealth creation, where the money is made and they are always planning ahead, more than they are looking back.

Today’s outstanding FD will be more optimistic and find opportunities for growth. After careful consideration of the facts and assessment of the risks he/she will make brave decisions and place some well calculated bets.

The FD and The CEO: What makes this relationship great?

Whilst there is no magic formula for having a strong relationship between the FD and CEO, the bedrock for this crucial relationship is that it must be based on respect and trust.

The CEO and FD must speak with ‘one voice’ and present a united front, especially in a challenging economy.

The outstanding FD recognises that there is a balancing act they have to play between forming a partnership with the CEO and supporting him or her – against being the one who has to be prepared to stand up and challenge when required, often when no-one else will.

An FD needs to be on top of the options and in this way he/she will be able to help the CEO decide where the business should place their well calculated bets.

An FD is expected to be the one who will stand up to and challenge the CEO, while at the same time supporting him or her and the board. In this key relationship, it is important that disagreements and challenges are discussed in private and that publicly the CEO and FD present the same united front.

It appears that a new breed of FD has emerged with many appearing to be a CEO-in-waiting. Whilst they may have similar skills to the CEO, the two roles need to have different and complementary personalities at any one time for the relationship to work best. Put simply, each should offer the other something they do not already have.

A high percentage of FD’s think that they can do the CEO’s job, however the likelihood is that it’s the motivational leadership side that they don’t have that is the missing ingredient.

Facing challenges

An outstanding FD is just as happy talking about their challenges as well as their mistakes.

They are not the ‘finished product’, if they have not been through the difficult and sometimes turbulent times. ‘Experience of having weathered storms’ are often rated as being more important than having an MBA, technical or sector experience.

There’s a clear realisation of the need to embrace risk.

A pragmatic attitude to risk is also a crucial attribute of today’s outstanding FD. They tend to be more bullish than might typically be expected and almost without exception they put planning for growth as their number one key strategic priority. The biggest risk of all, would be to do nothing.

What are the top 10 key attributes of an outstanding FD? 
  1. Act as the CEO’s Right Hand: To Support & Challenge
  2. Capitalise the company & preserve financial strength
  3. Monitor, measure & continually propose improvements
  4. Highly effective communicator: Board, Team & Stakeholders
  5. Robust command of business fundamentals & financials
  6. Ability to build strong relationships with the Board and other Operational Heads
  7. Resilience: Stand up to challenges and challengers
  8. Trusted by the financial community, respected by management for understanding the wider context the company is operating in’
  9. Effective risk analysis and management
  10. Strong strategic awareness and commerciality
What are the top 10 warning signs of a POOR Finance Director?
  1. Poor financial reports
  2. Loss of confidence from the team
  3. Lack of attention to detail
  4. Late reporting & poor forecasts
  5. Lack of support from CEO
  6. Lack of engagement with the Exec Team
  7. Weakness standing up to CEO / Chair
  8. Poor Credit Management
  9. Lack of gravitas
  10. Not working enough hours or working excessive hours

King Recruit is a Management & Executive Recruitment proposition based in Exeter.

For further information about our current outstanding Finance Directors, please contact MD Helen Plumridge (in confidence): M: 07808 537696