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Norman Broadbent Plc

Wolf in Sheep’s clothing?

According to a survey of 2,500 CFOs by Leadership Advisors, Norman Broadbent Plc (LON:NBB), over 60% saw their next C-Suite move upwards and into a CEO role. The survey, by leading UK listed Professional Services firm The Norman Broadbent Group, covered UK listed and large privately owned businesses. 

The report’s author, Angela Hickmore, said; “With most CFOs regularly deputising for the CEO, this shift in ambition should not be surprising. After all the role of the CFO has become ever more important and moved beyond pure finance.”

So why this “shift in ambition?”

Some of the answers lie in the changing role of the CFO. No longer purely responsible for the finance function, over 93% of the CFOs surveyed had responsibility for other areas in the business. These included Technology and Procurement (40%) as well as Supply Chain and HR up on previous years (+up 11% on 2018)

Given the huge importance of technology to most businesses, the ownership of Technology is a business-critical role and it is significant that this ownership is increasingly allocated to many CFOs. This can be linked with what many CFOs highlighted as the biggest challenge they face today – the need for immediate and meaningful data to drive/inform business decisions. Technological changes and Cyber Security were tied joint third in this list, highlighting just how critical Data and Technology are to businesses. Allocating overall responsibility for Data and technology to one person reduces the risk of departments operating at cross purposes with one another; and ensures the technology serves the commercial requirements of the business.

Norman Broadbent Group’s Angela Hickmore argues that this trend is reflected when hiring CFOs. “Today’s CEO doesn’t want a one-dimensional number cruncher. They want a business adviser – one that can provide insight and leadership into decision making which may fundamentally alter the course of the business.”

In 2019, almost 41% of all assignments handled by Norman Broadbent’s CFO Practice were due to a CEO wanting to swap out their current CFO for a more commercial and business-orientated business partner. 2019 also saw a continuing trend for organisations looking outside of sector and taking a more holistic approach, in order to source candidates with the ideal blend of attributes.

CFOs themselves are aware of this new requirement, with 26% of respondents identifying ‘communication and influencing skills’ as the most important skill they could have, followed by broad business acumen (23%) and leadership skills (21%). Financial skills trailed in 4th place with only 17% of respondents feeling it was the most important skill for a CFO. The desire for broader business skills does also not stop with the CFO but is actually mirrored within their teams. 25% of those surveyed identifying ‘business partnering’ as a key skillset they are seeking to develop within their finance function.

The second biggest challenge facing the CFO community is that of a continuous drive to save costs though operating efficiencies. Brexit, interestingly, falls to joint 3rd (along with technological concerns) with a mere 10% of respondents considering it their ‘biggest’ challenge. This is despite that fact that 55% of those surveyed felt that Brexit will result in a decrease of business opportunity over the next two years – although 55% also felt that Brexit had had ‘no’ impact on their spending over the last two years. 60% also describe themselves as having a ‘cautious’ attitude to risk in the current trading environment.

Angela Hickmore of Norman Broadbent concludes:

‘We have been working with CEOs for over 40 years in helping them appoint their CFO. Many things have changed over this time. No longer do organisations want a CFO who is principally a well-qualified technical accountant. They want a business professional who can bud a team to partner with the business and influence across many dimensions.  The new CFO is a business professional with strong leadership and communication skills and he/she is also potentially succession planning for the CEO role.’

Further information:

Norman Broadbent Group is a leading London listed Professional Services firm offering a diversified portfolio of integrated Leadership Acquisition & Advisory Services (Board & Leadership Search, Senior Interim Management, Research & Insight, Leadership Consulting & Assessment, and executive level Talent Solutions)

Our 40 year history has made us a trusted corporate advisor and given us insight into how businesses work, the variety of needs they have and the challenges they face. Every business challenge is unique and the services we offer are tailored to the needs of each client, offering them a bespoke solution to complex challenges.

Angela Hickmore / Norman Broadbent Group

Angela.hickmore@normanbroadbent.com / 07483 015 584

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Disclaimer: Statements in this article should not be considered investment advice, which is best sought directly from a qualified professional.