The New Talent Mandate for CFOs

Many CFOs agree that finding qualified talent to join their team is their biggest constraint on growth, so investing in human capital is more important now than ever.

The role of the CFO is undergoing a transformation at most organizations today: Gone are the days when the finance function existed as a backward-facing, number crunching silo. In its place is a vision of the CFO as a future-oriented, cross-functional leader capable of spearheading strategic planning to create better business value.

In order to live up to that vision, however, many CFOs will need to bolster their roster of finance talent — no easy task in today's ultra-competitive job market. Whether that means instituting new training programs, changing hiring requirements to expand the roster of potential candidates or working with a strategic partner to source for their talent needs, foresightful CFOs are already taking steps to address the existing talent gap in finance.

If you're looking to enhance your organization's finance function and ensure that you're ready to take on the critical business challenges of tomorrow, that journey begins with human capital. In this article, we'll assess the talent landscape in finance today, forecast where it's going tomorrow and break out what savvy CFOs can do to stay on top.  

Today's Talent Mandate for CFOs

Today, CFOs are expected to collaborate and work proactively with cross-functional stakeholders from a variety of business areas. They're expected to be drivers of digital transformation, to be able to not only capture non-financial data but leverage it as a source of business value — indeed, their ability to do so is increasingly viewed as an important metric for assessing CFO performance.

All of these new expectations — which entail greater scope, and come with unprecedented opportunity to directly shape business outcomes — should be exciting for CFOs. But they also bring with them a new mandate for talent, as future-oriented CFOs scramble to ensure they have staff on hand with the skills necessary to drive their businesses forward.

Given the already shallow pool of qualified finance talent, that mandate possesses distinctive challenges. Let's look at a few areas where the talent gap is going to be most acutely felt.

Existing Pain-Points Are Only Going to Intensify

According to the CFOs’ Pathway to Growth Study — a study of more than 300 CFOs conducted by Tatum in conjunction with the CFO Leadership Council — CFOs across all industries acknowledge that critical gaps exist in the available pool of finance talent. More specifically, they pinpointed the following skill areas as being both the most in demand, and the most difficult to staff for:

  • Forecasting, planning and analysis (48 percent)
  • Managing the automation of routine accounting and finance activities (48 percent)
  • Analytical skills to support the use of new technology (32 percent)

But the bad news for CFOs is that finding qualified talent equipped with these skills isn't about to become any easier. Rather, the opposite seems more likely: Competition for top talent, already fierce, is only going to get fiercer.

Looking Ahead: Competition for Finance Talent Through 2026

How fierce? Let's dig into today's numbers, and look at some U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts for tomorrow, to find out.

Across the board, the BLS predicts that demand for most essential finance roles is going to increase. And, in fact, for finance roles like Finance Managers the rate of growth (19 percent) is expected to significantly outstrip the national average. During the same period, demand for lower-level finance roles like Budget Analysts are also  expected to steadily grow, albeit at a less dramatic, seven percent clip.

Consider that growth in the context of today's record-low unemployment levels — for auditors, accountants and investment professionals, for instance, that number hovers around two percent — and it's clear that any CFO with long-term plans for success should have a recruiting and hiring strategy near the top of their agenda.

For forward-looking CFOs, the question is simply: where will the talent needed to fill these roles come from?

Some organizations will surely be tempted to simply change the definition of what qualifies as a "qualified" candidate — for instance, by opening up roles to recent college graduates or other applicants lacking significant professional experience, and offer them on-the-job training. Obviously, there are risks and possible rewards to such an approach.

Other organizations may opt to expand their talent searches to encompass a much wider geographic area — indeed, given the acute talent shortage in finance, this will likely become the default practice at many organizations.

Ultimately, while there's no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to the talent crisis in finance, CFOs must get started today if they want their businesses to be able to take on the challenges of tomorrow.

Is your business feeling the impact of the finance talent gap? If so, it can be hard to live up to the new strategic imperatives that are embodied by today's best-in-class CFOs. Contact Tatum today to learn more about our talent solutions — and all of the ways we can help drive your business forward.