A recent Deloitte sponsored article in the Wall Street Journal covered the evolution of the CFO position and the ensuing revised search criteria companies employ when searching for qualified candidates. In the article, they speak with chairman of executive recruiting at Crist/Kolder Associates, Peter Crist. What Crist had to say expanded on a small section of the CFO landscape I touched on in recent weeks. His views certainly echo that of a large amount of the boardroom community.
Crist notes that trends in varying sectors of the industry brought us to this point in the field’s evolution. In short, the role of a CFO is changing. These changes helped prompt several CFOs to take early exits or retirements, often in their late 50s rather than the norm in their early 60s.
A factor in the evolution is one that I covered in my article, shareholder activism. Shareholder activism is a driving factor in a growing number of CFOs stepping away. Even CFOs capable of weathering shareholder activist storms may find themselves suddenly under qualified for certain public companies because of revised strategies from the board–especially with publically traded companies. This increased involvement from the board certainly can be helpful when executed properly. However, if mismanaged the “involved board” approach could drive a qualified CFO out the door.
Another interesting point Crist mentioned was that of the roughly 670 Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies Crist/Kolder Associates surveyed found that turnover at the position is at about 15 percent. A key reason for the high turnover is due to the aforementioned early retirement. Crist notes that the increased expectations, focusing on strategy and operations on an already taxing position, have countless CFOs pondering if it is more beneficial to simply cash in and enjoy an early retirement.
Granted, these findings and results only come from one professional and their company. However, evidence suggests that the evolution will remain for at least some time. Regardless if you agree with the findings or not, Crist’s findings are worth pondering for your own job and/or company.