The emergence of the role of Deputy CFO in recent years is a direct result of the ongoing evolution of the Chief Financial Officer’s role – the latter now being tasked with the broader demands of being a strategic business partner to the CEO and executive leadership team.
As CFOs become “wedded at the hip” to their CEO and senior line management colleagues, they have found themselves time challenged in performing the more traditional aspects of the CFO role – that being financial reporting & control, FP&A, working capital management and the ongoing mentorship and development of their financial management team.
To meet this challenge and create a clear path for CFO succession, more organisations are appointing a Deputy CFO to relieve the CFO of their “day job” responsibilities and free them up to take on the more strategic and commercial aspects of their evolving mandate.
Consequently, the role of Deputy CFO typically has more of a technical bias to its functional responsibilities, primarily servicing internal stakeholders.
However, this technical focus can represent a “two-edged sword” for aspiring CFOs.
On the positive side: this role is the perfect platform for a Financial Controller, Head of FP&A/Treasury/Tax to leverage their current skill set whilst assuming a broader managerial role and building their relationship capital across the business.
On the negative side: unless the role is properly structured, it can lack the commercial content required for the role of CFO.
To overcome this lack of perceived commercial competence, a number of organisations are using the role of Deputy CFO as a “bridging” appointment through which they can introduce proven operational/commercial finance leaders from Divisions or externally, to the CFO succession plan.
There is “no one size fits all” solution to the creation of a Deputy CFO role. What is proving more important is the requirement to fill the emerging financial leadership vacuum within organisations as CFOs continue to morph and develop into broader strategic business partners.
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