3 Critical Skills an Accountant Needs to Become a CFO

If you’re a CPA with ambitions to become a CFO, the most urgent question becomes, “What’s the path? And how do I get on it?”

In recent years it’s often appeared that angling for the CFO position is easier when coming from the finance side. And in some ways it’s true – for instance, someone in an FP&A role may have had more experience in strategic analysis and forecasting than a CPA. But a CPA can still make the transition by honing in on specific skill sets.

So what skills does a CPA need to acquire to become a CFO?

#1 Financial modeling

A CFO needs to be able to process financial data and build financial models in a way that can answer vital business questions. A valuation model, for example, answers the question, “How much is this company worth?” A cash flow forecasting model will answer the question, “How much cash will we have X weeks out?”

Why is this important? The CFO position involves posing and answering a series of questions based on financial models, and making a series of decisions based on those answers. In short, modeling is critical to this long-term decision-making process.

#2 Budgeting and Forecasting

A company has a limited amount of resources and has to distribute them to best achieve their goals of growth and profit. Budgeting is a unique skill set that requires you to build trust with stakeholders, understand various departments’ needs, and evaluate the ROI on certain expenditures.

Forecasting is a monthly exercise. Are we running hot or cold on expenses? Do we want to evaluate any trade-offs or strategic pivots? How is revenue looking for the year and what does that mean for our expansion investments? This ongoing process is different from annual budgeting, but no less vital.

Why is this important? Though these two skills have synergies with modeling, they mostly hinge on your ability to interact with the broader business in a productive manner – table stakes for a CFO.

#3 Analysis of financial and operational information

Your analytical skills and insights are the most valuable contributions you provide as CFO for the business. It’s your job to pull financial information out of data, analyze it, and reframe it in ways that help your people do their jobs better.

Why is this important? You may not be deep in the weeds on day-to-day analysis, but you’d better be able to understand these skills, coach your team, and lead analysis processes.

What’s next?

If you don’t have these skills, acquire them! Any number of major universities offer continuing education classes. LinkedIn Learning has courses you can hop in on, and if you’re a self-starter, there are reams of information just floating around the Internet. You should also let your boss know that you’re interested in partnering with Finance on any available projects.

Get your “reps” in, and you can absolutely craft your own path!

Daniel Fletcher
CFO, Planful

About Gappify

Gappify, founded in 2016, is a cloud-based provider of accrual automation solutions for mid-market and enterprise accounting teams. The company is headquartered in New York City, with offices in Berkeley, California, Washington DC, and Manila, Philippines.

Its team consists of accountants and CPA’s from Big Four accounting firms and software innovators. Gappify is also supported by strategic advisors from some of the world’s most recognized technology companies and is affiliated with the top companies & accounting organizations.

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