In this series, Denny Taylor, Managing Consultant at YSC Ltd, will explore the four steps to financial leadership success
By Denny Taylor
In a popular credit card commercial, a Viking asks, “What’s in your wallet?” More thoughtful questions for a rising finance executive or even a budding corporate raider might be: what’s in my wheelhouse? What is my currency in the organization? This self-reflection is poignant given the nebulous, shifting demands of today’s economic landscape. Whether you just want to stay relevant or you are hell bent on climbing the corporate ladder, the role of the finance function is as critical and complex as ever. It is good to have a benchmark to test whether you have the right combination of skills, knowledge and experiences to compete as a leading finance director.
While there is no magical algorithm to success, at YSC Ltd, a global firm of behavioral scientists, we have been collecting information to answer this question. As talent professionals, we have access to industry gurus and a database of over 13,000 international executives in finance and the financial services sector. Through our extensive interviews and research we have come up with a framework which captures the requisite mix of qualities necessary for excellence in senior Finance roles as the office of the CFO becomes even more visible, multi-faceted, and demanding in concert with what pundits and the HBR has acknowledged as a ‘VUCA’ world—volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. [See sidebar.]
Finance has evolved as an internally focused, record-keeping and control entity for reporting commercial transactions to a partner to the business with a hand in setting strategy, optimizing ROI and informing market-facing activities via competitive intelligence. However, as finance departments broadened their remit, the liquidity crisis of 2008 and wave of regulatory reforms brought the need to get back to basics, namely governance and control. One of the more challenging aspects of these changes is an increased responsibility of finance professionals to communicate externally with authority and to a variety of audiences. Globalization and the emphasis on emerging markets are also putting greater emphasis on the ability to operate internationally. As a result, the profile of candidates feeding into CFO roles is broadening as companies look for less traditional, more diverse combinations of skills in line with the pervading economic and regulatory pressure.
What all this means is that the CFO must now not only be a strong functional head, but also a leader amongst executives as well as a driver of change within the business. YSC’s research has isolated four interrelated sets of practices and behaviors required for excellence in finance, indicating that a well-rounded, versatile profile is often best.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, on the blog tomorrow.
Dennis “Denny” Taylor is a certified coach and holds an MA in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a BA from Middlebury College. He is a Managing Consultant at YSC Ltd., a global boutique, where he has spent the last seven years working to unleash the power of senior executives. Prior to his 14 years of consulting, he worked in corporate HR, training and design roles in the finance and publishing sectors.