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Transitioning from CA(SA) to CFO

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Chartered accountants are the feedstock for corporate leadership, so get ready for the journey.

For a CA(SA) to climb the ladder to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) level and be successful, it is important to understand the journey and know what will be expected of you. In addition to competency, other skills such as interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and business intelligence are critical success indicators.

In my experience as an Executive Coach, it is equally important to realise that the different roles have different expectations. People tend to speak only about some expectations and you are often left to feel your way through the maze. So what is the difference between the role of a CA(SA) and that of a CFO?

Role of a CA(SA) and a CFO

Chartered accountants are qualified professionals who are contracted by organisations, businesses or private clients to audit accounts, provide financial advice and undertake account administration.

The CFO provides both operational and strategic support to the organisation. The CFO supervises the financial department and is the chief financial representative for the business or organisation. The CFO works together with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on the strategic vision of the business and directly assists the Chief Operating Officer (COO) on all strategic matters regarding budget management,

cost benefit analysis, forecasting needs, compliance with all contracts, as well as developing policies and procedures to guard against internal and external

fraudulent activities.

The difference between the roles

The role of a CA(SA) within business is functional and operational. The role of a CFO is more strategic in nature. For this reason, CFOs need to have good interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence and business acumen. These skills are crucial for the

success of the business, as the CFO connects with stakeholders, the executive team, project leaders and other staff members. The CFO acts as a trusted advisor to the executive leadership team, working as a sounding board when key decisions are to be made.

Career development

On the journey towards becoming a CA(SA) or a CFO it is important to identify a mentor who can show you the ropes. Although it is never too late to be mentored, the earlier you start, the quicker your career can advance.

Coaching can also help you along this journey. A coach is someone who can encourage and support you as you achieve your goal. There are many companies

these days that provide internal coaching. The value of having an external coach, someone who is outside of the business or system, is to help you to stay objective.

The transition to CFO

Coaching and mentoring can be invaluable in helping you transition into the role of a CFO, even though you may be highly competent in your area of expertise. As expectations of the finance function continue to evolve, many CFOs are finding that they are being called to assume greater leadership and responsibility to secure financial stability and influence over business strategy, especially in these times of

economic and global challenge. There is an increasing trend in the number of CEO positions being filled by former CFOs. Opportunities abound for CAs(SA) to become CFOs and eventually CEOs.

Become clear about where you are and where you want to be. Give thought, consideration and time to preparing yourself for the transition from CA to CFO,

as a stepping stone to CEO. Grasp every opportunity to venture out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to situations and challenges that will prepare you for a corporate leadership role. ❐

Author: Nickolette Assy, M.Phil. (Coaching) (USB), i-Coach, MDX, is an Executive Coach.