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Global Survey Shows Financial Leaders Becoming Drivers of Change

Key survey findings: (Source: Global Insights CFO & Financial Leadership Barometer)

  • Six out of 10 surveyed organisations are currently recruiting, with two out of three experiencing difficulties finding the right people.
  • 75% of financial leaders around the world are happy in their job. 
  • 43.1% of respondents see themselves in the same position with a larger remit in two years.
  • 61.1% of global financial leaders consider cost optimisation as their main priority, followed by process optimisation (59.6%).
  • 85% of financial leaders around the world are willing to move or commute for work

Thursday, 27 November, 2014: A newly released study conducted by leading recruitment company Michael Page highlights the evolving role of senior finance professionals in leading change within their organisations. Among other key findings, the survey also reveals that six out of 10 are currently recruiting, especially in financial control & accounting and financial planning & analysis. However, two out of three are experiencing difficulties in finding the right people.

Four out of five financial leaders envisage significant levels of change, primarily in the areas of policy implementation (50.0%) and software implementation (47.0%). The findings also show that chief finance officers (CFOs) are adding new skills and responsibilities, such as HR and IT, to an already challenging remit.

“The survey discloses the challenges, motivations and ambitions of CFOs and other senior financial leaders around the world,” says Andrew Norton, Regional Managing Director, Michael Page South East Asia. “We wanted to take an objective look at the views of financial leaders around the world. What changes are they planning for their department? What is their recruitment strategy and what are their personal career ambitions?”

This expansion of the financial leader’s role is accompanied by high levels of job satisfaction: 75% of financial leaders report feeling happy in their current role. The post of CFO is now increasingly regarded as an ambition in its own right, rather than as another rung on the career ladder to becoming CEO. Only 1.7% of respondents see themselves becoming CEO or MD within the next two years, while 43.1% envisage being in the same position with a broader remit in two years’ time.

“We are seeing an interesting trend in the emergence of the CFO position escalating in importance,” says Norton. “What was originally a stepping stone position to the role of CEO, the position of CFO is now considered a career ambition in its own right for ambitious finance professionals.”

The main priorities of financial leaders around the world remain consistent with findings from the 2012 report, with cost optimisation ranking as the highest according to 61.1% of survey respondents followed by process optimisation according to 59.6%. However, uncertainties in international financial markets have influenced respondents, with 48.2% specifying cash and liquidity management as a top company priority.

“As the CFO position becomes more of a leading role in businesses around the world, the role in itself must evolve in order to keep up,” says Norton. “The report findings suggest the modern CFO must combine traditional qualities with new responsibilities. Financial leaders are now required to act as change leaders and take on a more strategic role, rather than just the traditional finance dominated requirements,” he adds.

Combined with their expectations of having satisfying, well paid work, 85% of financial leaders around the world are willing to move or commute for work. 41.2% said they were willing to move to another country, while 37.2% said they were willing to move to another continent. Younger financial leaders who are ambitious to climb the career ladder are much more flexible, with 92% of leaders under the age of 35 being ready to move or commute.

“With free trade reducing barriers for travel, this may be a factor in some of the willingness by professionals to move and the areas of preference for expats in the region, particularly within Singapore compared to other countries,” says Norton.

From May to June 2014, financial leaders around the world were invited to participate in an online survey for Michael Page’s CFO & Financial Leadership Barometer. The study polled the views of financial decision makers in 70 countries worldwide and collated 2,847 responses from chief finance officers and other financial leaders in a range of industries and sectors.

The responses were independently analysed and, where applicable, comparisons were drawn with findings of the previous survey, in 2012. To view the full report, visit the Michael Page News & Research Centre.