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How to Earn Big as a CFO?


Joe Berchtold, Highest Paid CFO in 2023

Joe Berchtold, the President and CFO of Live Nation Entertainment, earned an impressive $52.4 million in 2023, making him the highest-paid CFO in the United States.


His significant role at Live Nation has been crucial in shaping the company's strategy and financial planning, thanks to his extensive experience in the entertainment industry and financial management. Aspiring individuals may wonder how they can achieve similar heights and earn big as a CFO.


CFO Responsibilities


A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a high-ranking role that collaborates with the CEO and other leaders to make sure a company succeeds. CFOs need strong finance and accounting skills, along with years of experience, to find ways to enhance the organization's financial well-being. 


The CFO may work with the finance and accounting team to predict the effects of different operational decisions.


In their role, CFOs typically:


  • Meet with departments like accounting, customer service, and finance.

  • Resolve accounting and finance problems.

  • Communicate with clients, investors, company leaders, and stakeholders.

  • Manage cash flow and plan for financial needs.

  • Supervise and offer suggestions for the financial department.

  • Assist with risk management, audits, and research.

  • Identify investment and financial planning opportunities.

  • Collaborate with other executives and department heads on budget creation and management.

  • Prepare quarterly and annual tax filings.

  • Attend board meetings and provide detailed financial reports and recommendations to company leadership.


Qualifications of a CFO


To become a CFO, you need to meet specific qualifications, such as:


Education

For this executive role, candidates are usually expected to have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or a related field. These degree programs include coursework that helps students develop analytical skills and learn financial analysis methods and software.


Some companies may prefer or require candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). This program typically takes two years to complete and can be pursued while working full- or part-time. Some MBA programs may also require candidates to have prior work experience.


Training

To prepare for this role, individuals typically undergo a combination of formal education and on-the-job training in lower-level positions. Many top executives, such as CFOs, are often promoted from within the organization after gaining significant experience in financial management roles. Aspiring CFOs may start as accountants or financial analysts before moving into management positions. Some companies offer formal management training programs to prepare financial professionals for leadership roles.


Certifications and Licenses for CFOs

While not always mandatory for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), many choose to pursue certifications or licenses to showcase their dedication and expertise. Consider the following options:


  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Certification

Provided by the CFA Institute, this certification covers essential concepts in investment analysis and portfolio management. It builds a strong foundation by integrating theory, industry practices, and professional standards.


  • Certified Treasury Professional (CTP)

This certification highlights expertise in treasury management, showcasing proficiency in cash processing, reconciliation, and financial statement analysis.


  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

CPA licensure requirements vary by state, but all candidates must complete 150 postsecondary study hours, including some graduate-level coursework. After meeting these requirements, candidates must pass four exams within 18 months to obtain their CPA license, which they then maintain through ongoing education.


Skills

Successful CFOs possess various skills essential for their executive roles. These skills are:


  • Communication Skills

CFOs need clear and persuasive communication abilities, both in speaking and writing. They should effectively discuss financial strategies with executives, guide financial department employees, and convey policies or decisions to internal and external stakeholders.


  • Leadership Skills

This involves delegation, motivation, honesty, and integrity. CFOs identify financial strategies, delegate tasks to their team, inspire them to achieve goals efficiently, and maintain honesty and integrity in managing an organization's finances.


  • Problem-Solving Skills

CFOs tackle financial issues within an organization, requiring analytical, research, creative, and decision-making skills.


  • Time-Management Skills

As CFOs often work independently, strong time-management skills are crucial. They must efficiently achieve daily, weekly, and monthly goals without getting sidetracked by less critical tasks.


  • Technical Skills

CFOs acquire hard skills through formal education or certification programs, including expertise in accounting, budgeting, and forecasting.


Tips to Earn Big as a CFO


How can ambitious CFOs create a successful career path and become highly valued in the market? What steps should they take to channel their motivation and transformational enthusiasm into a career that provides the right mix of experiences and life lessons needed for any CFO role?


Be Proficient in Data and Advanced Analytics

To be a strong candidate for the CFO role, it's important to understand data, analytics, and advanced technologies like generative AI for fnancial planning. This knowledge is crucial for various positions, and CFOs can use it in different ways. They can use data and analytics to save costs, understand customer behavior, make faster and more informed decisions, and spot emerging market trends. This ensures a consistent approach to handling data throughout the organization. While all companies have CFOs, not all companies have chief data officers, so CFOs must not only find accurate data but also take a broad perspective and comprehend the insights provided by the data.


Acquire Risk Management Skills

In recent years, businesses have faced significant challenges like a global pandemic and war. These events, along with others such as cyber threats, inflation, energy concerns, and supply chain issues, have kept CFOs and their colleagues in the boardroom busy. During turbulent times, CFOs need to be brave and creative in managing risks. CFOs are now dealing with new macro risks, and the field of risk management is evolving, requiring them to rethink their strategies.


Work Closely with the CEO

Think of the CFO-CEO partnership as a captain and first officer of a ship. They lead alongside each other, but the CEO has the main responsibility and makes final decisions. However, CFOs are now expected to be important advisors to the CEO, collaborating on important projects like strategy, business, and changes, including things like ESG compliance and reporting.


Gain Business Experience

The role of a CFO now involves a wide range of responsibilities. To be a strong candidate, it's important to have diverse professional experience, including in the business sector. Business experience enhances the CFO's strategic role, deepens their relationship with the CEO, and strengthens connections with non-finance departments like communications and marketing.


Acquire Partnership Skills

The CFO position is central to the organization, providing a comprehensive understanding of not just finances but also other teams, projects, and programs. To prepare for the top role, finance executives need to learn how to collaborate with both internal and external colleagues. This is crucial because CFOs are vital in establishing connections with external partners like bankers, lawyers, and communication advisors.


Be Mindful of Your Professional Trajectory

While it's beneficial to excel in your current role, also think about your professional journey and where you ultimately want to end up. Some people aim for progressive steps upward, but nowadays, gaining a broad range of knowledge and experience may be more effective by exploring new geographies, industries, and functions. CFOs, like others, must ensure that their career allows them to develop genuine financial expertise and the necessary skills to collaborate with the CEO and board in decision-making.


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