The Varied Path to the CFO Role

February 4, 2022 Mimi Torrington

cfo's perspective taking a walk in nature

It’s no secret that the CFO role has changed dramatically over the last 10–20 years and therefore, so has the path to CFO. What was once a traditionally conservative role centered on financial statements and reporting has evolved into something similar, and at the same time completely different with varied backgrounds of the C-suite becoming the norm.

This begs the question, what sort of background does somebody need if they’re looking at a career as a CFO?

On this episode of CFO Weekly, we sit down for a chat with Mike DePaschalis, Director of Finance at for a conversation all about thinking outside of the box when it comes to pursuing a career as a CFO, and why an accounting degree may not be necessary.

“The evolution of the CFO role has changed dramatically due to the traditional areas of finance becoming even more increasingly complex," DePaschalis said.

You Don’t Need an Accounting Degree to Be a CFO?

cfo talking in conference room about her path to becoming a cfo

While the CFO role used to be more of a technical accounting and reporting role, the role has evolved to include a much broader range of responsibilities.

In fact, according to a recent study, there’s been a 10% reduction in CPA-certified CFOs hired at the top 1,000 companies over the last five to six years, down from 46% to just over 36%.

The role requires much more broad expertise, as finance leaders are now overseeing much more than just closing the books. They’re responsible for speaking into operations, risk management, HR, and in the case of startups, the growth path of the company.

“I think CFOs are now more responsible for delivering the digital value story, which ensures that the company's technological investments line up with the goal of what the company is trying to accomplish," DePaschalis said.

Technology’s Contribution to the CFO Role - The Path to Becoming a CFO

With digital technology taking over a lot of the manual work that CPAs have done in the past, it's allowing non-CPA-certified individuals to succeed without the usual extended CPA preferred knowledge.

For so many CFO leaders, tech has allowed them to focus on other areas of the business, with the automation tools giving them time to partner with other departments in their organization to give insight and analysis on their specific projects.

So technology and the advancement of automation isn’t something to be feared as a finance professional; there will always be the need for human hands when it comes to the finance industry. But the technology is allowing people to say goodbye to some of the more mundane aspects of their jobs, freeing them up to focus on other aspects.

Implications on Other Finance Roles

Mike dePaschalis Quote

With the CFO focusing more on non-traditional skills, it’s going to become more important than ever before for the individual contributor to step up. As the CFO role continues to evolve, a CFO will only be as strong as the individual contributors that make up the accounting department.

This means that those people looking for a career as a CFO should, of course, have the finance skills to do the job, but also be focusing on the other skills necessary. They should care about the other metrics of the business, contributing to the growth and strategic vision of the company, not merely concerning themselves with reports and numbers.

The CFO role is an exciting one, and one that is always changing and evolving. And you should not let a lack of accounting background stand in the way of your dreams of becoming a CFO.

Interested in learning more? Don't miss our article: How the CFO Role Has Changed | Becoming a Comprehensive CFO.

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