What makes a successful finance director? Whether you’re appraising your own skill set or searching for the ideal candidate, understanding the traits which suit this role can help you grow professionally or find the perfect person for the job.
But defining the characteristics which make a fantastic FD isn’t an exact science. You may think mixing one part “strong analytical skills” with one part “technical financial knowledge” and a healthy dollop of experience in a range of financial roles will result in an impressive candidate, but there is no precise recipe for the perfect professional.
There are, however, a few common traits which many highly successful finance directors share…
More than a “scorekeeper”
The FD of yesteryear may have focused on monitoring and honing performance while helping to navigate any stickier situations. Today’s FD is much more hands on and multi-disciplinary. While looking after assets, costs and cash flow is still an essential part of the job, taking a much broader strategic approach (informed by financial expertise alongside commercial and business knowledge) is crucial. Soft skills are also an increasingly important part of an FD’s role. Working closely with individuals across a business to help shape its direction and turn financial strategies into success stories now often means being a great communicator too.
Analytical and intuitive
The analytical ability to crunch numbers into a clear picture which allows companies to take a well-thought through, stable financial path is an enduring essential of this role. However, an element of intuition (based on commercial and market factors) is the “special sauce” which can turn a good FD into an outstanding FD. Nothing is certain in business, and if there appears to be a potentially lucrative opportunity for growth on the horizon, it could be worth taking that leap, especially if it a leap which is backed up by careful financial planning, with risks which have been savvily mitigated.
Strong-willed, knowledgeable and cooperative
Great FDs are people who have the courage of their convictions as well as the insight and knowledge to support their outlook. Working closely with a CEO who likely has a strong vision for the future of their business can be challenging, especially when the FD’s view conflicts with that vision. Being confident, supplying evidence and making convincing arguments will help direct the business’s finances effectively, while having the people skills required to work cooperatively and productively with the CEO will ensure the course is smooth.
Ready for all eventualities
It’s all well and good making hay while the sun shines, but a good financial director should also be able to perform just as well in more trying times. When a business founders or runs into financial difficulties, a truly successful FD should be able to help steer the best possible course through troubled water, taking swift, appropriate action to support an insolvent business and working well with insolvency practitioners to navigate liquidation as efficiently and effectively as possible. The more effectively an FD can handle this side of the equation, the better chance a business has of recovery, or minimizing losses.
Do you think that there are other skills which play a more important role in the success of an FD? Financial Directors – which skills do you rely on most heavily in your day to day work? Share your opinion and insights below.