What a CEO wants from their CFO

Hello.  My name is Dave C.  I…am a CFO.  That’s what I do well.  I fancy myself as meriting a few other monikers like Strategist, Leader and Adrenaline Junkie.  Are these appropriate qualities for a CFO?  If so, am I focused on the right output the CEO and the business needs to thrive?  Recently we asked our top CEO clients what information THEY want from their CFO.  130 of them eagerly responded, anxious to let us know what output they value from their CFO and the character traits they expected them to have.  This, part 1, deals with the output a CEO expects.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise for a CFO that number one is Accurate, Reliable, and Timely Financial Statements.  Years ago when I got my first shot at the CFO role I read a Deloitte & Touche pamphlet that should have been entitled, “Training wheels for the CFO”, but was actually called, “Breathing Lessons.”  They agreed with the CEO and labeled solid financial statements as the “dial tone”.  Frankly, without it nothing else a finance team does really matters.

Secondly our CEOs wanted a good Cash Flow Forecast.  Note I didn’t say, “Cash Flow Statement.”  Very few senior financial personnel would have ranked this #2.  They’d have ranked it as important, but #2?…not likely.  Too many of us focus on the income statement and the balance sheet and forget about cash flow.  To use my mother’s words, “Shame. Shame.”

Three (Budget to Actual Comparisons) and four (Key Metrics) are highly ranked as well, but then rest of the activities fall quickly off in the rankings.

Take note that three of the four explicitly (and truth be told, all four in reality) require analysis.  CEOs fully expect that we interpret the information we are feeding the organization.

And the fact that the other work we do is much lower in the rankings doesn’t mean that it is irrelevant.  A more proper interpretation would be that without these four deliverables, we aren’t delivering the basics of what the CEO wants from us. 

Happy analyzing.

David Chase has experience in small to medium private companies and large public companies as a senior operational and financial leader.  With 14 years in finance, a CFO of multiple entities and divisional EVP experience, Dave has a breadth of experience.  Dave has led or been instrumental in raising multiple rounds of equity and debt in excess of $450 million.

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