Cowen Partners does more CFO searches in a month than other executive search firms do in a year for one reason — our process works.
Our senior partner-led, due diligence-driven process has earned us a national reputation as being a leader among the best CFO search firms. Our record of placing exceptionally qualified Chief Financial Officers has become our guarantee. We will send you 3X more candidates than other CFO search firms.
Our secret? Shawn Cole. He is our president, founding partner, and thought leader on the ‘modern CFO.’ His processes are so powerful his contributions are featured in Fortune, Forbes, CFO.com, IPOHub, and CFO Dive.
Finding the right CFO requires years of experience and network connections backed by a proven, due diligence-driven process.
Placing the right CFO is more than connecting with the top 1% of talent. To find leadership-ready talent you want your candidates matched to your company culture backed by an impressive resume of industry-specific skills they will use to grow your trajectory.
Looking for a leadership-ready CFO? Cowen Partners can help. As a top-rated CFO search firm, we have unique expertise in placing all types of chief financial officers across various industries and specialized roles, including (but not limited to):
Interested in learning more? Let’s talk. Our partner-owned model is the guarantee you need to get the CFO you want. We deliver on our guarantee by matching an experienced senior partner to every engagement, from the first call to final placement. Start the journey to find & place your next CFO by filling out the contact form.
There’s a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) crisis in the global economy and the Top CFO Search Firms are here to solve it. According to a 2015 study published by KPMG, 2/3 of surveyed CEOs believe that CFOs will increase in their significance over the next three years (which, incidentally, they have). Yet, 1/3 of those CEOs feel that their CFO is not up to the challenge. Now, this might not sound like news- CEOs putting pressure on CFOs is certainly not an unprecedented 21st-century phenomenon—but it’s not just the CEOs of the world demanding more of Chief Financial Officers. It’s everyone.
There was a time when the role of the CFO was grounded in risk aversion and crisis management. They were the ones maximizing company resources, monitoring cash flow, and tempering the large-scale visions of more creative executives to ensure longevity and stability. In 2020, however, the scope of a CFOs role is radically different. CFOs are now getting wrangled into more public-facing responsibilities, developing equal partnerships with CEOs, and taking an active role in day-to-day operational management according to long-term strategic policy.
Why? Because companies who don’t lean on their CFOs fall flat.
Below are the four types of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) profiles, each with different competencies and areas of expertise. Understanding how each of these roles works within a company can help you determine which CFO profile is best for your business.
The financial guru CFO has years of experience with different roles related to financial functions within a company. This typically includes duties such as financial planning and analysis, auditing and compliance, treasury, financial reporting, and controlling. The financial guru is often an internal hire, frequently a Controller or Chief Accounting Officer prior, and comes with a comprehensive understanding of the company as a whole. You can expect the financial guru to have an advanced accounting degree, CPA, and to excel at standardizing procedures.
This particular profile is generally suited for businesses with inefficient financial departments or early-stage businesses that are scaling up and need to strengthen their financial functions.
The jack-of-all-trades CFO typically has a broad range of experience and has often worked outside the company with exposure to multiple businesses. Other areas where these CFOs have worked include marketing, general management, and operations. Management and communication skills are often prioritized in this profile over more technical skills. The jack-of-all-trades CFO can be found both internally and externally and is hired at a company where personal influence is highly valued and required for results.
Achievement leader CFOs are known for transforming businesses to create results. They modify financial functions and other processes within an organization to promote cost management and the use of metrics. Achievement leaders also focus on standardizing data and systems to enhance efficiency and performance within an organization.
The CFO with this profile is generally an outside hire with previous CFO or accounting experience. This type of CFO is beneficial for companies looking for exacting analytics and striving for aggressive growth.
The change agent CFO is best suited for industries that experience a lot of disruptions. This type of CFO is an outside hire and has a background working in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and has an extensive external network of resources as well as exceptional strategic insight. Businesses undergoing mergers and acquisitions as well as PE companies looking to revamp portfolio businesses are a good fit for this CFO profile. In many of these cases, the companies experience a considerable reshaping of the business as well as adjustments in resource allocation so a CFO who has experience with this type of disturbance can make the transition run more smoothly.
These profiles are not perfect. One may not cover exactly what you need in a CFO, but it is a place to start when shaping the role for your company. Use these profiles to determine the characteristics and general skill set of a CFO that will help your company grow the most. When searching for a new CFO, it is also a good idea to evaluate your current corporate strategy.
Below are a few questions you should ask yourself as you start looking for your next CFO.
Your CFO profile should reflect the structure and performance of your company. Knowledge of the industry is highly valuable when selecting your CFO, as is choosing someone whose characteristics fit the company’s strategic plan. CFO candidates will have financial expertise and management skills, but you need to determine where else your company’s CFO can be useful. For instance, if your company is pursuing an M&A strategy, then a CFO candidate experienced with mergers and acquisitions as well as proven strategic insight would be the best fit.
Hiring a new CFO is an opportunity to fill some of the skill gaps on your management team. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the CEO and other leading board members to determine what expertise would benefit the team. A leadership team with a diverse skillset allows team members to lean on each other and build on one another’s strengths. Select a CFO who will shore up any weaknesses in your team.
It is important to determine how capable your financial functions currently are. If your company is currently struggling to efficiently manage basic financial functions such as accurate data and systems compliance, then you need to focus on a CFO with a financial guru-type profile. If your basic financial processes are not going well, then your first order of business needs to be strengthening this area above all else.
It is a good idea to look at potential internal candidates to promote to CFO who have significant financial experience as well as a proven record of results. Of course, if your financial functions are running smoothly, then you can consider candidates with other qualifications such as more management experience and strategic insight.
Finding the right CFO for your company requires a lot of consideration concerning the right characteristics as well as the needs of the business. As you determine the right CFO profile for your company, remember how the CFO position has evolved over the years and adapt your profile to best fit your needs.
According to a recent report, the 5 highest-paid CFOs include:
These numbers are a far cry from the national average CFO salary. According to Payscale, the average CFO will receive a salary of $133,000.00. Regardless of the total dollar amount, however, we must delineate salary from total compensation. As the complexities of company management expand, so too do the kinds of rewards. Total compensation is an umbrella term that encompasses both a base salary as well as additional benefits, bonuses, stock shares (in publicly traded companies), and perks.
Cash bonuses are often commission-based or tied to specific performance benchmarks while perks come in the form of golden handcuffs or golden parachutes, which incentivize an executive to stay for a particular amount of time or guarantee them financial compensation upon the end of their tenure respectively. General Electric’s Carolina Dybeck Happe holds an $8 million golden handcuff agreement the conglomerate and Stanley O’Neal, Merrill Lynch’s former CEO, famously pocketed $161.5 million from his golden parachute agreement.
The median base salary of a CFO is $362,030, and the median total compensation package (including bonus, healthcare, and retirement) is $506,386, according to recent data. While these averages can be helpful points of reference when creating or evaluating compensation packages, it’s crucial to remember that each CFO is compensated differently, depending on the company in question. Non-profits, private companies, and public companies all compensate their executives differently and in proportion to their previous and potential earnings.
The table below highlights the average CFO salary by company size and annual revenue, sharing key insights that can be critical when crafting offer letters and compensation packages for chief financial officers.
CFO responsibilities will differ across businesses and industries; however, the following CFO job description covers the general qualifications required for the role of chief financial officer.
Cowen Partners is proud to be the nation’s top CFO search firm, driven to create maximum value for our clients. Our nationally renowned CFO recruiters have deep experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion.
Through our proven retained executive search process, Cowen Partners delivers 3X more qualified candidates than the competition. In fact, we find, vet, and deliver the top 1% of candidates for CFOs across all industries, including financial services, credit unions, tax and accounting services, private equity, technology, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, real estate, and more.
Read more of our industry-leading retained search resources to see why Cowen Partners is a top CFO search firm in Atlanta, Anchorage, Boston, New York City, Chicago, Seattle, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:
Cowen Partners Executive Search provides the highest quality CFO recruitment services to all major and minor industries including (but not limited to):
Accounting, Advertising, Aerospace & Defense, Biotechnology, Banking, Credit Unions, Board and CEO Services, Computer Hardware, Construction, Consulting, Consumer Products, Computer Software and Hardware, Education, Energy & Utilities, Entertainment & Sports, Finance, Financial Services, Food Products, Government, Human Resources, Health Care, Hospitality & Tourism, Insurance, Industrial, Internet & New Media, Legal, Tax, Crypto, Bitcoin, Private Equity, Journalism & Publishing, Marketing, Manufacturing, Medical Device, Non-Profit, Pharmaceutical, Private Equity, Real Estate, Retail & Apparel, Sales, Technology, Telecommunications and Transportation.
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