Increasingly, companies are aligning their talent strategies with their business strategies, ensuring that there are people in the talent pipeline with the right skills, aptitudes, and experiences to advance the organization. This holds true across the organization, in every department and function. And, in the wake of the financial crisis and in the midst of a new normal of challenging economics and increased oversight by government and external stakeholders, developing financial talent is a must.
In addition, senior financial leaders and, in particular, the chief financial officer (CFO) as a member of the executive team, are expected to contribute to broader discussions around growth drivers, whether market conditions are favorable or constrained. The financial staff in development, therefore, should be exposed to and, to some degree, expected to contribute to these discussions, from analyses on a potential acquisition to the impact of currency fluctuations on a new market opportunity.
Whether an up-and-coming leader is in finance or another department or function, all are expected to mirror and model the tenets of corporate culture and the highest standards of professional ethics. Deepening awareness of personal and corporate ethics and values is crucial for all managers and leaders in development, and even more so for financial talent for whom compliance and regulatory oversight (e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley ) is a daily demand.
Moreover, the development of financial talent is part of broader corporate mandates around talent acquisition and training. Leadership development in general is an essential component of succession strategies. Further, talent development is a powerful incentive for retention; it takes more than compensation and benefits to keep high potential employees. Engaging these individuals will not only build a talent pipeline but also avoid a potential “brain drain” from the organization.
In this article, we will address developing a financial team with specific skills in the context of broader leadership development. The objectives are to make sure the right talent is in place to meet current needs and that well-rounded and seasoned leaders will emerge to serve the organization in the future.
Master Skills in Finance In order to navigate any course, one must first know the destination. In the case of developing financial talent, the end goal is having candidates for CFO and other senior financial leadership positions. To identify these skill development needs, it is insightful to look at the abilities and attributes that are considered crucial to success at the CFO level. Insights from long-time CFOs who have enjoyed longevity in their careers and who have proved their ability to weather the storms that arise cyclically (as well as during the “great recession”) point to the importance of leading with clarity and confidence. It is only with experience built over time that financial executives become able to maneuver through all economic conditions.
Don’t underestimate feedback. As Marshall Goldsmith said, “People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”