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Episode 4: Roadmap to the Modern CFO Office

Ross Woledge is a partner with Odgers Berndtson and the head of its CFO practice, leading CFO and senior financial officer searches for clients. He understands the position’s evolution, what companies want, and CPA competition.

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When preparing for a potential move and ultimate interview on a CFO role, a CPA needs to be prepared to highlight their strategic acumen, value creation mindset and leadership strength. Positivity and likability are also undervalued as you often have to be the naysayer.

When we think about the CFO function and where it is heading, it is important to focus on what the function will look like in the future, such as automation, data analytics, broadening of the scope to include non-finance functions, etc. We fully expect to see more CFOs make CEO in today’s environment. We can see this happening already with the CEOs of Sun Life, George Weston, Rogers, and CCM, just to name a few.

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In this episode

  • What recruiters are looking for when seeking CFO candidates (1:15)
  • How the CPA designation offers a critical competitive advantage to candidates (2:45)
  • Examples of CFOs whose career paths moved beyond finance (6:30)
  • Why we are entering the era of the CFO (12:35)
  • Judy Adam describing her journey to become CFO of Fire and Flower (14:17)
  • Judy Adam describing how her role as CFO encompasses so much more than finance (17:25)
  • Advice to CPAs who have their sights set on the CFO position (18:42)

Key takeaways

  • While newly designated CPAs have a wide range of options ahead of them the CFO office remains the ultimate goal for many. However, today’s CFO looks very different from previous decades. Advanced technical skills are now the bare minimum, as CFOs are also asked to be strategic partners focused on growth and increasing shareholder value.
  • According to our first guest, this means that aspiring CFOs need to accumulate a wide range of experiences beyond finance. Ross Woledge is a partner at Odgers Berndtson, an international executive search firm and the head of the firm's CFO practice. He says CEOs are looking for CFOs who have experience running business lines, managing a wide range of employees, and building value for shareholders. “The technical is absolutely table stakes, and you need that. You can't get to the strategic without that, but having that strategic acumen, CEOs are absolutely adamant that that's what they want,” says Ross Woledge.
  • Judy Adam, the CFO for Fire and Flower, a leading, technology-powered, adult-use cannabis retailer with more than 100 corporate-owned stores, agrees. "The CFO is really a key player in driving growth for the organization and in strategic planning and, oftentimes, leading very transformational initiatives within the organization. And, frankly, that's what makes the CFO role, really, super exciting," she says. In addition, “Look for those opportunities wherever you are within your organization, but also look to volunteer outside of the organization. You have opportunities with CPA.”
  • Today’s episode lays out a roadmap to the modern CFO office.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect those of CPA Canada.