Recent findings from specialist recruitment firm Robert Walters shed light on the growing gap in Chief Financial Officer (CFO) positions, with a significant portion of business leaders attributing the shortage to professionals transitioning into Chief Executive Officer (CEO) roles.

The study reveals that 41 percent of business leaders cite CFOs moving to CEO positions as a primary driver of CFO turnover.

Moreover, the survey underscores the perceived advantage of a financial background for CEOs in the current business climate, with 45 percent of professionals endorsing this view.

This sentiment reflects the evolving role of CFOs, who are increasingly expected to possess not only financial acumen but also strategic vision and commercial prowess.

Role of the CFO has changed

Lucy Bisset, Director of Robert Walters, emphasises the changing dynamics of the CFO role, noting, “The role of Chief Financial Officer has changed rapidly over the last 18 months.” She stresses the importance for employers to understand the factors influencing professionals’ decisions to step away from CFO positions and how to attract them back.

The trend of CFOs transitioning to CEO roles is further exemplified by the fact that around one-third of FTSE 100 CEOs have previously served as CFOs—a notable increase from 2019. This shift reflects the demand for leaders with a strong financial and strategic background, particularly in turbulent economic times.

Another contributing factor to the CFO talent gap is the increasing number of seasoned CFOs opting for early retirement, with 38 percent of business leaders identifying this trend. As more experienced professionals exit the workforce prematurely, companies are faced with the challenge of maintaining a robust succession plan for critical leadership positions.

Also, the study highlights a notable increase in CFO salaries, particularly in London, where salaries have surged by £50,000 compared to the previous year. This rise underscores the growing recognition of the value CFOs bring to organisations, driving candidates to negotiate higher compensation packages.

Employers are advised to adopt several strategies to address the CFO talent gap:

  1. Embrace diversity in hiring: Widening the candidate pool to include more diverse candidates can mitigate the impact of professionals opting for early retirement.
  2. Expand responsibilities: CFOs often play a pivotal role in strategic decision-making beyond financial matters, necessitating a broader scope of responsibilities and authority.
  3. Invest in transformation: Companies should invest in transformation initiatives to optimise financial and business processes, empowering CFOs to leverage these opportunities effectively.
  4. Enhance involvement in business decisions: CFOs are increasingly expected to assume a more prominent, front-facing role in key business decisions, necessitating their active involvement and visibility.
  5. Develop a solid succession strategy: Establishing a clear succession plan ensures organisations are prepared to address leadership transitions effectively and mitigate disruptions.

As businesses navigate an evolving economic landscape, the role of CFOs continues to evolve, demanding a blend of financial expertise, strategic foresight, and operational agility. By understanding the factors driving the CFO talent gap and implementing proactive strategies, employers can position themselves to attract and retain top finance talent in an increasingly competitive market.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.