What Does a Chief Financial Officer Do?

CFO 1.2014Virtually all aspiring accountants must start at the bottom, earning their degrees, gaining experience, passing required tests, earning appropriate licenses and obtaining entry-level positions. From that starting place, though, the sky is the limit for ambitious accountants. If you aspire to a top position in accounting and finance, a job as a chief financial officer may be the perfect ultimate career goal for you to pursue.

The Role of a Chief Financial Officer

The simplest description of a chief financial officer is a top executive officer responsible for a company or organization’s finances, including not just reporting numbers but making financial decisions such as developing budgets, setting goals and managing financially significant projects such as investments. In recent years, the job description of chief financial officers has changed drastically. The role of a chief financial officer is so complex that even many companies – including those who employ one – do not really understand the position and its job duties entirely, according to the San Diego Source. Rather than simply accounting for financial statements or fundraising, chief financial officers have responsibilities in areas such as treasury, controllership, executive reporting, economic modeling and capital structure.

Chief financial officers act as accountants in that they are responsible for accurately reporting on a company’s finances, though this high-level position may delegate hands-on accounting tasks or oversee controllers and teams of finance and accounting professionals. Not only do these professionals have to maintain accurate records of the company’s past finances, but they must also aid the company in predicting the future economic success of the business and making the strategic decisions needed to reach that potential. The chief financial officer manages the assets of a business, including handling investment decisions. Another role of chief financial officers is to locate potential investors, pitch the idea of investing in the company and maintaining a relationship with these investors. In this sense, these professionals are responsible for acquiring the money needed to run or grow the business.

The Rewards of Rising to the Top

Chief financial officer is among the highest paying accounting jobs. Chief financial officers and their counterparts in other top executive roles earn the highest salaries in the country, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary for chief executives of all types is $168,140, the BLS reported. Other estimates are even higher. For example, Salary.com reports that chief financial officers can expect to earn a median salary as high as $308,838 per year.

Though chief financial officers hold many important job responsibilities, they are paid very well for their skills and experience and the influence their work has on the companies that employ them. Relatively few accounting professionals will ascend to this top position. However, for those who do, the opportunity to lead a team, to directly impact the success of a business and to earn the vast financial rewards that go along with this sometimes high-stress position make the work worthwhile.

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