Controllers Council recently held a webinar on What Companies are Looking for in Today’s CFO, sponsored by Oracle.

Oracle NetSuite is a cloud-based business management platform used by more than 34,000 organizations across the globe. NetSuite seamlessly integrates financial planning, accounts receivable, accounts payable, revenue recognition, tax management, and other core accounting functions with real-time financial visibility to improve financial performance. Our subject matter expert is Tom Kelly. Before joining Oracle NetSuite, Tom founded T-Edward, a strategic and operational cloud consultancy, providing cloud expertise in CXO advisory.

Prior to T-Edward, Tom held a variety of executive positions with large cap companies, including PepsiCo, eFunds, and Deluxe, as well as small cap privately held entities such as FullContact and PeopleNet Communications. Tom is a CPA and he holds a BA degree in accounting from North Carolina State University and an MBA in finance from Fordham University.

Following are key takeaways to this discussion. If you are interested in learning more, view the full webinar archive video here.

I think the first job you have is almost a thankless job. It’s one of those jobs that nobody really cares about it, unless something goes wrong, and everybody cares about it. But the reality is this other component, growing the beans, there’s a lot that goes into that, and it’s probably more and more in demand these days when organizations are looking to CFOs and looking at the skill sets that they’re going to bring to the organization. The first one is almost a given, you’re expected to do it. I feel the appreciation is probably not really there in terms of what it really takes to make sure you can accomplish that aspect. And then this other one is probably much more visible in some regards than that. They really want you to help make an impact on the company.

You Must Be an Accountant

Accountants and finance professionals, we know the language of business, and who better than us to be able to interpret that for the rest of the organization. When I say interpret that, I’m not talking about telling somebody, “Sales are up. Why is that?” Well, the answer is because we sold more. No, we want more granularity. We really want to know it’s driving sales. Is it price? Is it mixed? Is it volume?

Whatever it might be, to have insightful information to be able to leverage that skillset that we have, understanding the language of business, but being able to deliver that to the people so that they can understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, and probably most importantly, so they can actually do something about it.

CPA Exam

The CPA exams is testing you to make sure that you’re going to be proficient in having IT acumen, understanding the IT landscape, what are the right types of applications and products you should be buying to help your company and to help run your company.

Promotion from CFO to CEO

Since the beginning of the pandemic, what seems to be occurring is organizations are now starting to look within. Where in the past, it was probably more we’re going to look outside the organization for CEOs, CFOs. That’s changed dramatically since the pandemic. I would argue it’s a good thing. I think the more you can build your workforce from within, the more continuity you end up with, I think the better leadership in some degree, depending upon how you’re growing these individuals.

The other thing is the promotion from CFO to CEO is also trending upward. They’re looking within and they’re also looking to take the CFOs and promote them into the chief executive role.

CFO Qualities

What are some of the qualities that are being sought in the “post-pandemic CFO?”

  • Compassionate Leadership
  • Digital Fluency
  • Analytic Rigor
  • Commitment to DEI
  • Growth Skills
  • Executing a Transaction
  • Going Public
  • Global Expansions
  • Working Arrangements
  • Rethinking Talent

Language of Business

what I would suggest you do is really understand your business for a couple reasons. I think there’s unique situations. It could be your industry. It could be your business in that industry. It could be the people you have and the level and skillsets that they have and what they’re capable of. There’s a whole bunch of things that can go into this.

Think Outside the Box on Measurements

Really understanding the driver and then how do you want to focus on that to improve that outcome or stop that outcome, whatever the approach you want to take.

It’s a great way to get I think your group and your organization’s mindset into thinking a little bit differently about, hey, what’s really driving our business outside of, again, cash flow is important, profit is important, but I think you might find some of the more impactful things require a little bit more rigor on your part to really understand that cause and effect.

Turning an Uncontrollable Cost into a Controllable Cost

One of the things that was considered “uncontrollable” days was the workers’ compensation premium. The reason why is corporate would manage and negotiate premium for the entire country. How do we go about reducing it? Well, this is almost some of the skill sets you’ve seen earlier, compassionate leadership, understanding what’s going on.

Know Your Stuff

want an individual to focus on three things. I don’t want the three things for the human being to get their mind against, but the point is I want to boil all this down to the top three things that I want this individual to focus on. If that person can focus on those three things and improve those three things, they will have a marked improvement in their performance. And surprise, it tends to work.

The Role of CFO is Expanding…

Chief Communicator: CFOs need to be able to grab the hearts and minds of people so that you can really have influence and be able to drive things.

Chief Risk Officer: CFOs need to limit risk, being compliant, and being able to protect the organization.

Chief Strategist: CFOs need to leverage real-time financial information to make crucial decisions fast.

To view the complete webcast, download full webinar here.


Oracle NetSuite is a cloud-based business management platform used by more than 33,000 organizations across the globe. NetSuite seamlessly integrates financial planning, accounts receivable, accounts payable, revenue recognition, tax management, and other core accounting functions with real-time financial visibility to improve financial performance. To learn more, visit and request a free product tour.