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Tic, Tac, Toe, Who Can Be The CFO? Essay

“This is a clinical situation, client needs candidate, candidate comes with a personality… understand the client hires a personality finally, not his certificates or baggage.” Many recruiting firms are driven by this logic, which is wrong.

It is a transition for the organizations, when recruiting a senior management. Each of us comes with a personality, it is behavior which at certain extent enhances the job performance, but it is only one among several factors that impact the job performance. Few things like taking the right decisions at the right time can come through experience which comes by doing the right jobs.

Few recruiting organizations uIn days of yore, he was called chief accountant, a.k.a. bean counter and book keeper. But in the past 10 years, there has been a paradigm shift in a CFO’s role. Add to this, the advent of technology, breakdown of geographical barriers and the global financial crisis. The spotlight is now glaring on the CFO as never before.

This is what Jeetun Patki needs to keep in mind as he defines his ideal candidate. The CFO is not merely a name change, but a new role. Increasing investments from private equity brought the CFO to centre stage in managing stakeholder expectations and investor relations. Increasingly, the CFO is being seen as the shadow CEO, and in many companies, the CFO has become a natural successor to the CEO. Apart from corporate governance, the CFO now takes operational and strategic decisions, moving from supplying financial information to providing business advice, especially about mergers, acquisitions and divestments. In progressive organisations, the CFO is often seen deftly handling areas that were previously not considered his domain of expertise (such as talent management), contributing beyond finance.

Often, the CFO is the custodian of ethics and governance. The contemporary board governance structure offers an opportunity for the CFO to work closely with one of the most important board committees, the audit committee.

Today, the CFO is not only preoccupied in building credibility for the finance function, he also has to instill a sense of confidence among employees, customers and partners as a person who knows the pulse of the organisation.

Jeetun’s candidate needs these skills:

1. Focus on business fundamentals without sacrificing on accounting and controls. 2. Create more bandwidth to focus on corporate and strategic parts of the business by effectively delegating and outsourcing routine tasks such as maintenance of accounting records. 3. Managing stakeholder expectations, both internal and external. 4. Demonstrate commitment to create value for stakeholders.

5. Emerge as the external face of the corporation, especially with investors — it is not surprising to see the CFO managing additional responsibilities for investor relations in many large companies. 6. Acquire skills in change management so as to emerge as a sole advisor to the CEO. 7. Be constantly updated on local and international corporate and taxation laws as also manage multi-currency exposures skillfully. 8. Blend risks, compliance and governance into business enablers by offering solution-based advice to business managers. 9. Move from the traditional bureaucrat role to emerge as a partner and collaborator to business in vital decisions such as outsourcing, investing in IT and driving systems, processes and people.

Against this backdrop, let us consider the candidatures of Arjun Setalvad and Sudarshan Krishnan. As mentioned, Morro wants continuity especially since it is expanding in a big way in the next four years. Its CFO must know how to meet shareholder expectations on financial gearing and that would not be possible if he has not gone beyond financial controllership. The role requires a kind of mentality that has to be unrestrained by the ordinariness of life.

Arjun has an impeccable academic record and experience including in MNCs and listed companies. It is true that he has changed many jobs with an average tenure of 2-3 years in a job, and some of his decisions for the change do not seem convincing. But in today’s corporate world, the average tenure of a CEO has dropped to almost half, to 3-7 years. In many ways, compensation drives job changes and, willingness to take risks in trying out the ‘unknown’ has increased, especially in case of successful professionals with an entrepreneurial streak. Working in many organisations can be discounted as not gathering moss. Gaining diverse cultural experience is a strength that such individuals possess; it helps them manage a variety of stakeholders.

In today’s dynamic world, stability is no longer a virtue. As the cliché goes, even to stay at the same point, one has to keep running. Companies that aspire to grow rapidly can scarcely afford to have a CFO who is over-cautious and cannot keep pace with the external world. While Sudarshan may appear stable, his academic record is far from what a fast-growing company would need in its CFO’s profile. More importantly, his reason to return to India is not driven by career aspiration. Having spent 20 years in the US, he may not easily fit into the role of a CFO in an Asian economy.

Arjun, therefore, seems the better choice, and I would urge Jeetun to discuss the job requirements with him and ensure that his family is comfortable with the location. Jeetun should underscore the unique opportunity that Morro, as an Indian MNC, offers to Arjun.se the ‘psychometrics’ to find out the candidates personality.


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