CFOs

Companies go looking for remote CFOs

Some companies are starting to offer remote work opportunities for CFOs to attract talent
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Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

Believe it or not, even the CFO might be working in sweatpants these days. The notion runs contrary to the traditional stereotype of a formally dressed executive tapping their pen against a mahogany desk in a shiny office building—as opposed to the coffee-stained T-shirt wretch eating stale donuts in the spare bedroom like the rest of us (or this writer, anyway).

The emergence of the athleisure-wearing WFH CFO comes down to how in demand top-flight CFO talent is right now. With candidates looking for higher pay, more career advancement opportunities, and flexible work arrangements, some organizations are now offering more hybrid—or fully remote—opportunities as an incentive to attract that unicorn talent for the CFO role. A recent study from accounting and finance recruiting firm Robert Half found that 31% of finance job listings in October were for remote positions.

While there isn’t any recent hard data on the prevalence of remote CFO positions, two finance and accounting recruiters told CFO Brew that they are seeing more companies looking for remote CFOs. But offering remote work to top talent stands in contrast to the overall trend away from remote work over the past several months.

“Hiring currently in the market is super, super tight,” said Brandon Kostelic, lead recruiter and partner at Kostelic Agency, an Ohio-based finance and accounting recruiting firm. “And I would say the biggest shift is that a lot more companies are open to hybrid situations.”

Scarcity breeds opportunities. It’s been hard out there for companies seeking to hire finance talent. In a recent Deloitte poll, 82% of respondents said they expect their organizations “to have to work hard to attract and retain” accounting and finance talent over the next year. Robert Half found that 87% of finance and accounting managers said “it’s challenging to find skilled professionals” in 2022.

That’s especially true for those companies looking for top performers to fill CFO roles. As CFOs take on more strategic and organizational responsibility, finding top flight talent with the right mix of technical, soft, and leadership skills is driving an increasingly competitive labor market, according to Alyse Bodine, managing partner and global head of the financial officers practice at Heidrick & Struggles, a retained executive search and leadership advisory firm.

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“There is a real war for talent attracting a CFO that possesses many, if not all, of these qualities,” Bodine said. “There is high demand there.”

Checking the boxes. But just because organizations are desperate for CFO talent doesn’t mean that just anyone can start demanding higher pay and more work flexibility. Candidates still need to bring a stellar resume and an exceptional skill set to qualify for more flexibility, according to Kostelic.

“If you’re going to be remote, you damn well better tick every other qualification box and that includes some of the soft skills as well, like the leadership and the ability to communicate,” said Kostelic.

Communication and leadership skills are especially important for remote CFOs, Bodine said. CFOs are increasingly being asked to help shape corporate culture and lead transformations, tasks that require demonstrable leadership. Organizations are screening more diligently for those skill sets, especially in remote CFO hires, she added.

“If you were to agree to more of a hybrid, or commuting, or remote working environment, those skills certainly are top of list for CFOs,” Bodine said.

Some but not all. While Kostelic and Bodine both see companies offering more remote work flexibility for potential hires, there are still exceptions. Some industries, like construction and manufacturing, still require an in-office presence, according to Kostelic. And size matters. Smaller, less distributed organizations are less likely to offer remote work because of a greater need for interaction, he said.

There are also tasks that organizations need CFOs to do that require in-person attendance, according to Bodine.

“There are other factors to balance: present leadership, mentorship, investment in culture,” she said. “And while certainly, those areas can be addressed very deliberately working in a remote environment, it happens more organically when you’re walking the halls.”

Where, of course, sweatpants are still generally frowned upon.—DA

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The latest news and insights corporate finance professionals need to know to keep up with their constantly evolving industry.