A chief financial officer (CFO) is a top executive in a company who manages all aspects of financial matters and decisions. In a small company, he or she may directly perform many accounting tasks, while executives at larger corporations typically review reports and numbers from various divisions within their companies. This type of professional oversees accounting departments, creates budgets for new product research, development, and marketing, and manages pay scales and benefits for employees. Financial officers usually hold advanced degrees in finance or business management, and are compensated very well for their services.
A small business or nonprofit organization relies on the skills and insight of an experienced chief financial officer to ensure that money-related concerns are handled properly. Financial officers often build close relationships with employees, speaking with them about pay concerns and personally writing their checks. Many professionals keep records of standing accounts with clients, distributors and other businesses, and ensure that payments are made on time. A small business CFO may hold other job titles as well, such as chief executive officer, president, and owner.
Financial officers at large corporations take on many different managerial duties related to accounting. Managers of human resources, marketing, and accounting divisions work with CFOs to evaluate financial matters and handle employee concerns about pay and benefits. This professional makes investment decisions, grants funding to different departments, and investigates expenses and productivity rates. He or she is usually a company's representative for making deals with other corporations and facilitating mergers. In addition, a chief financial officer often uses his or her knowledge of economic policy to create new marketing strategies that will maximize profits for his or her company.
A CFO is usually expected to assume a chair position on his or her company's board of directors. He or she attends meetings with executives of other divisions within the company to discuss policies and evaluate the successes and failures of the corporation. The financial officer presents budget information to other board members and suggests ways to improve profits and sales. He or she might advise other executives on decisions regarding investments or expenses.
Most chief financial officers hold at least bachelor's degrees, though many executives at large corporations are required to obtain master's or doctoral degrees in accounting, finance, economics, or business administration. Many individuals begin their careers as hourly workers, accountants, or managers of small divisions, and work their way up to advanced positions within a company. Successful officers frequently choose to open up their own businesses or accounting firms.