The Only Ways To Solve A Rise In CFO Stress

New research indicates that finance leaders feel over-burdened, and companies may not be doing enough to groom a more diverse group of successors. 

Everyone has their breaking point — including the most ambitious senior executives. CFOs may be getting closer to theirs than ever before.

Just look at the results of a survey by Dun & Bradstreet, where more than 200 financial leaders were asked to discuss how they feel about their role, their workload and the pressures they face. It’s not a pretty picture, as an article on Credit Strategy shows: More than half (56 percent) of the financial leaders who responded feel board expectations are “unrealistic”, with 53 percent admitting that reduced resources “increase the risk” of serious mistakes . . . Suddenly, teams who have reduced in size now have to manage a complex dual role – business gatekeeper and revenue creator.

Dun & Bradstreet’s research also revealed that 59 percent of respondents are trying to help bring in more money while taking on additional regulatory and compliance obligations. While those surveyed were all based in the U.K., it’s probably pretty safe to say that CFOs in other parts of the world share similar concerns.

Same Old, Same Old

Compounding the problem is the lack of effort by more companies to attract and cultivate new financial leaders who may have a unique background or skill set to handle some of the new pressures. The Financial Times recently reported on a study by recruiting firm Hedley May, for example, which suggested this could have deeper, unforeseen implications:

Traditional headhunting methodology can tend towards the “usual suspects” who have done the job rather than making the extra effort to uncover the next generation of rising stars. This perpetuates the historic gender mix,” a headhunter with the firm told the FT.

Besides moving towards better diversity and inclusion in the C-suite, companies might also be able to reduce some CFO stress by ensuing those running finance departments have are experts in more than one vertical market.

“Accumulating experience from different industries (is also helpful). Once you have the experience in one industry you can use these experience in other industries. This kind of experience is important as we move to the new economy,” Jeff Yu, group treasury director of JD.com, told a site called The Asset recently.

Hiring more female CFOs who have worked in multiple sectors doesn’t solve everything, of course. No matter who takes on the role, companies need to give them the tools that will let them succeed as both protectors and revenue generators. Otherwise, something’s got to give. And once you hit the breaking point, the recovery can take a long time.