Difference Between an Accountant And a CFO

Difference Between an Accountant And a CFO

An accountant is like the pathologist in a hospital. After the patient has died, he takes the body down to his dark room at the bottom of the hospital and works out why the patient died. A CFO is like a family/primary physician. They are more in the business of prevention. The primary physician sees patients before they are sick and advises them that if they continue smoking/eating fatty food, they are likely to get sick.

The primary physician can prescribe drugs that can help prevent patients from getting sick in the future. The pathologist is a specialist, they are focused on one discipline. The family physician is a generalist that knows a little about almost every specialisation.

An accountant's expertise lies in what happened in the past. A CFO's expertise lies in what will happen in the future. Although there are some overlaps.

When you are recruiting an accountant, focus his/her expertise in historical financial data.
  1. Balance sheet
  2. Cashflow
  3. Profit & Loss (income statement)
  4. IFRS 
  5. Tax
A good accountant is well versed in all of these areas. Some of their qualifications include:
  1. ICAN
  2. ACCA
  3. Bsc Accounting
  4. MSc in Accounting
  5. HND Accounting
IFRS must be top notch to avoid stories that touch.

A CFO, like a primary physician is more of a generalist. In addition to basic accounting, your CFO should know a lot about business analysis, marketing, sales, treasury management, investor relations, operations, finance and business strategy. Business strategy is very important. Qualifications include:
  1. MBA
  2. CFA
  3. CIMA
  4. Data analytics
  5. Bsc Finance and Msc Finance
When you interview a CFO, the candidate should sound entrepreneurial. Continually thinking of the future and speaking intelligently about every area of the business; way beyond the balance sheet.

CFO's tend to also have really good relationships with investors from banks, to PE's to VC's to investment banks. Their networks are deep and they are solid sales men/women. Who can present data in appealing visual ways and tell a killer story. They should be amazing at presentations and extremely persuasive.

Difference Between an Accountant And a CFO

Most of the top earning CFO's don't have accounting degrees, MBA & BA Business Administration are more common. In America, most CFO's are NOT accountants. The role has morphed to the point that accounting expertise is often no longer required.

At the 1,000 largest U.S. public companies, the portion of CFOs who are certified public accountants fell to about 36% last year, according to data from organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry.

Difference Between an Accountant And a CFO

“Technical accounting is becoming a smaller percentage of the job,” said Andrej Suskavcevic, chief executive of professional organization Financial Executives International. New research shows that a strong accounting background doesn’t always translate into a successful role as a chief financial officer.

So what skills should a recruiter be looking for in a CFO?
  1. Basic accounting
  2. Business Administration 
  3. Presentation Skills
  4. Networking Skills
  5. Data Analysis
  6. Public Speaking 
  7. Finance Skills
  8. A knowledge of Basic Economics
Please feel free to add opinions/additional skills/experiences below:
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