The role of the CFO

The role of the CFO
9 Aug 2021

Does your business require a CFO or an FD?

Neil Whitaker, Head of Four Executive sits down with three highly successful CFO's to to discuss this question of how the role of CFO differs from that of an FD.


Louise Britnell | CFO at The Co-operative Bank

Michael Hughes | previous CFO at Euro Garages

Ian Storey | previous CFO at Music Magpie

As the UK economy continues to improve, the significance of having the right senior team in place is crucial. Now more than ever, businesses need to consider their strategic direction. Throughout the pandemic companies have realised the true value of an efficient finance team and their role has never been more important.  

But, if you are looking to bolster your senior finance team, it’s crucial to consider what roles you require and what your business needs to ensure you have the right structure in place.

Neil Whitaker head of our Four Executive division discusses.

Understanding the role of the CFO

“When we are working with a client on a new role, they may tell us that their requirement is for a CFO.  In many cases, when we drill down to it, the criteria of the role is in fact, a Finance Director (FD), and this is often because they don’t have the true understanding of the role that a CFO performs.”

Added Neil: “The level of appointment really does depend on the aspirations of the business and in addition the external advisory team that it has in place, which will determine whether the business has the requirement for a CFO.”

“We have appointed CFO’s for established, multi million turnover businesses to high growth start-ups, business size is not always the key denominator here.”

Being a CFO is more than just numbers

CFO’s drive the direction and success of the organisations they work in. They provide a real strategic focus, driving performance with forward looking insights to contribute to the growth of a business.  
They will often have a place on the board, working closely with the CEO and other board members to drive the direction of a business.

Michael Hughes is CFO at Euro Garages. Four Recuitment has placed candidates in several integral roles at Euro Garages and supported their growth strategy. Michael comments: “A CFO drives the numbers not just counts them.”

“As a CFO it’s important to have a change in mindset from that of an FD, looking at the longer business plan and having that vision to take the business forward through both organic growth and M&A activity.”
Louise Britnell CFO at The Co-Operative adds: “As a CFO you have essentially three roles, there’s the CFO aspect and then the executive member, here you have to be able to really understand all aspects of the business and to lead on non-financial aspects, for example how is the organisation doing on operational resilience?  

Louise adds: “The third part of the role is that I am a board member, so the governance piece on the board is a critical part of what I do.”

Ian Storey is CFO at Music Magpie he added: “As an FD you’re looking at accounting and audit and presenting the numbers. As a CFO you’re focussing on the wider aspects of the business.”

What direction is your business moving in?

Neil concludes: “For some companies, the line between CFO and FD is blurred, however I think it is clear here that it very much depends on the strategic direction of your business and the current structure in place which will help you to establish the role that is required. 

Four Executive Webinar Series

The next webinar 'building the ultimate finance team' will be hosted by Neil Whitaker on the 27th August at 10am. This will be a discussion with a selection of expert FD's and CFO's from across the North West including:

Gordon Brown, FD at Bensons for Beds

Matt Williams, FD at Northern

Ben Fletcher, CFO at The Very Group

Jim Perrie, previous CFO at Lookers

Register here for the next webinar: 'Building the Ultimate Finance Team'.

Alternatively, if you would like to be the first to know about any future executive webinars or events you can register your details here.


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