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The Best Defense is a Good Offense

By October 15, 2015CMF Blog

In football we have seen teams get to the Super Bowl by having superior defense as their first priority (think Steelers in the 70’s) and others by having superior offense (think 49ers in the 80’s). With the start of the 2016 football season and a string of teams at 5-0 it looks like strong offense equates to winning in today’s world.

Similarly, in our CFO executive search business we have seen a noticeable shift in the experiential priorities that PE funds value from those that are more defense related to those that are growth and offense oriented. ­

In the recent past, during and coming out of the recession, there was a strong demand for CFO’s who had come through the controller-ship (defense) route. Evidence from the past year suggests the PE industry now has a preference for growth orientation vis-à-vis sourcing candidates with offense related MBA and financial planning & analysis backgrounds.

Here is some interesting data around CFO searches completed by CMF over the past twelve months:

  • 77% were filled by a candidate with a strong background in FP&A
  • 33% were filled by a candidate who had not yet sat in the CFO chair, but who were in VP of Finance roles with responsibility for planning, budgeting, forecasting, KPI performance measurement, and external competitive benchmarking
  • All candidates had demonstrated experience in playing a key role in the growth of their business

We believe this trend will continue, and as a consequence, CFO’s coming through the FP&A route will be in strong demand. Notwithstanding this trend, it is rare to find a top-notch CFO, particularly those who have come through the MBA/FPA track, who do not also have a top-notch controller behind them.

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