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What makes a successful Finance Director?

Written by: Claire Brandon
Published on: 15 Dec 2012

Finance Directors are important players within a business as “key business partners”, responsible for managing a company’s financial health and long-term growth. A position which affords a typical salary of between £85K and £150K. For Financial Controllers looking to climb the career ladder, knowing how to do so can be a huge stumbling block. Especially when following a linear career and otherwise natural path. Here’s everything you need to know about the Finance Director career path and requirements of how to become a Finance Director. 

What Does a Finance Director Do? 

FD’s are members who sit amongst the senior executive team, responsible for managing a company’s finances and long term growth by establishing and maintaining a financial strategy. To be specific, a Financial Director: 

  • Oversees the financial operations of a business 

  • Manages and provides on-going training for the accounting function 

  • Carries out weekly and monthly financial assessments for the purpose of reporting to the senior management team. 

  • Understands the requirements of departments and allocates the correct budgets 

  • Allocates capital for projects alongside the Director of Facilities to ensure that projects are completed to budget 

  • Creates annual financial plans and projections 

  • Analyses financial risks and benefits on business initiatives 

What Makes a Good Finance Director 

1. Knowledge of Accounting 

While having a degree is not necessary to become an FD, having an university accounting degree can certainly help to secure a role at a well-reputed company and set you on the way to a straight-forward Finance Director’s career path. Having official accounting qualifications, such as an ICAEW qualification, are also  highly regarded and provide an alternative for kinesthetic learners completing an apprenticeship.  

2. Bridging the Gaps Between Teams 

As a non-departmental employee, there is often a divide between Finance Directors and other functional areas of a business. Some may feel that the finance department can be over-critical and misunderstood, so it's important to show an appreciation and understanding for the viewpoints of others. This involves learning the pain points of different departments and reaching out in order to all come together and achieve strategic goals.  

3. ERP software 

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) has revolutionised the way that we work. Connecting everything  together, with an ability to input invoices and purchase orders into a system and track where delays are in processing. This is essential knowledge that every FD must have in order to be able to improve efficiency. 

4. People Skills 

Around 50-80% of a FD’s role involves motivating the finance department, managing relationships and collaborating with others, making good people skills an essential part of the job. Aside from being a number cruncher, you’ll need to have an affinity for working with those from different backgrounds, managing their expectations, and resolving conflicts as they appear to produce stronger teams. You'll often find yourself needing to explain financial data to those with little knowledge of it, requiring clear and coherent communication skills. 

For your professional development and career progression, we recommend that you join professional groups and where you are able to meet other people. 

5. Stay up-to-Date With Your Stakeholders’ Needs 

Having knowledge of your stakeholders’ priorities will automatically put you at an advantage and help you to plan your departmental budgets better. Inadvertently, this will also give you  access to more funding and allow you to make a greater impact. 

6. Dynamic 

Above all else, the strategic role of FD requires someone that is able to analyse. Spotting the risks and opportunities that others would miss. This doesn’t mean that number crunchers are no longer needed but individuals that are also able to advise on where company funds should be spent in order to generate a valuable return. With technological transformation it is likely that this will likely change further. 

7. Management Skills 

Being a Finance Director comes with heavy responsibility. The responsibility to run the Finance Department, pay invoices, develop accounting policies and train staff to renegotiate loans with banks - priorities which all require successful management of people and of own workload. A good Financial Director should be able to prioritise his or her work while knowing how to nurture staff for a stronger and more motivated team. 

8. Excel Wizards 

With more need for financial analysis, knowing how to use advanced tools is a must. Microsoft Excel is one of the best programs for data analysis and learning how to use its advanced functionality is easy. There are many courses available online which are able to teach you how to carry out data analysis and even offer certification. Find out more about Excel for accountants and finance professionals. 

If you’re looking for a new role, ICAEW Jobs have the latest finance director jobs which you can apply for online. New roles are posted every day from businesses across the UK from a wide range of industries. Get started with your applications today by uploading your CV and get job alerts when new roles appear.