Beyond the Numbers: CFOs Looking for More Strategy

Canadian Finance Execs Value Strategic Thinking, but Many Don't Provide the Training.

Toronto, ON. – Businesses value accountants who are strategic thinkers, but the results of a Robert Half Management Resources survey suggest company-sponsored training in this area is not always available. Nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) Canadian CFOs said strategic thinking abilities are important for accounting and finance professionals – 31 per cent of those interviewed feel they are mandatory. Yet almost half (48 per cent) of executives said their organization does not provide related professional development opportunities.

CFOs were asked, “How important are strategic thinking skills for accounting and finance professionals?” Their responses:



Nice to have


Not necessary




CFOs also were asked, “Does your company provide professional development opportunities to help accounting and finance professionals build their strategic thinking skills?” Their responses:







Strategic Thinking Valued, But Training? Not as Much

Nearly 9 in 10 CFOs say strategic-thinking skills for accounting and finance professionals are important.

31% Mandatory
57% Nice to have
12% Not necessary

But barely half offer professional development opportunities to help build these skills.

48% No training

Source: Robert Half Management Resources survey of more than 270 CFOs

© 2016 Robert Half Management Resources

“Strategic thinking is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill in financial professionals and companies should be diligent in cultivating this aptitude among their employees,” said David King, Canadian president of Robert Half Management Resources. “Managers must recognize that offering opportunities for professional development helps to attract and retain talented finance and accounting teams.”

King added that professionals shouldn’t rely solely on employer training, and should also take it upon themselves to seek out opportunities for further development. “To set themselves apart and be better positioned for long-term career opportunities, finance and accounting professionals must demonstrate how their strategic thinking abilities can help businesses reach their goals. Continuing education programs and relevant designations are ways in which established workers can improve these proficiencies and take their skills to the next level.”

Robert Half Management Resources offers tips for professionals to enhance their strategic-thinking skills:

  • Speak up. If your employer hasn’t offered training in this area, ask for it. Look for additional professional development options, too, such as working with a mentor.
  • Participate in external events. Attend industry conferences, and take advantage of programs offered by professional and business organizations. Your employer may even reimburse you for the costs.
  • Collaborate across functions. Working with colleagues in other departments will broaden your organizational view and provide new approaches for addressing problems.
  • Volunteer to lead a project team. Your viewpoint and interactions with colleagues will enhance your business acumen and help you identify additional ways to support the firm.
  • Move into a new role. Job rotation provides exposure to different challenges, processes and business units. Along the way, you can learn new best practices and problem-solving techniques.
  • Build big data expertise. Knowing how to work with business intelligence will enable you to identify strategic recommendations for the organization. Big data skills gaps are severe within accounting and finance, giving you the chance to jump ahead in the field.
  • Pursue consulting opportunities. By working as a consultant, you see best practices at a range of firms. You’ll also be able to share your insights with and learn from others.
  • Don’t neglect soft skills. Coming up with ideas is just one part of the equation. You’ll need to be able to communicate them effectively and cultivate influence to secure buy-in.

About the Research

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on telephone interviews with more than 270 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in Canada.

About Robert Half Management Resources
Robert Half Management Resources is the premier provider of senior-level finance, accounting and business systems professionals to supplement companies’ project and interim staffing needs. The company has more than 145 locations worldwide and offers assistance to business leaders and consultants at Follow us at and @RobertHalf_CAN on Twitter for additional workplace advice and hiring trends.

For further information contact: Naz Araghian, (416) 865-2140, [email protected]

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