What's the Next Step on the CFO's Career Ladder?

Survey: Nearly One in Three Canadian CFOs Aspire to CEO Role 

Toronto, ON – While CFO may be a major career goal for some, a number of financial executives are looking further up the ladder. In a Robert Half Management Resources survey, nearly one-third of Canadian CFOs (32 per cent) said they are at least somewhat motivated to become CEO of their organization.

When asked what unique attributes financial executives would bring to the CEO position, CFOs most commonly cited fiscal management and efficiency improvement, finance and data-driven decision making, investor and stakeholder management, and economic and business awareness. Respondents noted other top contenders for the CEO role are chief operating officers.

CFOs were asked, “How motivated are you to reach the CEO role in your organization?” Their responses*:

Very motivated


Somewhat motivated


Not at all motivated


Don’t know/no answer




*Total does not equal 100 per cent due to rounding.


One in Three Canadian CFOs Aspire to Be CEO

CFOs were asked how motivated they are to be CEO at their company

4% Very Motivated
28% Somewhat motivated
58% Not at all motivated
11% Don’t know/no answer

Total does not equal 100 per cent due to rounding.

Other top contender for the CEO spot

37% Chief operating officer
12% Chief marketing officer
10% Chief information officer
9% General counsel
6% Human resources director
1% Sales director
26% Don’t know/no answer

Total does not equal 100 per cent due to rounding

What CFOs can bring to the CEO role

Fiscal management and efficiency improvement
Finance and data-driven business decisions
Investor stakeholder management
Economic and business awareness

Source: Robert Half Management Resources survey of more than 2,200 U.S. CFOs

© 2017 Robert Half Management Resources.

“With CFOs’ insight into, and influence over, fiscal growth across the business, they are well-positioned to take the helm as CEO,” said David King, Canadian president of Robert Half Management Resources. “Those aspiring to advance should work towards broadening their skill sets with a focus on business operations. Offer to consult on organizational growth initiatives outside your area of expertise, and cultivate a reputation as a strategic, engaged and inspiring leader.”

Robert Half Management Resources highlights four strategies to help financial executives advance their careers:

  1. Build relationships with peers across the organization. Overseeing companywide projects provides insights into how different functions operate and enhances business acumen, leadership skills and cross-departmental relationships. For instance, many CFOs report working more closely with their CIO, and this interaction provides knowledge of technology critical to the business.
  2. Prepare a successor. It’s more challenging to move up the ladder if you are considered irreplaceable in your current position. Ensure the business has someone who can fill your shoes if you’re promoted.
  3. Consider consulting. Look for engagements offering greater exposure to different business units and projects. Consulting can provide insights into organizational best practices and operating strategies.
  4. Add CEOs to your network. Your contacts can shed light on potential CEO opportunities and challenges unique to the job and offer career advice.

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 for companies’ project and interim staffing needs. Customizing its approach for each organization, Robert Half Management Resources can provide a single consultant, a financial team or full-service consulting services, delivered through Protiviti, a Robert Half subsidiary. With more than 140 locations worldwide, Robert Half Management Resources works with companies of all sizes, including more than half of the top 100 companies from the FORTUNE 500®. For more information, visit roberthalf.ca/management-resources. Follow us at roberthalf.ca/blog and @RobertHalf_CAN for additional workplace advice and hiring trends.