The Rise of the CFO+

Alex Zakupowsky, February 15, 2017

Across the technology company spectrum the CFO market is the hottest it has been in a decade. Startups are hiring CFOs earlier, before substantial revenue, and established public companies are quicker to conclude the wrong person is driving the finance organization and make a change. Companies are taking a much more data driven approach to managing their business, and having a financial master who can translate the data into actionable business decisions is crucial in today’s environment.

Here’s what I am seeing:

  • Today’s CFOs are more than “bean counters” required to close the books every quarter. With the explosion of SaaS companies and the new cadence of selling software, CFOs are more involved in company strategy planning and metrics.

  • The new breed of CFO can be called the CFO+, with responsibility for day to day operations necessary to scale the business. The CFO+ must be an implicitly trusted partner to the CEO, driving key business decisions for the company. An example of a CFO+ is Anthony Noto at Twitter, whose role has continued to expand since joining the company as CFO in 2014. Noto is now running Livestreaming video, which is considered the company’s most important user growth effort. He’s a major reason that Twitter locked up the Thursday Night Football games.

  • In this new environment where CFOs oversee key strategic initiatives and can drive success for the entire business, the best of the CFO+ are being given a shot at even larger roles. Frank Calderoni, the former CFO at Redhat and Cisco, was just named the CEO at Anaplan where he will get them ready for an IPO. Robyn Denholm, the former CFO at Juniper Networks, just took over as COO at $760M Telstra. While we don’t think a huge number of CFOs will become CEOs, we expect some of the very best to get a shot in the big seat.

  • The market for hiring the CFO+ is red hot. The best candidates for this role are being courted by multiple companies and can pick and choose their future role.

A new breed of operators is coming into their own in the CFO+ role. Bringing in a CFO+ allows you to set the appropriate infrastructure for your company to scale, make the right investments, and set the appropriate financial discipline. Now more than ever, choosing the right CFO for your business is a fundamental strategic option.

At Lonergan Partners, Alex takes a leading role in recruiting world class executives for technology companies in the networking, semiconductors, and online industries.