A crash course in making CFO

Published in The Treasurer

How can treasurers boost their chances of climbing to the top of the finance tree? Sally Percy spills the secrets of successful finance leaders 

Not every treasurer hankers after the CFO’s job, but many wouldn’t rule it out. And neither should they. After all, the route from treasury to the executive suite is relatively well trodden.

Former treasurers who went on to hold the top finance job include Nick Luff, CFO of information provider RELX, Teri List-Stoll, CFO of clothing company Gap, and Keith Nichols, former CFO of chemicals giant AkzoNobel. Other finance leaders may not have had the title of treasurer, but still held treasury responsibilities, such as Paul Edwards, group FD at transport operator The Go-Ahead Group.

Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group president at US telecommunications giant Verizon Wireless, held treasury roles early in his career. When I interviewed him for my book, Reach the Top in Finance: The Ambitious Accountant’s Guide to Career Success, he explained that he initially studied treasury qualifications while he was working in banking because he saw them as a way to build knowledge and network with corporate treasurers.

Little did he know then that those qualifications would be a crucial step in a journey to the very top of the British business world. Following a stint in treasury, Dunne was head of strategic finance at logistics operator Exel before working his way up to become CFO, then CEO of Telefónica UK, part of the Spanish multinational communications group Telefónica.

Dunne explains his success like this: “I always had the mindset in my career that I am on a journey,” he says. “So I am looking for interesting things that stretch me and help me to develop my knowledge. I have seen every role as a developmental opportunity and a learning opportunity, not just as a job, and I was always very open-minded about where I might find myself.”

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