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What is a Chief Finance Officer?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2018
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A chief finance officer (CFO) is an individual in a corporation who is in charge of overseeing the financial management of that corporation. He or she often works closely with the chief executive officer (CEO) and chief operating officer (COO) in order to develop business plans and guide company business. A chief finance officer has a number of different duties depending on the nature of his job and the size of the company.

Most chief finance officers have a strong background in mathematics and/or accounting and financial management. A chief finance officer often majors in economics, accounting, statistics, or another related field. He or she often obtains a masters degree in business (MBA) or a similar degree.

CFOs often work their way up to becoming chief financial officers by taking other related positions within a company. They may work as accountants or as managers of a specific division. During this time, they learn the ins and outs of how the company functions and demonstrate their skill in financial planning.

Once a CFO is hired, it is his job to oversee the financial management of a company. This can mean a number of different things. Generally, it means assessing the financial risk of business decisions a company is making; determining whether a company is profitable or losing money, and how to guide it in the direction of becoming profitable; and budgeting the corporation's money.

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A chief finance officer helps to guide the company, along with the CEO and the COO, if such a position exists. While a chief operating officer and a chief executive officer make big-picture decisions as far as how a company should grow and develop, the CFO discusses the financial applications of those decisions. For example, if a CEO determines that a company should produce a new product, a chief finance officer may take on the role of determining how much it would cost to do so and whether the production of the new product would be profitable for the company or not.

A CFO may work with accountants to determine a company's tax liability. He may work with senior managers to determine and set budgets for different divisions of the company. His involvement with different departments and the exact nature and level of his responsibilities varies depending on the organizational structure and size of the company; for example, a chief finance officer in a larger company may have more responsibility but less direct interaction with different department heads than a CFO at a smaller company.

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