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How to Become a Finance Director

Are you an analytical person who likes working with numbers? Do you have stellar leadership skills and possess strong communication skills? A finance director might be the perfect role for you.

A finance director oversees the financial operations and planning of an organization. To ensure that the company’s finances run smoothly, they evaluate financial markets, identify and implement solutions to financial issues, and prepare reports. They also research and review statistical data and make forecasts and projections toward building budgets. Finance directors have a broad knowledge of accounting, financial, and business principles. They think strategically and are effective leaders. In an effort to guide a company toward profitability and long-term success, the finance director makes informed decisions that they deem the most profitable for the organization.

Sample job description

The finance director provides comprehensive administration of all fiscal activities for our company. Responsibilities include planning, directing, and coordinating all accounting, debt management, treasury management, billing and collecting of company revenues, and purchasing activities. The position provides executive-level supervision to the finance department and participates in the formulation of and execution of our financial policies. The position has the considerable responsibility of the development and administration of our annual budget. Subject to policy and legal requirements, the incumbent plans and develops all financial operations. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in a leadership role guiding a company’s finances toward profitability and success.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  •  Drive the financial strategic planning of the company by evaluating performance and potential risks
  • Perform ongoing financial analysis using business software
  • Develop budgets that meet company requirements
  • Manage accounting and finance personnel, including management accountants and internal auditors
  • Make sound investment decisions to improve company portfolio 
  • Supervise all audit and internal control operations inside the company
  • Prepare regular, detailed reports on the company’s financial performance and present them quarterly
  • Ensure compliance with financial laws and guidelines
  • Identify patterns in company spending and recommend solutions to any problem areas
  • Coordinate with external financial entities on behalf of the company
  • Oversee the company’s finance IT system(s)
  • Develop the corporate fundraising strategy and manage relationships with partners and investors
  • Conduct analysis to make forecasts and report to upper executives

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field
  • A minimum of 5 years experience in financial management
  • A master’s degree may be required

Required skills and qualifications

  • Proven experience as director of finance or similar role leading departments
  • In-depth knowledge of corporate finance and accounting principles, laws, and best practices
  • Strong knowledge of financial analysis and forecasting
  • Proficient in the use of MS Office and financial management software such as SAP
  • Excellent math skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Innovative and creative

Bonus qualifications

  • Experience creating and delivering budget expectations
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA)

Typical work environment

Finance directors normally work full-time in an office environment. Many finance director positions require travel.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a finance director are during standard business hours from 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. They may need to work evenings and/or weekends depending on the needs of the business.

Available certifications

Finance directors work in various industries, and many institutions offer certifications for finance professionals. Here are some of the top certifications for the position:

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) The Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR) offers a credential that provides a strong foundation in portfolio management and investment analysis skills. To obtain the CFA, candidates must pass three different levels of examinations, have a minimum of two years of experience in a relevant field, and become a member of the CFA Institute. The CFA is one of the most highly respected credentials in the finance industry. 
  • Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) This certification, offered by The Association for Financial Professionals, demonstrates your knowledge in cash and treasury management. Topics covered include revenue collection, obligation payment, cash processing, account management, monitoring transactions, forecasting and monitoring cash flow, and analyzing financial statements. You must pass an exam and have at least 2 years of experience in cash/treasury management or a related position. A master’s degree can be substituted for one year of experience. The CTP credential is good for three years. Recertification requires the completion of 36 hours of continuing education and paying a fee.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) The CPA designation is a professional license for accounting professionals who are committed to protecting the public interest. CPAs are qualified to offer organizations tax, financial reporting, and advisory services that drive strategic decision-making and foster long-term financial growth and success. The license requires at least 150 hours of post-secondary education, passing a rigorous four-part exam, and meeting a relevant work experience requirement, which can differ by state. You must also take continuing education courses to maintain your certification.

Career path

The path to becoming a finance director starts by earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or other related fields. Many finance director positions require a Master of Business Administration, a Master’s of Science in Finance, or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. Finance directors gain experience working in finance or business, such as in financial analysis, financial advising, or business analysis before moving on to managerial positions. To achieve the role of finance director, most professionals have at least five years of experience, although eight to ten years is a more common requirement. Ideally, at least half of that time should be in a leadership role. Though certifications are not required, a finance director can benefit from obtaining one or more of the available financial certifications, like Financial Risk Manager or Chartered Financial Analyst.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-3031

2020 Employment681,700
Projected Employment in 2030799,900
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 17% Increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift118,200 Increase

Security and privacy of data are priorities in today’s world as security issues, such as data breaches that involve the loss of millions of records, severe financial loss, and substantial operational impact, are becoming more frequent in the headlines. Finance directors will need to find creative ways to make sure their teams are maintaining their data securely and managing it properly.

Another trend involves improved analytics. There is so much data out there these days, and much of it has to do with finance. By applying enhanced analytics to the data, finance directors will be able to improve strategic decisions and boost internal operations. Enhanced risk analytics will increase security within the company. By utilizing forensic analytics, finance directors can better track fraud and other forms of financial crime.

As the focus will continue to be on our environment in the years to come, measuring environmental and social risks and the impact they have will become more important for finance directors when measuring and reporting company performance.