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What is a CFO Assistant?
»Assistants to the Financial Officer«, in short: CFO Assistants, are exactly what the title says: they assist the CFO – and mostly with everything that comes up. That definition already makes it clear that the shape of this position depends on the tasks that CFOs assign or delegate to their assistants – needless to say, the tasks of CFO assistants at Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat are likely to be quite different by those of the CFO Assistants, who support the commercial director of a medium-sized GmbH, even if both bear the title CFO, at least in Anglo-Saxon parlance.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: Business studies with a focus on finance and accounting or comparable training, but lateral entry via commercial training with a focus on finance is also possible / at least one to two years of professional experience and ideally internships abroad
- Starting salary: €35,800
- Top salary: €51,800
- Opportunities for advancement: Takeover of a line function / advancement within the finance department
At the center of power but without authority
CFO assistants are often referred to as the CFO’s right hand, are almost always present in meetings, often when traveling, and are involved in almost all considerations and decisions. That makes the position incredibly exciting. The downside of the coin is the required restraint – in meetings, CFO assistants only speak when asked and only pass on “instructions” to third parties, relying on the CFO’s backing – even when their considerations play a key role in a decision flow in, they are often just “the voice of their Lord.”
However, for the CFO it is true that his area of responsibility is much better defined as “driving the job” than as “doing the job”. In other words: Regular and routine tasks are already largely prepared, if not actually completed, by BI and controllers, which means that the CFO is increasingly becoming a strategist and a close cooperation partner of the CEO.
Of course, this development also benefits the CFO assistants – the former porters and organizers in gray suits have long since become accepted thinkers, and the good guys are also opinion leaders – in the best sense – because the CFO wants to hear what they have to say, and values them as a conversation partner. Depending on the constellation in the company, they now also take on projects that they manage on their own for “their” CFO.
The “job” is what you make of it…
When CFO Assistants only do what they are told, they miss the opportunity their position offers.
- If they provide reports and summaries that they write on behalf of the CFO with their own conclusions and recommendations and if these are accepted by the CFO, they influence the resulting measures.
- If they write the minutes of an important meeting, their wording can define the tenor of the meeting – if the assistant gets the OK, it is the published opinion of the CFO, but he and his assistant know the true authorship.
From this follows a key characteristic of the CFO Assistant position: at least at the beginning of their career, it is almost exclusively the CFO who perceives the abilities and strengths of his assistants – this lack of visibility is not always easy to accept. On the other hand, a good relationship between CFO and assistants will lead to the CFO also recognizing and highlighting assistant achievements in front of third parties.
Forever assistant? Probably not.
»Assistant« jobs are often limited to two to three years, after which CFO (or CEO) assistants usually want to move from the staff to a position in which they themselves bear responsibility and become »more visible«. Opportunities for this arise within the company itself – the CFO recommends them for a vacant (management) position within the company or a subsidiary – or the CFO Assistants look for a position in another company.
In any case, the more difficult it is for the CFO to let his assistants go, the better they did their job…
What does a CFO Assistant do?
CFO Assistants support the CFO in carrying out his duties. Depending on their experience and degree of organization within the company, CFO Assistants are also given the opportunity to independently manage projects on behalf of the CFO.
Examples of the activities of CFO Assistants are:
- Organizational support for the activities of the CFO (preparation of meetings, compilation of the necessary documents, coordination of the participants)
- Minutes of meetings / summary of the results of conversations
- Preparation of regular financially relevant reports with conclusions and recommendations
- Creation of decision templates and ad-hoc analyzes for the CFO
- Support for market, potential and investment analyses
- Creation of presentations for internal and external positions
- Possibly also representing the CFO in internal meetings and towards external third parties
How to become a CFO Assistant?
- CFO assistants require profound knowledge of finance and accounting, which is why an economics degree with a corresponding focus or an apprenticeship with comparable content and qualifications is usually required, but a commercial apprenticeship with a focus on finance is also possible.
- In-depth knowledge of IT and statistics as well as experience in project management and the ability to use MS Office and relevant analysis tools create a broad basis.
- At least one to two years of professional experience in accounting/controlling, often also experience abroad, round off the training.
What does a CFO Assistant earn?
up to €51,800
The salary not only depends heavily on the size of the company and its location, but also on the scope of the tasks and responsibilities assigned to the CFO Assistant.
What do you expect from the CFO Assistant?
- Profound knowledge of finance and accounting
- Understanding of economic relationships
- Affinity for numbers and IT
- Confident use of MS Office and common analysis tools
- Communication and presentation skills
- Analytical and conceptual thinking
- Absolute discretion
- organizational strength
- High resilience
- Security in logging and formulating
- German and English, fluent in word and writing
Opportunities for advancement as CFO Assistant
Due to their proximity to the management level and their involvement in all essential business decisions, CFO Assistants collect privileged management knowledge on a large scale.
This knowledge is good preparation for taking on managerial positions in finance, but also at executive level, both in your own company and in other companies.
It is not uncommon for assistant positions to be deliberately given as preparation and probation for a management position to be filled later.
In the case of an external change, a more significant increase in salary can usually be assumed than in the case of an internal change.
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