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What is a Head of Finance?
The Head of Finance is a financial all-rounder who is responsible for finance and accounting as well as operational and strategic controlling. He or she is responsible for the timely preparation of the monthly, quarterly, annual and special financial statements according to HGB and often also according to IFRS.
Depending on the organizational structure, he creates the individual and/or consolidated financial statements alone or consolidates them with his team. He monitors and is responsible for the preparation and timely submission of all monthly tax (advance) reports and annual tax returns in cooperation with mostly external tax consultants. Depending on the degree of internationality in his company, he is the internal contact for foreign tax aspects and, if necessary, will make suggestions for improving the company’s fiscal policy.
A Head of Finance is an integral part of the management team and typically reports to the Chief Financial Officer or Head of Finance at a corporate headquarters. He underpins his figures with appealing presentations and explains them in a way that is both understandable and competent. It provides information on all of the company’s key management indicators and makes recommendations for action. At the same time, with the help of his team, he develops multi-year, different plan scenarios that reflect the strategic direction of the company.
Manager with empathy and expertise
A Head of Finance has both technical and disciplinary management responsibility. In times of a shortage of skilled workers (and underpinned by scientific studies), he is increasingly becoming a sparring partner and motivator for his team. Depending on the size of the company, his area includes an additional management level in the form of team leaders or he is directly responsible for the bookkeepers, tax experts and controllers who report to him.
Forward-looking employee development and partnership-based cooperation, even outside of your area of expertise, require a professional, committed demeanor with empathy and expertise. In internationally operating companies, knowledge of regional or country-specific characteristics is a decisive advantage in the personality profile.
Agile project management for the implementation of the latest IT standards or changes in the law are also a fixed part of the Head of Finance’s responsibilities, as is the fundamental increase in efficiency within his area. Through and with his team, he is the finance expert in the company. He advises internal (across all hierarchies and specialist areas) and external stakeholders ( tax consultants, auditors, banks, authorities, consultants) with ad hoc analyzes as well as recommendations for fundamental strategic decisions.
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- Education: Degree in business administration with several years of professional experience
- Starting salary: €65,000
- Top salary: €175,000
- Opportunities for advancement: candidate for the position of CFO
What does a Head of Finance do?
- Reporting to the CFO/board or head of finance (headquarters), representing the CFO if necessary
- responsible for the preparation of monthly, quarterly, annual and special financial statements according to HGB/IFRS at individual and group level
- Management of the areas of accounting and controlling
- responsible for treasury, financing, liquidity management, taxes
- Office management and design of commercial processes and systems
- Further development of the Finance department, both professionally and personally
- Development and implementation of suitable financing solutions
- Responsible for due diligence, M&A processes and possible restructuring
- Management of the budget and forecast planning processes including balance sheet and cash flow (integrated planning), creation of deviation analyzes and catalogs of measures
- Establishment and/or further development of the various controlling instruments such as investment, project, sales and investment controlling
- Contacts for banks, other lenders (leasing companies, investors), authorities, tax consultants, management consultants, lawyers, insurance companies and auditors
- Further development of the department-relevant IT tools and systems, review of efficiency and effectiveness and, if necessary, adjustment of existing structures/EDP
How does one become Head of Finance?
A Head of Finance has several years of professional experience in the finance sector after successfully completing his degree in economics. It is also possible to be filled by a very experienced accountant who has undergone further training through qualification measures such as the accountant examination. In the course of digitization, business IT specialists and engineers are also ideally suited for this position, provided they have an affinity with the areas of accounting, controlling, taxes, management and communication.
Professional leadership of the entire finance team and management of the various daily and strategic challenges are the cornerstones of this activity. Ideally, a Head of Finance can demonstrate profound expertise in all areas of his or her area of responsibility – however, he or she is in demand as a generalist and not as a specialist.
- Completed degree in economics or adequate further training, such as to become an accountant with several years of professional experience
- Seven to ten years of professional experience in finance and accounting or controlling – depending on the job profile with management experience
- ideally industry-specific knowledge and, if necessary, international experience
- Academic and extra-occupational specialization in the areas of accounting, taxes, controlling, management, personnel management
- Knowledge of the various accounting standards according to HGB, IFRS and/or US-GAAP
- Experience in German and possibly foreign tax matters
- Knowledge of SAP, Navision or other common accounting and controlling software solutions
- Very good knowledge of MS Office and, if necessary, ERP systems
- Knowledge of the latest cloud applications such as Trello or Slack is not mandatory, but shows a willingness to keep yourself informed about the existing IT options
- very good knowledge of spoken and written English
- possibly further foreign language skills
- Assertive with empathetic leadership, innovative and communicative, high level of commitment and initiative
What does a Head of Finance earn?
up to €175,000
A Head of Finance can earn an annual salary of between €65,000 and € 175,000. As is generally the case in management positions, the annual salary consists of a fixed amount (approx. 80%) and a variable bonus payment (approx. 20%), the amount of which is linked to the company’s success, variable KPIs and, if applicable, personal goals.
The salary range depends on professional experience, location, industry and company size. The north-south divide or whether the company in question is a listed group or a medium-sized company also plays a role. In addition, a head of finance at a corporate headquarters will receive higher remuneration than one who is employed at a regional subsidiary.
What do you expect from the Head of Finance?
Absolutely confident handling of numbers, diligence, quick perception and precision are important personal qualities of a Head of Finance. He or she appears confident and keeps an overview as well as a cool head – also and especially in difficult situations.
A Head of Finance is a reliable partner who thinks strategically and moves forward courageously. He stands behind his team and puts himself in front of his employees in conflict situations. Trust and empathy are important characteristics in his leadership behavior. He recognizes the potential of his department heads and clerks, whom he promotes individually and in a targeted manner. Both within his area and outside of it, he knows how to convey complex topics in an appropriate and understandable way.
A Head of Finance works in a structured manner and is strong in analyzing figures and facts. He acts on his own initiative and thinks outside the box by developing optimization suggestions for the entire company. This manager wants to advance both his area and the entire company and is not discouraged even by setbacks. Decisive, strong-willed and understanding as well as taking into account cultural characteristics, he faces problems and solves them in and with his team.
In addition, he has an affinity for IT. Especially in the digital age, he should always be open to new applications and trends in controlling and accounting tools. Making commercial processes throughout the company more effective with the help of innovative software is one of the driving forces for a Head of Finance.
Opportunities for advancement as Head of Finance
A Head of Finance has already successfully mastered many career steps and is responsible for one of the most profound, number-based, areas of the company. Depending on the company structure, there is the option of being appointed to the C-level – both CFO and CEO positions are conceivable.
Alternatively, there is the option of becoming self-employed as an interim Head of Finance. This can provide a temporary, but not necessarily continuous, income boost.
The importance of the position of Head of Finance (and accordingly the job market) will continue to grow in the future. Small and medium-sized companies sometimes still have an immense backlog that they need to catch up on. Increasing legal requirements and tighter time frames for preparing financial statements call for far-reaching reforms to increase efficiency and adapt the IT landscape.
In the future, those Heads of Finance who have a high level of IT knowledge will have a very good negotiating position. Disruptive systems lead to an ever higher degree of automation. In the future, you will increase both the quantity and the quality in the entire finance area. Employees as well as the entire management have to continuously improve their professional and technical skills – the Head of Finance certainly has a role model function here.
Anyone who does not shy away from the extensive training to become a tax consultant or auditor can also continue their career in the form of self-employment or with an auditing company.
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