In a corporate context, finance refers to the management of money and other assets, and will involve the process of raising funds or capital for expenditure as well as their handling in a way that will create value for a given company and its shareholders. This can include managing cash flow, investing capital and making decisions about how to allocate funds to various activities. Financial decisions can be made with the goal of maximising profits, minimising losses and increasing the overall value of the business.
There are a vast number of roles in the corporate world - and more specifically, within the financial services industry - which focus on managing and handling money and assets. These can range from entry-level positions such as Financial Analyst or Tax Associate all the way up to Head of Finance or Chief Financial Officer.
In the below article, we will dive a bit more into the role of a Head of Finance, what the expectations are for this position, and what hiring managers are looking for when seeking a new Head of Finance for their business.
Head of Finance: the Job Description
The Head of Finance is a critical role in any business that deals with money. This senior professional is responsible for setting and implementing a financial strategy, developing financial policies and procedures as well as overseeing all financial activities of a given company. Whilst the Head of Finance role can vary from one organisation to another, it generally involves the same key and core responsibilities such as providing advice and guidance to the executive team, ensuring that financial compliance is met, and managing the financial team.
The Head of Finance is the individual responsible for a firm’s financial performance. Responsibilities include but are not limited to, preparing and presenting financial statements and reports on business activity, examining financial data to ensure compliance with regulations, support management in making financial decisions and supervising employees who work with budgets and financial reports.
Furthermore, the Head of Finance - sometimes named Finance Director depending on the business - must ensure and safeguard the performance of the company. How is this made possible? By assessing the risk of investments, ensuring compliance with regulations and using the firm’s revenue responsibly by pursuing profitable investments and opportunities.
What has become increasingly apparent in the financial sector is the growing importance of technology. A Head of Finance role no longer relies solely on speculation and experience, but they also conduct extensive data analysis and use their findings to advise the firm on how to increase profitability. This involves the analysis of market trends to increase revenue alongside how to reduce costs.
The Key Skills a Head of Finance Must Have
A Head of Finance role is multifaceted and therefore the person with that title must have a breadth of skills. They are there to assist firms in developing successful financial strategies to ensure the growth of the company whilst also evaluating data and looking at the figures in order to understand the financial prospects of the firm.
Some of the essential skills a Head of Finance must have include, amongst others, strong accounting and financial management skills, a high level of business acumen, strong analytical and problem-solving skills, the ability to make sound decisions and excellent communication and leadership skills. The Head of Finance must also have knowledge of various financial instruments and principles such as banking, investments, taxation and budgeting.
As mentioned above, numeracy skills are essential, but in order to stand out from your competition and achieve successful results you must be able to communicate effectively. Not only do you need to collect the data from senior members of the firm, but you need to be able to convey those results succinctly and persuasively. Great Heads of Finance are known for this critical skill which leads to a successful career.
The Expectations of a Head of Finance
Expectations of a Head of Finance vary depending on the size of the company and other financial leadership positions in the firm. However, across different firms and industries, there are some common expectations from the Head of Finance. The direct report - quite often a C-Level member such as the CEO or CFO - will be expecting the below from the Head of Finance:
Effectively and efficiently overseeing risk management
The active and smart hiring of finance staff
Supporting the business in decisions on funding and ensuring the firm meets its financial obligations
Handling the budget and forecast models
As mentioned, the growing importance of data-driven decision making in firms has moved the focus away from individuals' experience and views driving decisions, which means that the Head of Finance would be expected to understand and interpret data. Data-driven decision making has become particularly prevalent in high-growth start-ups and tech focused firms.
If these spaces are of interest, there are plenty of coding courses and data interpretation resources which would help one stand out from the rest when looking to progress within the finance sector.
What Hiring Managers Are Looking for When Hiring a Head of Finance
In the financial services sector, any individual seeking a role must have strong communications skills, as they will be facing off to senior individuals in the company. It is important to note that while Heads of Finance deal with complex data and numbers, it is vital this information and the risks to employees, investors and the board are conveyed in simple terms.
Whilst companies will be looking for different types of profiles when it comes to a Head of Finance, most hiring managers will be seeking certain core elements, such as a BA/BSc in Accounting finance or a related field, previous experience in a finance, audit or accounting position, experience with financial software and advance Microsoft Excel skills, prior risk management exposure and excellent analytical and decision-making skills.
Furthermore, there will be an expectation from the firm that their Head of Finance will be a strong leader. While they will report to other members in the firm, they are also required to oversee other financial staff and the company’s financial strategies. This reaffirms the previous point, which is that interpersonal skills are essential if one wants to stand out as an effective Head of Finance.
What Is the Difference Between the CFO and the Head of Finance?
A firm’s finance team may include both a Chief Financial Officer and a Head of Finance, and therefore their tasks and duties will be quite distinct.
CFOs are the face of a company’s finances and often concentrate on long-term strategy and growth, forecasting and ROI. Conversely, the Head of Finance is responsible for overseeing day-to-day financial management and leading the finance team on internal matters.
In general however, there aren't many differences in the responsibilities if a company only hires one of the two and the terms may be used interchangeably. When both are present in an organisation however, the CFO and Head of Finance will support one another.
Whether you are seeking your next career move within operations or are looking for support with your finance and business operations recruitment, Rutherford’s specialist business operations recruiters are here for you. Get in touch with our specialist business operations and strategy Recruitment Consultants today for a confidential conversation.