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CFO Career Survey Report

CFOs and Financial Leaders

Table of Contents


The pandemic years of 2021 and 2022 produced unprecedented talent scarcity, emboldening CFOs to test the job market for greater career development and earning opportunities.

Our recent survey conducted in December 2022 of almost 200 CFOs across the public, private and non-profit sectors found that, while financial leaders are satisfied in their careers, retention is a potential issue that looms for companies as a large percentage of CFOs explore other options or retire.

Therefore, CEOs and Boards should be thinking beyond CFO retention and investing in succession planning and leadership development within their senior financial ranks.

This report presents the survey data gathered from respondents and insights from John Touey, SSG’s Financial Officer Practice Leader.

John ToueyAbout John Touey

John Touey is a principal at executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group with more than 20 years of experience providing executive search, human resources, and management consulting services to organizations in the healthcare, financial services, utilities, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. Follow him @JohnTouey.

Key Findings

CFOs show high job satisfaction but are open to new opportunities

Respondents indicated high job satisfaction, with 75% reporting they are satisfied or very satisfied in their current roles.

However, companies should not interpret these results to suggest CFO retention is not a concern, according to John Touey, SSG’s Financial Officer Practice Leader.

“While results do indicate that CFOs are by and large happy in their current roles, the majority of respondents (56%) also indicated they are likely to consider opportunities outside their current company,” Touey said. He believes these seemingly opposing responses indicate the uniqueness of the current talent market.

How satisfied are you in your current role?

How likely are you to consider leadership positions outside of your current company?

Compensation is not the biggest factor

Our survey shows a high correlation between job satisfaction and what is important to CFOs when considering outside opportunities. More than anything else, we found the quality of a CFO’s relationship with their CEO is the biggest factor that drives retention (87.5%). After that, company culture (76%) and compensation (76%) were deemed very important. Unsurprisingly, these same factors weigh the most when considering outside roles, although culture pushes to the top (85.4%), and compensation rises as a clear second (78%).

What factors drive your career satisfaction?

If you were to consider a role outside of your current company, what are the factors that are most important to you?

CFO transition is inevitable in the next five years

Almost a quarter of respondents (24%) indicated their most likely next career move is retirement. In combination with a heightened interest in considering outside roles, a large percentage of CFOs (83.3%) could be leaving their seats soon.

What best describes the next step in your career?


Strengthen the CFO/CEO Relationship

“Over the past two decades, the CFO has truly become the CEO’s co-pilot in running a company.” Touey says. “If the relationship between these two leaders is not strong, the risk of CFO flight increases dramatically.”

Touey suggests that CEOs need to continually seek advice and input from their CFOs to create stickiness in the relationship. Conversely, CFOs need to continue to up their game by leveraging available data to provide more specific and strategic business insight.

Prepare for Transition and Succession Planning

Despite a company’s investment in CFO retention, SSG’s survey indicates that a significant amount of CFO transition is inevitable in the next five years. Given the timeframe and expected number of transitions, CEOs and Boards should be thinking beyond CFO retention and investing in succession planning and leadership development within their senior financial ranks.

“If you don’t have a ready candidate in your succession plan, more likely than not you are going to be conducting an external search for your next CFO,” Touey says.

He suggests that CEOs and CFOs proactively manage career development among the CFO’s direct reports. Creating opportunities for more exposure to the Board, working on mission-critical special projects, and being specific on advancement opportunities are ways to prepare next-level reports for the top financial role and signal the company is committed to their future career development.

About Salveson Stetson Group​

Salveson Stetson Group (SSG) is a multi-specialty, retained executive search firm that delivers strategic, high-quality, responsive consulting and support for clients across the country and globally. Working across diverse industries, SSG has a long history of conducting executive-level human resources, clinical, scientific, finance, sales and marketing, and general management searches. 

As part of the MPI family of companies, SSG has access to talent, resources, and expertise nationally through our sister companies, Furst Group and NuBrick Partners. This allows SSG to deliver the strategic, responsive consulting services expected from a large search firm with the tailored attention and support of a boutique firm. 

Nationally recognized as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and by Hunt Scanlon as a Top 40 largest search firm in the Americas, SSG partners with organizations ranging from privately held and not-for-profit to publicly traded and venture-backed startups in all industries. SSG has a proven track record and more than 25 years of experience conducting search engagements for C-Suite executives and their direct reports, with a special focus on Financial Officers, Human Resource Officers, Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Non-Profits. 

SSG is also a member of IIC Partners, one of the world’s top 10 retained executive search groups. This provides the leverage of the collective networks and expertise of more than 40 executive search partners to identify a broader slate of global candidates to serve our clients more effectively.

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