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CFO personal brand – why it becomes so important?

By Wojciech Wieroński FCMA, CGMA, former CFO of Tesco Central Europe, member of CIMA’s Europe Regional Advisory Panel

From the beginning of my career, the idea of building my personal brand as a finance professional and future CFO was naturally close to me. Whenever I was asked how I managed to pursue my career goals successfully, I answered: ‘I always deliver on my personal brand promises’.

Nowadays, as an experienced CFO, I often see that a CFO’s personal brand is becoming more and more important. It is, therefore, worth summarizing the main reasons for this:

  1. The CFO is the main guardian of corporate governance.
    Compliance has become an increasingly popular word across most organizations. For many of them, it even becomes one of the key pillars of corporate culture and competitive advantage. Even then, someone needs to have unquestionable integrity, trust and ethics. That is the CFO, who, through his or her own example, leads the entire organisation toward the right ways and best in class corporate governance.
     
  2. The CFO is the main guardian of company assets.
    As CFOs, we naturally become trustees of company assets and capital. There is, therefore, a high level of trust given to us from all stakeholder groups. Doing our jobs, we need to ensure this trust cannot ever be doubted. Most of us often play the same role in our private lives, in our families or among friends, and we can imagine what happens if the trust given to us is broken or questioned in any way. 

  3. The CFO is one of the key people who influence the reputation of the company.
    In today’s well-connected business world, reputation becomes one of the most valuable company assets. It can build great businesses and brands. But, at the same time, it can destroy them in an instant. Reputation also is strongly influenced by the way the company manages its accounts, and that is why the role of the CFO is so vital. Under constant pressure to deliver a set of expected KPIs, CFOs need to be reliable and always ensure that reported figures are the true and fair view of the company’s performance and financial situation. 

  4. CFOs aren’t accountants anymore — they are business leaders.
    There are more and more overlaps between CFO and CEO roles, and it is harder to put a hard line between those jobs. For CFOs, it means that they become and are expected to be business leaders. We shape companies’ strategies, look after all stakeholders and represent companies in their wider business environment. Most of all, we have a huge influence on the company’s culture, which are very strongly linked to the values we live in our everyday professional lives. The more we are authentic and consistent, the better leaders we become. It has nothing to do with our professional accounting qualification but more to do with self-awareness, empathy and a constant drive to develop ourselves.

  5. The CFO is the main guarantor of company stability in the eyes of key stakeholders.
    Each of us has a sense of stability and certainty that what is happening around us is somehow controllable. In most companies, people who drive results (CEOs, commercial buyers and marketers) have a natural tendency to overdrive their creativity and empowerment to meet stakeholders’ expectations. The CFO needs to be the one who always has an independent eye. They need to act as the conscience of the management board. They must have the courage to stand up and say when it’s needed: ‘We can do that if we all agree that inevitable consequences and risks are as follows … therefore let’s think twice before we make this decision … ’. 

I would strongly recommend that all CFOs look at those points through the perspective of their everyday work and ask themselves: 

  • How often do I reflect on what I do and, most importantly, how I do things? 
  • What are my key values and am I strong and brave enough not to compromise them whenever inevitable pressure comes? These values will be the main attributes of your personal brand.

Lastly, I would strongly encourage all CFOs to remember — hitting financial KPIs can be a source of success but only in the short term. In the long run, it is your personal brand that drives success. 

About the author:

At the end of April 2019 Wojciech Wieroński became a member of the Management Board of Dr. Max, a pharmacy chain operating in Poland. The vast majority of Wojciech’s career was spent in retail sector, namely with Tesco PLC Group. He has grown within the organization from junior Business Analyst role to regional CFO. Wojciech graduated from University of Economics in Cracow (faculty: Finance and Banking, obtained Master’s Degree in Corporate Finance Management in 1999). He qualified within CIMA in 2008 and became a Fellow in May 2016. Elected for the first time to the Regional Board in 2018.