How To Become A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) In Australia?

(950 Votes, Average 4.5 out of 5)

Students want to know how to become chief financial officers (CFOs) in Australia.


Are you a born leader and possess strong communication and interpersonal skills? If yes, consider a career as a Chief Financial Officer.


CFOs administer and coordinate the accounting and financial operations within organisations and companies. They plan, oversee, and manage the finances of a company for immediate, short-term, and long-term goals.


To become a CFO in Australia, you must complete a formal finance, business, economics, or accounting degree. A Master's qualification and a Certified Public Accountant examination enhance your credentials for an entry role.


In this article, you will learn what CFOs do, their duties, required skills, qualification requirements, courses, degrees, career paths, where they work, salary, and the pathway to becoming one.



1. Who Is A CFO?


Chief Financial Officers are indispensable strategic business leaders in a company. Among the highest-ranking executives, they report directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) about the company's financial activities.


The role of the CFO varies from one organisation to another. However, they are majorly involved in managing the company's finances, which includes financial estimation and risk management, budget allocation, and profit and loss reporting.


They exhibit strong leadership credentials that include strategic thinking, creativity, management experience, decision-making, and reliable delivery of results.


They use finance and accounting skills and years of experience to employ the best strategies to improve a company's financial position.


While working as an advisor, they guide the company's direction to achieve sound financial results while adhering to regulatory compliance.



2. What Does A CFO Do?


Are you interested in making a profession as a CFO? Then, a complete understanding of the duties and responsibilities will help you prepare for the chief financial officer role. 


  • Analyse the company's financials to form strategic insights to make precise decisions.

  • Manage finances and allocate budgets to promote financial solidity and success

  • Provide expert long-term financial planning guidance to the CEO and other team members.

  • Generate and analyse financial reports, including balance sheets and P&L statements.

  • Examine and approve financial proposals and operational project budgets.

  • Plan, conduct and manage cash flow within the organisation. 

  • Perform business operations, and accounting takes with utmost precision. 

  • Ensure adherence to the applicable company policies, laws, and regulatory requirements 

  • Led, direct and manage the finance and accounting teams.

  • Create and administer budgets and financial resources

  • Recommend business strategies based on financial reports 

  • Develop profit estimations, financial position, and budgeting for the long term.

  • Plan, oversee, and examine financial strategies that include comprehensive accounting and budgeting.

  • Implement plans, procedures, and policies for accounting methods.

  • Research relevant legislation and regulations on financial practices and ensure activities comply.

  • Execute the business's financial strategies while maintaining transparency over financial performance

  • Design internal growth plans to magnify revenue generation and lower business costs.

  • Identify financial planning and investment opportunities. 

  • Develop and pursue new business improvement initiatives and ventures

  • Build relationships across functions and departments within the organisation and external investors

  • Develop and execute business objectives while computing performance

  • Oversee all financial transactions and record them in databases

  • Discuss finance issues with investors, clients, stakeholders, and company leaders 

  • Perform and monitor risk management processes

  • Manage upgrades to financial processes, technologies, or systems.

  • Discuss the financial consequences of business decisions to the CEO and other executive members that are involved in decision making

  • Attend board meetings and provide elaborate financial reports and data-driven recommendations

  • Conduct research and audits to make sure all departments follow IRS guidelines.

  • Attend networking events and stay updated with industry developments and trends. 

  • Represent the company at stakeholder relations meetings.



3. Relevant Skills To Become A CFO


The job of a chief financial officer in Australia is much more than leading finance teams. They also manage areas that include Human Resources, legal, and compliance.


Due to their versatile role, they require a wide range of skills to be successful:


  • Strong leadership skills

  • Excellent management skills

  • Sound judgment

  • Strong interpersonal skills

  • Clear and persuasive communication

  • Excellent presentation skills

  • Accounting skills

  • Able to make data-driven decisions

  • Strategic thinking

  • Commercial acumen

  • People/Talent management skills

  • Good understanding of technological developments and security risks

  • Impeccable financial analysis skills

  • Able to interpret financial regulations

  • Effective delegation

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Time-management skills

  • Adaptability



4. What Qualifications Do You Need To Become A CFO In Australia?


Of all those employed as a CFO, 99% hold a degree in businessfinanceaccounting, and commerce. Around 57% have an MBA, whereas 44% have completed a Master's qualification. The majority (71%) of the employed workforce have professional experience in finance.


Nearly 57% have gained international experience working in the UK, Asia, North America, and Europe during their career. This has helped them immensely to advance in their career. Thus, you can see no specific pathway to becoming a CFO. 


However, employers mostly look for a solid educational background and extensive work experience in finance, business, and account management for this role.


  • Complete an accredited undergraduate 3-year bachelor's degree in accounting, business, finance, economics, or any related field.

  • Advance your skills by completing a related post-graduation qualification like a Master of Business Administration

  • Enhance your credentials by clearing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination. CPA members are known for their intensive finance, business, and accounting training. 

  • Work your way up and gain strong leadership experience in the finance department of a company.



5. How Long Does It Take To Become A CFO In Australia?


Considering the above qualification steps, the road to becoming a CFO is lengthy and requires dedication and consistent hard work. 


Though the exact duration depends on the company size, it generally takes ten years or more to reach the CFO level in a company.



6. Steps To Become A CFO In Australia


CFOs need a good educational background and several years of experience to demonstrate their competency and leadership in finance or business. 


Here is the CFO career path chart to help you acquire the skills and knowledge to become a CFO in Australia:



Step 1: Get A Formal Qualification


To become a CFO, you must get the right qualifications, skills, and experience. A background in economics, finance, business, or management is desirable for this post. Studying for a bachelor's degree in business, accounting or finance is perfect for this role. 


Many universities also offer double degrees like a Bachelor of Accounting with a Bachelor of Economics that take four years instead of a three-year traditional degree.



Step 2: Earn A Post Graduate Qualification


Earning a two-year Master of Business Administration or Master of Applied Finance or Accounting will help improve your operational and business understanding.



Step 3: Gain Industrial Experience


To become a CFO, you need several years of work experience in a financial leadership role. Unpaid learning programs like internships in an accounting firm or finance team are a great way to gain industrial experience while studying.


The other way is to seek an entry-level role such as accounting assistant, financial analyst, accountant, or finance officer. They help develop financial skills and expand your professional network.



Step 4: Get Certified


After gaining the requisite qualifications and work experience, the next step is to complete a professional certification. 


Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Public Accountant are two key certifications that indicate sound accountancy knowledge and make you a competitive candidate.



Step 5: Develop Professional Connections


Networking and building connections are crucial to progress in your career. Industry events, seminars, workshops, or joining professional communities are good ways to come across industry leaders and fellow professionals. 


It could help you identify professional development and job opportunities to succeed in your career.



Step 6: Build A Comprehensive Resume


Highlight your resume's relevant qualifications, certifications, and work history to showcase your departmental management and leadership experience. Include all those skills that match the role that you are applying for. 


Also, mention quantifiable outcomes achieved while working in financial roles to prove your financial management competency to prospective employers.



Step 7: Apply For CFO Positions


Finally, look for CFO roles that align with your educational qualifications and work experience. 


When applying for a job position, update your resume and submit it with a well-drafted cover letter.



Industry Bodies Related To This Profession Are:




7. Relevant Courses For A CFO In Australia


Here are some of the popular courses that can help to get started in this profession:


  • Bachelor of Professional Accounting 

  • Bachelor of Economics

  • Bachelor of Applied Commerce

  • Bachelor of Business 

  • Bachelor of Banking And Finance

  • Bachelor of Accounting

  • Chartered Financial Analyst 

  • Certified Public Accountant

  • Master of Business Administration 

  • Master of Applied Finance

  • Master of Accounting



8. What Are The Pros And Cons Of Becoming A CFO?


CFOs are top-level financial controllers who play a vital role in improving the financial stability of a company. This is a prestigious and highly regarded position in the industry.


The hard work for the improvement of the company earns them admiration and recognition from colleagues and the management. 


The greater power and generous salary with more responsibility make the job appealing and worth pursuing.


However, there are some downsides while working in this job. Aspiring CFOs should know it requires years of consistent study and professional work to get to this role and enjoy the associated perks. It is an undoubtedly challenging journey but highly rewarding and meaningful once you attain it.


Furthermore, the position entitles you to great accountability to keep the company in good financial health. You must be prepared to work for long hours, supervising the work quality of departments and overseeing the financial aspects of the company. 


This is important because any carelessness/negligence can lead to financial disasters and risk your position and reputation in the company.


The current financial strategy could become meaningless for tomorrow's unexpected events in the present age of digital disturbance and security risks. Thus, another odd aspect of being a CFO is that you may have to deal with unusual economic and financial uncertainty levels.



9. How To Become A CFO Of A Fortune 500 Company?


Today's CFOs take on various roles in managing to improve an organisation's bottom line. They work as a financial planner, finance manager, risk advisor and mitigators, strategic adviser, talent managers, financial/business policymakers, a mediator between internal and external parties on issues, and much more. 


Thus, their versatile skill set makes them an indispensable requirement in almost every fortune 500 company.


In earlier times, CFOs used to be experts in accounting, reporting, and financial strategy. Many of them held bachelor's (and sometimes postgraduate) degrees in finance/accounting and accounting certifications.


In the current world, there are several pathways to becoming a CFO. The role has expanded beyond just qualifying for accounting and finance. This is why many finance chiefs pursue an MBA to learn more about the operations and strategy of the business.


Looking at the importance of the role, companies now look for a broad array of technical proficiency and strategic and interpersonal skills in candidates. Besides having academic qualifications, you must have a minimum of a decade of experience and an in-depth understanding of the operations, customers, products, and services.


Here Is The CFO Career Path Chart To Land A Role In Fortune 500 Companies:


  1. Start by completing a bachelor's degree in finance/business/accounting.

  2. Gain experience as a valuation officer or accountant and gain knowledge of accounting regulations, laws, and current issues. 

  3. Volunteer or participate in industry groups to develop relationships with bankers, investors, and lenders. Alternatively, you can work as a finance controller at a small firm or become an entrepreneur to gain experience in financial management.

  4. Develop and hone your communication skills by giving presentations at business conferences, building relationships with the media, and writing for financial publications.

  5. Consider earning a master of business administration in accounting to improve your employability and further progress your career.

  6. Lastly, make every effort to stay up to date on the latest IT developments in your company and the industry. Become knowledgeable in emerging tech tools and digital transformation trends. It will boost your efficiency and help you gain a competitive advantage.



10. Work Environment Of A CFO


A Chief Financial Officer can work in many industries with the skills and knowledge gained through education and work experience.


They mostly work full-time in companies and a few work as self-employed consultants in various firms. They work with CEOs, senior managers, key clients, and the board of directors.


This is an office-based job. CFOs spend most of the day working at a desk in front of computers or laptops. To meet project deadlines, they may have to work overtime on weekends. CFOs may have to travel to distant locations, depending on the company's size and geographical location.



11. Job Prospects Of A CFO In Australia


The modern agile and digitally-oriented business environment has expanded CFO responsibilities in Australia and worldwide. 


The duties of a CFO go beyond conventional accounting and finance. Today, many serve in treasury and controller functions that increase their experience with strategy execution and funding.


The role of a CFO will most likely become superior to any other C-suite position in the coming few years. 


Moreover, digital disruption, cyber security dangers, ambiguous political settings, and global regulations have created greater demand for CFOs.


The national Job outlook website predicts a moderate growth of CFO professionals in the next five years.



12. How Much Salary Does A CFO Earn?


CFOs in Australia take home generous salary packages. Their salary depends on several factors:


  • The size of the company

  • Years of experience

  • Level of education


According to PayScale, the annual average CFO salary in Australia is AU$ 156,518.



Annual Average CFO Salary Based on Experience


  • Early career CFO with 1 to 4 years of experience earns AU$136,989 

  • Mid-career CFO with 5-9 years of experience earns AU$149,597 

  • Experienced CFO with 10-19 years of experience earns AU$158,341 

  • Highly Experienced CFO with 20 years and above experience earns AU$173,043. 



Annual Average CFO Salary Based on Location


As per Indeed, the following are the top-paying Australian cities for Chief Financial Officers:


  • Perth, Western Australia: $180,194

  • Hay New South Wales: $173,241

  • Melbourne Victoria: $169,079

  • Canberra Australian Capital Territory: $151,992

  • Brisbane Queensland: $147,465

  • Sydney, New South Wales: $142,377



13. Conclusion


A CFO is a high-demand role that allows you to work in any industry. You get the chance to contribute to accounting decisions, risk assessment, and the development of economic strategies of a company to make it lucrative. 


Though it requires years to get there, the emotional rewards you get while working make it worth putting in the effort.


Useful Links to Explore:

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Please Subscribe to our Newsletter