Survey: CFOs List Average Tenure at 12 Years, Up From Eight Years a Decade Ago

MENLO PARK, Calif., Feb. 10 -- A series of surveys conducted over 10 years reveals chief financial officers (CFOs) may be staying in their jobs longer. When executives were asked recently what they thought was the average tenure for a CFO, the mean response was 12 years. This compares to nine years and eight years from surveys conducted in 2006 and 2000, respectively.

Five percent of CFOs said they estimated the average tenure of a company's top financial executive to be four years or less, compared to 17 percent whose responses fell into the category in 2000. Nineteen percent of executives interviewed for the new survey thought CFOs were likely to stay on the job 16 years or longer.

The historical survey results reflect CFO responses over a 10-year period in which economic conditions fluctuated significantly, observed Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. At the time the survey was released in 2000, for example, the national unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, and CFOs were more apt to receive and consider competitive offers. "The new survey was conducted during a recession, a time when job opportunities are fewer and the risks associated with leaving a position are perceived to be higher," McDonald said.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, the world's premier provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project and interim basis. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with more than 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

CFOs were asked, "What do you think is the average tenure for someone appointed CFO at a company?" Their responses:

  2010 2006 2000
1 to 4 years 5% 10% 17%
5 to 10 years 57% 59% 55%
11 to 15 years 12% 8% 7%
16 or more years 19% 10% 5%
Mean 12 years 9 years 8 years
U.S. unemployment rate* 9.7% 4.7% 3.9%

*Source: U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rates listed are from the corresponding months each survey was published, except for the 2010 figure, which is the most recent one available (December 2000, January 2006 and January 2010).

"A company's success or failure is more dependent on its CFO now than at nearly any time in the past," McDonald continued. "While the CFO role is extremely demanding, particularly in times of financial crisis and increased regulatory mandates, it carries with it significant professional rewards, including direct involvement in all aspects of company management, from corporate strategy to business development."

McDonald noted that this trend is having another positive effect on CFOs: "Because of their growing view of the entire enterprise and increased interaction with the board of directors, financial executives are now more frequently considered serious candidates for CEO roles."

About the Survey
The national study was developed by Robert Half Management Resources. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments are represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportion of employees within each region.

About Robert Half Management Resources
Robert Half Management Resources is the premier provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals to supplement companies' project and interim staffing needs. The company has more than 145 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

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