Survey: Most CFOs Have Not Identified a Successor

MENLO PARK, CA, April 28, 2010 -- If their chief financial officer (CFO) left unexpectedly, many companies might have to scramble to find a replacement, a new survey suggests. The vast majority (83 percent) of financial executives interviewed said they have not identified a successor for their position. Of those, 81 percent said their primary reason for not doing so was that they have no plans to leave their present companies in the near future.

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 includes responses from 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

CFOs were asked, "Have you identified a successor for your position?" Their responses:

Yes 17%
No 83%

CFOs who have not identified their successor also were asked, "Which one of the following most accurately describes your reason for not identifying your successor?" Their responses:

Not planning on leaving in the near future


No qualified candidates currently working at your organization


Too busy focusing on other concerns


Not a priority as you would no longer be with the company




Don't know/no answer



"Identifying and developing future leaders is crucial for businesses, and succession planning is a necessary step in that process," said Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. McDonald noted that it is never too early to identify and prepare promising candidates for leadership positions. "Nurturing a talent pool and promoting from within are valuable strategies for retaining top performers and ensuring smoother transitions when passing on the management reins," he said.

To avoid being left unprepared, McDonald recommends businesses take the following four steps to identify and groom successors:

  1. Adopt a structured approach. Identify positions critical to the success of the organization that should never be left vacant. Also determine which senior-level managers may leave in the next few years, either because of retirement or other factors. Next, note which senior or mid-level managers, with focused professional development, might be qualified to take on those roles.
  2. Groom future leaders. Determine the personal and professional qualities that are essential for succession candidates to succeed. Look for developmental opportunities that allow your stars to gain visibility and hone their functional expertise and decision-making skills.
  3. Broaden the pool. Remember that the people who are next in line for promotions are not necessarily those who will make the best leaders. Search for high-potential candidates throughout your company -- not just up and down the job title chain. If your firm has experienced layoffs or a merger, try to identify remaining staff who have worked hard to motivate and inspire their colleagues, kept important projects on track, and ensured client satisfaction. These are the people who should be given the opportunity to grow their natural leadership abilities.
  4. Set goals, monitor and follow up. Create clear milestones for succession candidates, and make a point to provide ongoing feedback to help them progress. This should include recognizing their achievements promptly and working with them to understand their professional aspirations and interests.

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 were 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 www.roberthalfmr.com. Follow Robert Half Management Resources at twitter.com/roberthalfmr for workplace news.

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