Virtual CFOs are a relatively new phenomenon, spurred on by increasing digital accessibility and the demand for business advisory on a budget. However, some virtual CFOs have already distinguished themselves from their peers in terms of quality.
We’ve put together the points of difference that will help you pick the right virtual CFO for your business. These are the factors that you need to consider:
1. CFO qualities
Here’s a secret about a virtual CFO skillset: it is much the same as a regular CFO. They need to have great soft skills, lots of experience, plenty of knowledge both inside and outside of your industry and, of course, a solid formal education.
You can check out the specifics of what makes a great CFO here, but here’s a quick summary:
- They should be working as leaders,
- They should have at least bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance; preferably a masters in business administration,
- They should be familiar with your industry and more specifically your company and its processes and structure, and,
- They should be adaptable and generally agile.
2. Buddy system
Your virtual CFO tends to actually be a team of experts, rather than a single general operator. Clearly there is a leader making the strategic decisions but having the all-round skills of the team available when you need it is great for your business, as you don’t have to worry about your CFO going on leave or getting sick, leaving your enterprise stuck up a creek without a paddle.
Your virtual CFO tends to actually be a team of experts, rather than a single general operator.
However, you will tend to work with one team member more than others, which is why the best virtual CFO teams have a “buddy system”: your daily contact will have another CFO shadowing them, learning your business alongside them.
This way, if your regular CFO is unavailable on one of the 5 days a year on average that people are absent, you have a backup. When you’re choosing a virtual CFO service, make sure this buddy system is in place to ensure consistency.
3. Technological savvy
No executive in the modern age can get away without being at least moderately technologically savvy, but that goes double for virtual CFOs. The entire operation is based on the latest and greatest digital technology, so working with a service that doesn’t emphasise that is defeating the point entirely.
The entire operation is based on the latest and greatest digital technology, so working with a service that doesn’t emphasise that is defeating the point entirely.
You need to be on the lookout for a service that can provide you with a solution that is easy to use, but still expert enough to provide real insights. You’ll probably see most virtual CFOs using some form of cloud computing as well, something that has become very popular in New Zealand (one in five NZ businesses have already integrated the cloud into their organisation). Choosing the right accounting software is vital to producing meaningful reports for decision making.
Accessible solutions and cloud computing. These are the keywords to keep an eye out for. But we’ll add a third: solid infrastructure. It’s pointless to have a virtual CFO if their digital infrastructure is slow and prone to crashing. Ask about their own computing systems to ensure that they are up to the task of providing their service at peak efficiency.
In short, a great virtual CFO has many of the same qualities as a regular CFO: expertise, confidence, leadership and experience. But they should also have the service structure to ensure consistency, as well as the technology aptitude and attitude to keep their business (and yours) forward-facing.