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CFO Insights — Board bios: Positioning yourself for the director seat you want

Published on: Jul 25, 2019

It’s easy to understand why current CFOs might want to serve on an outside board of directors: the opportunity to get a first-hand perspective of how another company (and sometimes, industry) functions; to gauge the effectiveness of a different management style; and to wrestle with a broad range of organizational issues. What’s harder to fathom, however, is what makes board candidates most appealing to those corporations looking to fill open seats.

Having at least one skilled finance executive adept at translating financial statements into language that the board can easily understand fulfills a critical oversight obligation. But finance executives are capable of bringing plenty of other skills to the boardroom.

Just consider strategic thinking and the ability to identify core constraints to an organization’s growth plans. Not surprisingly, in a survey conducted by Deloitte and the Society for Corporate Governance during the fourth quarter of 2018, 41 percent of respondents selected strategy as a topic that is discussed at every board meeting. Two other oft-discussed topics, capital allocation (20 percent) and mergers and acquisitions (17 percent), are also areas where CFOs could bring both experience and expertise.

In addition, 70 percent of respondents reported that their boards have increased their focus on digital transformation and technology — areas likely on many CFOs’ agendas. In the same survey, however, only 16 percent of respondents cited experience in the area of finance and banking as a top recruitment priority for their boards during the next one or two years. For finance chiefs, that means the burden is generally on future board members to find ways to register on the radar of those scouting for members.

In the service of doing just that, it’s crucial that CFOs pay close attention to a tool that, if kept sharp, can help them cut a path to securing a seat at the boardroom table: the board bio.

This issue explores steps CFOs can take to create an effective board bio, from prioritizing pertinent information, to framing a persuasive story, to defining the unique value proposition they possess.

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