The essential skill sets CFO‘s need in 2020

January 27, 2020 | Yana Todorova 5 Mins read

In a recent article, we talked about the expanding role of the CFO in modern businesses. How 2020’s CFOs need to broaden their skill set to succeed in today’s business landscape. And how this skill expansion could lead to CFOs taking on the role of CEO in their company.

Indeed, a recent Gartner survey of more than 1,000 finance employers revealed two interesting developments. Firstly, the skills requirements in the finance sector have changed in reaction to modern business developments. And secondly, as a result, a skills gap is emerging amongst finance employees.

To illustrate this gap, Gartner asked participants to rate each skill for current levels of competency and perceived future importance to the business market. When plotted on a graph, their findings reveal where training and development are most needed to guarantee future business success.

Gartner then divided these key finance skills into five areas of competency. These amount to five work personas which they believe each finance manager needs on their team to remain profitable in 2020 and beyond. The results show that to remain competitive, CFOs need to upskill in these emerging competencies as a priority.

Top of the list of new skills that most finance departments are lacking in is IT fulfillment and data analytics. Melanie O’Brien, vice president at Gartner says “Although it’s probably no surprise to most finance leaders that technical skills relating to data analytics, IT fulfillment, and IT innovation are in short supply, it’s no time to be complacent.”


Why the change in the CFO’s skill set?


But what has brought on this change in the role of the CFO and the finance department? What external factors are CFOs up against that they weren’t before?


New technologies

First, the growth of technology and the change this has brought about in business management. Big data, data analytics, and Artificial Intelligence amongst others have now hit the mainstream. CFOs must learn how to leverage these tools to stay ahead of the competition.

CFOs must recognize the importance of new technologies, champion their use and oversee their integration. Finance leaders must also use the data their new tools produce to enhance decision-making.

Similarly, CFOs must educate themselves and remain vigilant with regard to cybersecurity. Most CFOs now recognize that breaches are an inevitable part of running a modern business, so their role is to minimize the potential damage.



As technology improves, new markets spring up across the globe. It’s, therefore, becoming increasingly common for businesses to operate across borders. This offers a wealth of new growth opportunities and challenges for CFOs. They must navigate multiple financial landscapes with confidence. And they must show leadership in welcoming an increased and more diverse headcount.


Economic uncertainty

As the world’s economic superpowers shift, political uncertainty feeds economic instability. The CFO must become the agile, risk-averse and opportunistic hub of the business.

More than a third of CFO Leadership Council members believe a recession is likely in 2020. In the face of such concerns, financial leaders must seek opportunities for growth. But they cannot forgo their innate conservative mindset.

As a result of this expanded role, CFOs must step away from their desks and build strong relationships with board members. It’s up to the financial leaders to steer the business using their newfound knowledge and skills.

The key competencies of 2020’s CFOs

According to Gartner, finance leadership teams need to review their employees’ competencies and recognize where they are lacking certain skills or work personas. These gaps must be filled or business leaders risk seeing them widen even more.


The five key personas required amongst finance professionals, as set out by Gartner, include:



These financial professionals are adept at business navigation. They possess the soft skills needed to get the job done. This includes social intelligence and communication skills. They can handle both formal and informal collaboration, but they excel at virtual collaboration. Whether it’s setting priorities, establishing workflows or monitoring progress, they are able to ensure the success of remote teams. Their cross-cultural awareness and handle on diversity allow them to share opportunities on a global scale. They can motivate and engage employees from all corners of the organization.



Doers offer excellent cross-functional know-how. These are the financial leaders known for their judgment and timely decision-making. They possess business acumen in the field of problem-solving, especially when it comes to complex problems. These financial professionals waste no time in breaking those challenges down into more manageable pieces. In this way, these workers are resilient and persistent. They will not rest until the problem is solved and the business decision is made.

These financial leaders ask the right questions. They are natural project managers because they can delegate, balance responsibilities and meet deadlines. They are service orientated, making them a strong asset to the team on issues relating to customers or members of the board.



In the ever-changing business landscape, learners are an essential part of the finance function. These workers are agile and adaptable, they can act with confidence in new environments.

They are open to new ideas and are able to support change initiatives and help colleagues to adapt in kind. They seek continuous improvement. They may approach senior management offering suggestions on how to improve department best practice or company workflow. In suggesting changes, they have a clear understanding of the risks and the likelihood of success.



Persuaders are financial professionals who operate across multiple business functions. They are able to communicate between these functions in the interests of risk management.

They refer to big data analytics and financial statements when making decisions. They are skilled at keeping reporting on task for accurate financial planning. They work well with evidence and are able to use their business acumen to build a picture of financial performance. Their analytical skills aid them in presenting rational insights and solutions.



The financial leaders known as Strategists offer strong business coordination and leadership skills. They have the technical skills needed to master IT innovation, IT fulfillment and vendor management.

They are able to connect reports from the finance team to overarching business objectives. They can suggest ways forward with regard to systems or upgrades. They display strong relationships with IT vendors and understand the benefits to cash-flow of onboarding and maintaining these partnerships. Whether in the field of cybersecurity or payroll, their technical know-how and understanding of the company’s financial position make them excellent negotiators.

This useful template from Gartner allows financial leaders to think about their team and the future skills they will need to continue to support the business. Gartner advises CFOs to build their future finance function now by identifying gaps and seeking the personnel to fill them. Global payroll technology such as Payslip can support CFOs in this task. By offering real-time consolidated payroll reporting on a global level, Payslip delivers control and visibility over international headcount costs and potential areas of risk or growth opportunities as they arise.


For more information on reporting and analytics available on the Payslip Platform contact us today!


Using Payslip, we can manage all our payrolls across nine in-country vendors on one platform. When the global Covid-19 pandemic arose, it was not an issue from a payroll perspective, and critically getting everyone paid. The Payslip platform enabled continuity for our international payroll service including the fast and seamless implementation of the Payslip Employment Self Service during this time.

Colin Smith

Payroll Manager, LogMeIn

With business and employee growth rates of above 50%, we rely on our vendors to deliver on time, every time. Payslip’s workflow automation, enables Phorest to manage our payroll provider process – data driven, real time and transparent. Payslip saves us time so we can focus on our business growth.

Ana Kelly

International Payroll Manager, Phorest