The average age of CFOs has increased significantly over the last decade, a study from executive recruiting firm Crist|Kolder Associates found.
Finance chiefs at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies averaged 52.8 years of age in 2019 — five years older than the 2009 average, according to the study. It’s also the first time the average has eclipsed 50 in at least 15 years, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Many large companies are moving to hire middle-aged CFOs, the WSJ wrote. Chevron’s finance chief is 54, Tapestry’s is 55, and Coca-Cola’s is 57.
“As the CFO role takes on a greater breadth of responsibilities within the organization, it takes longer for an individual to touch all the requisite bases to fulfill that much broader role,” Tom Kolder, president of Crist|Kolder Associates, told CFO Dive.
“[New CFOs] need time in the corporate office, as a finance leader in operating divisions, and time to fill the role where you get exposure to the board of directors. All of that can’t be done simply in a few years,” he said.
Each of these distinct experiences take several years, which can go towards explaining the recent skew towards older and more experienced new CFO hires. “You need someone who has seen more, and done more,” Kolder said. “and that leads you to candidates who have a bit more tenure.”
The widening scope of responsibility may also draw attention to the recent trend of bundling the CFO position with the COO position. Kolder says this move is “certainly beneficial” from a business standpoint, as “bringing financial information and data into strategy and operations execution is great for the business.”
“Oftentimes, we see that the COO role is a nice way to prepare someone for eventual succession into CFO, and once that happens, you may not backfill the CFO, and just have the CFO absorb some of that,” Kolder said.
“Whether one individual can do all that is dependent upon the size and complexity of the organization,” Kolder said. “But it’s clearly a trend in the C-suite.”
The age and experience of the CFO continues to be a driving question in determining company leadership, particularly as the CFO is tasked with revitalizing companies that are recovering from slow or negative growth.