The job outlook in corporate finance is bright. Robert Half recently surveyed over 1,000 Chief Financial Officers in 1995 and concluded "The outlook for hiring is better than it has been in many years.
"Shortages in a variety of job categories and industries are taking place. Hot job categories include international and operationally-oriented positions. Hot industries include financial services, manufacturing, high-technology, environmental management services and distribution."
Asked to name the qualities that finance executives should have, CEOs top their list with strategic thinking, fresh perspective, and candor. The demand for finance executives who can formulate strategies and foment change on a global scale will only increase in a world where trade barriers are crumbling." CFO Magazine, February 1994.
It is crucial that a financial officer be a team player, whether at the bottom or the top of a company. At the top, relationships are especially important. For a CEO, the chief financial officer is financial whiz, strategist and partner. The relationship needs to be tight. Consider the role played by Marcus Bennett at Lockheed Martin, the largest defense firm in the United States: "As a key member of [CEO] Augustine's inner circle, [Bennett] is intimately involved in hashing out the company's strategic plans. And when the group decides on a major acquisition or merger, such as the recent linkup with Lockheed, Bennett serves as the primary negotiator. Once a deal is done, he oversees the melding of the balance sheets of the two companies, the combining of employee benefits programs, the squeezing out of cost savings and the overall financial operation of the five current major operating units." (Institutional Investor, "Stealth CFO," Dec. 1995)
A good financial officer can create enormous value for a company. For example, when Jerome York switched from being the CFO of IBM to being the CFO of Chrysler, Chrysler's stock gained $1.3 billion the next day, while IBM's stock fell sharply.
While still largely a male world, women are making rapid inroads in corporate finance positions around the United States. According to the Detroit News (Jan 28, 1996): "Finance has become the first field of opportunity for women because promotions are based on merit - not the old-boy network. Experts say accounting and its natural offspring - finance, treasury, budgeting - are less obstructed by the macho cultures more prevalent in manufacturing and engineering, other traditional paths to the corporate pinnacle." There a wide variety of examples of women who have succeeded in corporate finance. Heidi Kunz engineered General Motor's turnaround plan in 1992 and jumped to become CFO of a new ITT spinoff in 1995. And Judy Lewent is widely credited with creating large amounts of value at Merck as a thinking CFO and strong leader. Mina Brown, CFO at Aviall notes that it is very important for women who want to rise far to get management positions in line divisions.