CFOs increasingly filling operational roles as companies shed COOs

October 3, 2012
CFOs increasingly filling operational roles as companies shed COOs

CFO Magazine recently reported on an interesting trend that appears to be taking shape in the executive world.

At many companies, chief financial officers (CFOs) are being tasked with the responsibilities more commonly associated with chief operating officers (COOs).

The publication cited a survey showing that, in the year 2000, 47 percent of the companies included in either the Fortune 500 or S&P 500 had COOs. Now, in 2012, only 35 percent of them have a C-level officer who is specifically in charge of operations. According to the news source, corporate finance chiefs are increasingly being asked to take charge of operational responsibilities as COOs drop in number.

This may be a sign that CFOs are going to be moving up in the line of executive succession. Finance chiefs are often talked about by media commentators as hypothetical replacements or potential interim chief executive officers (CEOs) in the event of an unexpected departure.

The COO position has often been spoken of as a stepping stone to the chief executive’s job. And, this is an idea that has some evidence behind it. In one relevant example, Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, was the company’s operations chief for years before he assumed the top office.

Even if assumptions about CFOs advancing in the line of succession prove to be unfounded, it is still clear that CFOs are taking on an increasingly central role at many corporations.

And, with CFOs taking on more operational responsibility, it is critical for companies to connect with sharp, capable individuals when conducting a financial professional search. Working with professional recruiters can help a business execute a fast, effective search.

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