What is a CFO’s Qualifications?
Updated: May 21
For those who are just joining us, this is a series from a radio interview with Midland’s Ask the Permian Land Girl host Kimberly Smith. The topics chronicled include: what is a CFO, what do CFOs do, how the CFO’s role is different from CPAs and Controllers, what are the career paths to the CFO office, and why private companies choose to outsource CFOs. Kimberly asked me to participate in her radio series Agents of Change after hearing about The Energy CFO from business owners we have helped. Based on the feedback from the show, I decided to supplement the radio interview with a blog series that focuses on each one of the topics covered and provide more detail for those who are interested.
For more about What is a CFO, What does a CFO do, and an overview of the role of the CFO vs. Controller refer to blog Part I.
The Energy CFO is a niche CFO Advisory and Consulting firm I started in South Texas focused on helping private energy, digital oilfield technology, oil and gas SaaS software companies. The Energy CFO helps owners and their companies with lean start-ups, improve their cash flow and profitability in good times and in crisis, understand their economics and breakeven, implement solutions including procurement and inventory, along with strategic operations and financial planning, forecasting, change leadership, CFO coaching, and strategic advisory services.
Part II: What is a CFO’s Qualifications?
Most CFOs of large energy companies have finance qualifications such as:
Masters of Science (“MSc”) in a science technology engineering or math field (“STEM”) or
Come from an accounting background such as Certified Public Accountant (“CPA”) or Chartered Global Management Accountant (“CGMA”).
Steven Bragg, author of The CFO Guidebook (the CFO bible if you will) is one of the leading minds when it comes to the role of CFOs. He describes “the ideal CFO is one with the process orientation of an engineer, the knowledge base of a librarian, and the persuasion skills of a preacher.”
Just for fun, I thought we would take a sample of industry CFOs and look at their background:
In the energy industry – many of the majors’ CFOs are home grown:
Andrew P. Swiger ExxonMobil (Engineer)
Patricia E. Yarrington, Chevron (MBA)
Jeff Sheets, ConocoPhillips (Engineer)
Dr. Brian Gilvary, BP (PHd Math)
Simon Henry, Shell (Math, CIMA)
When we look at CFOs of leading Independents, many have accounting backgrounds:
Shelbie DeZell CPA, Hilcorp (came from PWC)
Stephen J. Riney MBA & Accounting, Apache (came from BP)
Timothy K Driggers Accounting, EOG (at EOG long time – previously Arthur Anderson)
John D. Hart CPA, Continental Resources (came from E&Y)
When we consider the scope of the CFO vs. Controller’s responsibilities and the size and ownership structure of the businesses, it really is not so surprising to see the diversity in the backgrounds of CFOs. How about we drill down and compare the responsibilities of a CFO and a Controller so you can better appreciate my last comment:
Taken as a whole, the role of a CFO is much broader than that of a Controller. CFOs need to understand many disciplines beyond just accounting and tax. Soft skills are also critical at the CFO level and are often a major factor in the CEO’s decision who to hire.