10 Ways to Spot a
By Joya Martin
I started my career in finance in 1997
when I joined Ernst & Young, as an
Audit Associate. In the years
following, I have also worked with Big
Four firms PwC and KPMG and as FC
and CFO in several industries, and
finally as a telecoms GM.
A changing role
More than ever, there is a demand
for skilled accounting professionals.
Over the years, expectations of the
role of chief accountant, finance
manager, financial controller, finance
director and chief financial officer
have evolved significantly.
A changing role
The accounting profession is no
longer the realm of bean counters in
dark, dingy offices piled high with
papers and overflowing with adding
A changing role
Today’s finance executive is not just an
administrator or cost cutter, but a key
partner in the business, creating value
and providing a high return on
Top performers expand their skills
beyond the purely financial to become
true leaders within their organizations.
Weak finance executives
Here are 10 red flags that will help you
spot a mediocre accounting executive.
If you are a finance executive who is
guilty of any of these indicators, it is
never too late to start diligently focusing
on improving your own performance.
1. Frequently missed deadlines
Ineffective finance managers forget
that for financial reports to be
effective, they must be provided to
decision-makers in a timely manner.
Strong executives work well under
pressure to produce timely, reliable
and accurate information.
2. Hard work with few results
Ineffective finance managers get
addicted to putting in the long hours
required without tying the strenuous
effort to tangible goals and visible
Skilled controllers focus on becoming
better at what they do, not just on
burning the midnight oil.
3. Chained to a desk
Weak chief accountants are out of
touch with the day-to-day
happenings in the organization.
They fail to understand that finance
crosses all areas of the business, and
missing the opportunity to assert
themselves as leaders, are ignored
by both colleagues and line staff.
4. Not supported by GM/CEO
The relationship between a financial
controller and the general manager
is one of the most critically important
to the success of the business.
Skilled finance professionals make it
a priority to win the trust of leaders
and make sure there is open and
5. Poor communication
Poor financial executives lack the
communication skills to engage effectively
with people at all levels of the organization.
Skilled finance managers communicate
company performance clearly and
concisely both orally and in writing. They
are not afraid of delivering bad news and
provide information to stakeholders without
having to be asked.
6. Lack of commerciality
Inept accountants fail to grasp
critical processes and non-financial
drivers of business success.
An effective finance director will
have well-developed commercial
skills and be intimately familiar with
the functioning of all business cycles.
7. Poor team building
Weak CFOs downplay the
importance of attracting the best and
brightest people. They fail to create a
nurturing environment which
challenges young professionals. They
expect hard work without providing
adequate coaching or clear paths for
advancement, and find themselves
in a disrupting cycle of losing key
people, rehiring and retraining.
8. Bad cash flow management
Unfit accountants encounter frequent
difficulties meeting important
Strong financial executives think
ahead to skillfully juggle scarce
resources, negotiate with suppliers
and perform miracles to ensure that
staff are not paid late.
9. Lack of accountability
Ineffective finance directors are
intimidated by their colleagues and
don’t challenge them on targets,
variances and overall performance.
A skillful CFO will demonstrate self-
confidence and have the gravitas to
hold the executive team
accountable for results.
10. Lack of added value
Weak accountants are undisciplined,
pay insufficient attention to detail and
produce low-quality reports, and poor
forecasts based on faulty assumptions.
Sound finance managers are fiercely
committed to achieving the goals of the
company. They are fluent with their
numbers, able to think strategically and
translate plans into effective action.