The director of finance is the chief decision-maker for a company’s future financial strategies and one of the most senior people in its executive suite.
A director of finance’s duties differ from those of a chief financial officer (CFO). While the CFO typically looks at the big picture to make financial decisions, the director of finance analyzes internal departments’ budgets and expenses while monitoring cash flow. Their financial reporting efforts help the CFO make informed budgetary decisions.
You’re expected to be a leader in this role. Directors of finance oversee members of the finance department, and it will likely be your responsibility to develop an annual operating budget. Our guide will help you determine whether this lucrative career path could be right for you.
What is a finance director?
Companies rely on finance directors for accurate business activity reports, spending forecasts, and financial statements. They analyze market trends, communicate financial insights to management, and supervise employees in charge of the company’s budget. It is a job that requires high levels of both education and experience. Directors of finance are not novices in the field; they are greatly respected budgeting and financial planning experts.
Due to the role’s heavy demands, a director of finance’s salary is substantial. It also usually includes a benefits and retirement package. Most industries require a director of finance to manage operations, so the position is available worldwide.
Director of finance salary
Because of the highly specialized nature of the job and the exceptional experience required, a director of finance’s salary can be substantial and often includes enviable benefits. However, this means that positions are highly competitive.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a financial manager was $134,180 in 2020. (The BLS does not specifically report salary data for directors of finance, but financial manager is a comparable position.) Metropolitan areas offer the highest salaries, including the New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.
High level of job security
Financial management positions, including director of finance roles, are currently experiencing steady growth. From 2019 to 2029, career opportunities are expected to grow by 15%, according to the BLS. States with the most finance director positions are California, Texas, New York, and Illinois. Employment levels are highest in the cities of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.
A challenging and exciting career
Finance directors face daily challenges as they handle complex duties that include internal auditing, overseeing the implementation and maintenance of financial information technology (IT) systems, providing risk assessments, and forecasting financial growth.
Continuing education will always be part of the position because it requires a specialized skill set. The job is intellectually stimulating, as you regularly solve complex financial situations.
Continuing education options
Working in high-level financial roles usually allows you to continue studying while collecting a paycheck. If you hold a bachelor’s degree, you may be eligible to receive a tuition grant from your company to finish training, so you can prepare for a finance director position.
In most cases, companies choose candidates who have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or are completing one. Also common for directors of finance are certifications, including Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), and Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Industry trends for finance directors
Director of finance jobs are likely to continue to develop and grow over the next decade. Employers will seek those who have a grasp of the following industry trends.
Although different backgrounds are encouraged in a work setting, a widely accepted set of core values among staff members has gained in importance. Directors of finance apply their communication skills to build their teams and reinforce these organizational values.
Studies have linked big data to the changes occurring in the financial sector. Big data allows directors of finance to access and analyze extensive sets of financial data to back up their strategic decisions with research.
As the threat of data breaches continues to grow in the digital age, finance leaders will need to maintain security and manage financial information properly. You will be expected to work with IT and security teams to put into place systems for data governance and mitigating cyber risk.
With the massive quantities of financial data available, financial directors can use analytics to increase security and better identify, measure, and mitigate risk. Forensic analytics can improve the ability to track fraud and financial crimes. More than ever before, you will have the tools to improve operational efficiencies across your organization using analytics.
Areas of opportunity for a director of finance
Despite the economy’s ups and downs, the need for directors of finance is typically high. A company’s financial success is directly tied to the efforts of its top executives, and directors of finance can be found in several industries. Here are some areas where you might find work as a director of finance:
Industry opportunities for directors of finance:
Hospitals and medical offices
Federal, state, or local government offices
Although many industries have job openings for directors of finance, the greatest opportunity is within credit unions and commercial lenders. These companies are home to the largest number of finance managers.
How to become a finance director
Aspiring directors of finance will need to refine their skills in accounting and finance to be equipped for the position’s responsibilities. The skills discussed in this section are those with the highest growth rate over the next five years and will improve your understanding of how to become a finance director.
According to Burning Glass Technologies, the following are 10 of the most desired skills in finance that can aid an aspiring director of finance:
Companies also frequently look for directors of finance with the following soft skills:
In this field, the top requested technical skills are:
Enhanced data analytics
Directors of finance use a variety of tools and processes to help with their financial management process. Projected growth in the following areas is reported by Burning Glass Technologies:
Projected Posting Growth (2018–2023)
Full Cycle Accounting
Model Risk Management
Source: Burning Glass Technologies
Director of finance associations
Financial associations can help in your quest to secure this senior-level position. Professional associations provide valuable resources to members, and local chapters often provide networking opportunities.
The American Finance Association is one of the best-known professional organizations for finance directors. It publishes The Journal of Finance and routinely holds in-person and virtual courses and conferences.
Finance directors may also join the Association for Finance Professionals. The organization provides certifications, training options, and networking events to treasury and finance workers nationwide.
Although the path to becoming a director of finance can seem long, the personal and financial rewards of such a lucrative career are worth it. With the right set of skills, education, and certifications, you could become a member of a company’s executive suite.
As more companies lean into globalization and technology continues to advance, a director of finance’s responsibilities will grow along with it. We’re here to help you find your path forward and into the top offices.