I was asked an interesting question recently: is there a difference between a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and FD (Financial Director)?

Well, for a minute I was stymied. I had to give it some thought.

CFO is definitely a relatively new term – financial director has always been the classic description of the most senior financial executive.

But there now seems to be an inherent embedded difference between the two roles.

CFO is more of a title attributed to the most senior finance executive in a listed company. He is the head honcho of finance.

Underneath him lies a series of officers with various titles:

  • Divisional CFO
  • Financial director
  • Director of finance
  • Group financial manager
  • Head of finance

Among all these descriptions it seems that CFO has become accepted as the most senior. Any other title now indicates that there is someone more senior to you.

So if you are the top dog in the finance position and you represent that position on the Board of Directors, do not hesitate. Call yourself CFO. Otherwise you create the wrong impression.

If you struggle to step up to this title, know it has nothing to do with humility – it is completely about you not claiming your space. Whilst you might think you’re being humble, everyone else is wondering why you’re playing small.

But there is a rider to this scenario.

If your boss calls himself the managing director, calling yourself the CFO just does not fit.

So if, for whatever reason, the Group CEO decides to call himself the managing director, it is more than appropriate that you refer to yourself as the financial director.


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