How to become a Finance Director

5 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

If you are looking to become a Finance Director, it is important to learn about the skills, qualifications and experience that employers are looking for. By doing so, you can enhance your application and put yourself in the best position for a role as a Finance Director or Director of Finance.

Applying for a Finance Director role is a major step in any finance or accountancy professional's career. Financial Directors are key players within an organisation, playing a pivotal role in setting the company's financial strategy and overall commercial trajectory.

As such, the application and vetting process for Financial Directors tends to be quite in-depth, requiring candidates to demonstrate a high level of skill and experience. To become a Finance Director, candidates will need to familiarise themselves with this process and tailor their applications to show they can provide what employers are looking for.

Here, we will provide advice on how to become a Finance Director and how to create the most compelling application when competing for high-profile roles within your chosen sector.

What does a Finance Director do in a company?

Successful applications for senior roles should be written with the specific responsibilities and requirements of the role at the forefront. It is therefore important for candidates to have a strong understanding of what a typical Finance Director job description looks like, in order to ensure they are ticking all of the necessary boxes.

Finance Directors will be responsible for overseeing the finance and accounting department of an organisation. Working as part of the senior management team, if not the Board of Directors, they will usually be the most senior member of the finance department.

A standard Finance Director job description will usually include the following, depending on the industry, structure, and size of the organisation:

  • Developing the company's business objectives and overall commercial strategy, and ensuring that its financial performance is delivering on these goals.
  • Overseeing the organisation's financial controllership, including the preparation of value add commentary with explanations for key movements.
  • Managing the business's financial planning, with direct control over budgeting, forecasting, cash flow and credit.
  • Providing guidance and support on audits, tax reviews and financial risk issues.
  • Financial analysis and modelling of proposals to inform future business strategy and financial targets.
  • Collaborating with and managing the company's accountancy team and lower-level management.

Although these are the typical job requirements for Finance Directors, the exact responsibilities associated with the role will vary depending on the organisation.

What skills and qualifications are required for Finance Directors?

Finance Directors play a pivotal role in a company's commercial strategy and business administration, harnessing and making sense of complex financial information to ensure that the company's finances are being managed appropriately.

As such, you can expect a Finance Director job description to include a number of key skills and qualifications as necessary preconditions for applicants:

  • A professional accounting qualification with CIMA, ACA or ACCA.
  • A strong academic background, with a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance or higher.
  • Proven high-level industry experience in financial operations, demonstrating skills in technical accounting principles.
  • Evidence of strong communication skills when dealing with other departments and senior stakeholders.
  • Prior management experience and an understanding of how to lead a team.

Additionally, the following soft skills will also be crucial to your application, and may often be specified as key requirements within a finance job description:

  • Good communication skills, and an affinity for building relationships through your interpersonal skills.
  • Strong analytical skills and critical thinking, backed by good commercial instincts.
  • Broad knowledge of the latest industry trends and developments.
  • High-level computer literacy and familiarity with the latest financial software systems.
  • Good time management instincts, and the ability to multitask.
How to strengthen your application to become a Finance Director

If you possess these important skills and want to work your way towards a Finance Director role, there are a number of steps you can take to strengthen your application further:

  • Research your chosen company before submitting your application, and tailor your approach accordingly. What specific qualifications and skills are they seeking? What challenges are they facing within their sector?
  • Identify the industry you want to work in early in your career, and take steps to build your knowledge and experiences of this sector, including by building a strong commercial awareness of the industry's dynamics.
  • Familiarise yourself with as many financial planning software systems as possible, so that you will be proficient with any setup.
  • Highlight your measurable achievements and the value you have generated for past employers when writing your CV, as well as being as specific as possible about your previous responsibilities and project experience.
  • Obtain references from previous employers that showcase your communication skills and relationship-building expertise, with a particular focus on positive references from business units outside the finance team. This will help to demonstrate your affinity for working as part of a multidisciplinary team, which is a key requirement for these roles.

By taking these steps, you can mark yourself out as a potentially great Finance Director, putting yourself in the best possible position to secure the role you seek and start climbing the career ladder.

The benefits of working with a specialist recruiter

Finding a role as a Finance Director that matches your ambitions is much easier when you work with a specialist recruitment agency. Your recruitment partner can provide career advice and support you with all aspects of your job search, helping you to refine your CV and application, as well as match you with prospective employers who are looking for applicants with your skillset.

It is particularly important to find a recruitment partner with expertise in recruiting for high-level senior and executive roles, such as Sellick Partnership. We have good relationships with many of the industry's top employers, and a strong track record of placing highly skilled senior candidates in Director of Finance roles.

To find out how Sellick Partnership can help you apply for a Finance Director role, visit our Senior & Executive recruitment hub, where you can explore the latest vacancies we have available.