At the risk of appearing frivolous, can we talk about your career? And your compensation? True, the markets are in turmoil and the outlook for 2009 — to the extent that one can even have an outlook — is far from rosy. But to a large degree this macro situation simply underscores a point that we make in our cover story: CFOs are in the limelight as never before, and there is no reason to believe that that will change any time soon.
CFOs have seen their pay increase at a faster clip than that of other top C-level executives, and compensation experts say this will continue as the CFO role gains in stature. In fact, at the very real risk of appearing to be a Pollyanna, one might argue that 2009 will provide the ideal testing ground for CFOs. Having steered their companies through Sarbox compliance and a sluggish economy, they will now be called upon to provide a far greater measure of leadership as stock prices remain volatile, credit tightens, cost pressures intensify, and consumer spending appears poised to go into lockdown.
Challenging, yes. No wonder CFO turnover remains high. But the almost shockingly short tenure for current CFOs (averaging just under three years at large companies) creates plenty of opportunity for those looking to move up. And as senior writer Alix Stuart found, there are many routes to the C-suite. In "Making the Leap," she takes a look at the conventional wisdom regarding the best path to the top and profiles a number of CFOs who bucked it. A caveat: despite a surprising amount of wiggle room, not all of that conventional wisdom is unwise. Meanwhile, deputy editor S.L. Mintz slices and dices the current compensation situation ("Things Are Looking Up"), and senior editor Marie Leone provides a primer on how to negotiate a smart employment contract ("Flexing Your Muscle").
We did not, of course, ignore the yet-to-be-suitably-named crisis of 2008. As part of our coverage, senior editor Vincent Ryan explains why CFOs may need to unlearn most of what they thought they knew about capital structure ("Rethinking Capital"), and our Topline section provides a multifaceted perspective on the latest developments. We also suspect that there will be a bit more to say on all this next month.