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Head of Finance Job Description

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 6 Feb 2024

Head of Finance

A top-level executive, second in command to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), a Head of Finance is responsible for overseeing the financial activities and strategies of a company. Within this job description, we delve into the responsibilities and duties of a Head of Finance, potential earnings, and how to land the role.

  • What is a Head of Finance?

    A Head of Finance role involves the management of financial planning, development of strategy, assessment of investments, budgeting, reporting, and analysis to ensure that the company’s finances are being used in an effective manner to meet overall objectives. The presence of a Head of Finance job depends on the complexity and scale of a company's financial operations, with smaller companies, SMEs and start up’s often presenting a Finance Manager or Controller as the top employee handling key financial duties, whilst larger organisations rely on a Head of Finance and CFO.

  • What are the responsibilities and duties of a Head of Finance?

    As the Head of Finance, you will play a crucial role in guiding the financial health of the organisation and contributing to its overall success. The specific duties and the scope of responsibilities may vary depending on the size and nature of the organisation and the industry you choose to specialise in, however as a basis, you will work on:

    • Financial planning and strategy: developing and implementing the company's financial strategies, including long-term financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting.
     Financial reporting: ensuring accurate and timely financial reporting to internal and external stakeholders. This entails preparing financial statements, regulatory compliance, and communicating financial results.
    • Risk management: identifying and managing financial risks that could impact the company's performance. This may involve implementing risk mitigation strategies and compliance with regulatory requirements.
    • Treasury management: overseeing the management of the company's finances, including cash flow, working capital, and investment decisions.
    • Financial analysis: conducting financial analysis to provide insights into the company's performance, profitability, and efficiency, including assessing the financial impact of business decisions.
    • Relationship management: collaborating with other departments, external auditors, financial institutions, and investors. Building and maintaining strong relationships with key stakeholders, not only aids the Head of Finance within their current seat, but aids future progression.
    • Compliance and governance: ensuring compliance with financial regulations and internal governance policies, including implementing and maintaining effective internal controls.
    • Strategic decision support: providing financial insights and recommendations to support strategic decision-making by the executive team and the board of directors.

    As noted, Head of Finance jobs across in-practice and industry-focused roles will naturally differ with industry context, regulatory environment, and the nature of financial challenges faced by each sector. As an example, the role between a Head of Finance in an Accountancy Practice and a Head of Finance in the Education sector will differ by:

    Head of Finance in an Accountancy Practice:

    Client Focus:

    • As the Head of Finance, you will be responsible for managing the financial operations of the practice itself, including overseeing internal financial functions, such as budgeting, financial reporting, and compliance.
    • The role may also involve working closely with clients, providing financial advice, conducting audits, and offering a range of accounting services.

    Revenue Generation:

    • A Head of Finance within an accountancy practice will be tasked with leaning into revenue generation, from business development, client relationship management, and ensuring that the practice's financial services meet the needs of clients.

    Regulatory Compliance:

    • To thrive in this role, you will need to be in tune with accounting regulations, certifying that the firm is compliant with relevant standards- this is critical for maintaining the reputation and integrity of the practice.

    Team Management:

    • Managing a team of accountants and financial professionals is a common responsibility for the Head of Finance in an accountancy practice - this will include overseeing the work of staff, mentoring junior professionals, and fortifying high-quality service delivery.

    Head of Finance in the Education Sector:

    Budgeting and Funding:

    • In the education sector, the Head of Finance will be tasked with managing the budget and financial resources of an educational institution. This will entail the budgeting for various departments, managing funds, and ensuring efficient use of resources.

    Government Funding Compliance:

    • With educational institutions often receiving funding from government sources, the Head of Finance must ensure compliance with regulations related to the use of these funds. A task that includes reporting to education authorities and managing financial audits.

    Tuition and Revenue Streams:

    • In addition to government funding, educational institutions may rely on tuition and other revenue streams. The Head of Finance in this sector must manage these income sources, set tuition fees, and develop strategies to enhance financial sustainability.

    Endowment Management:

    • As a specialist in the educational sector, you will most likely work with endowments or charitable funds. As the Head of Finance, you may be involved in managing and investing these funds to support the institution's long-term financial health.

    Collaboration with Academic Leadership:

    • The Head of Finance in the education sector often collaborates closely with academic leadership to align financial strategies with the institution's educational goals. This incorporates supporting initiatives related to academic programs, research, and campus development.

    Risk Management:

    • Educational institutions face unique financial risks, such as fluctuations in enrolment and changes in government funding. The Head of Finance must identify and manage these risks to ensure the stability of the institution.

  • How do you become a Head of Finance?

    Working as a Head of Finance requires a strong background in accounting or finance, as well as education, and an experienced track record of analysing data to make recommendations on financial and organisational strategy.

    Educational Background:

    • Bachelor's Degree: a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, business administration, or a related field is essential - some of those in Head of Finance jobs may also have degrees in economics or other quantitative disciplines.
    • Advanced Degree: while not always required, having a master's degree (such as an MBA) can enhance your qualifications and provide a broader business perspective.

    Professional Certifications:

    • Head of Finance progressions will often be CPA accredited (Certified Public Accountant): a recognised certification for accounting professionals.
    • There’s also the option to be CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), with the aid of the CFA Institute, or (Certified Management Accountant) accredited, established with the IMA.

    Experience:

    • Those in Head of Finance roles demonstrate progressive career growth across the years. Working your way up the career ladder, taking on roles of increasing responsibility, leads to experience in areas such as financial analysis, budgeting, and strategic planning.

    Industry Knowledge:

    • Expertise in the industry in which you work is crucial to your success as a Head of Finance - you must have a deep understanding of the specific challenges and opportunities within the industry or practise you choose to specialise in.

    Networking:

    • Build a strong professional network within the finance and business community. Networking opens up opportunities for career advancement and provides valuable insights, from all sectors. Discover the latest finance networking and events on GAAPweb, via our dedicated events page.

    Stay on top of trends:

    • Keep up-to-date with industry trends, changes in accounting standards, and developments in finance. Continuous learning is essential in the dynamic field of finance.
    • Remember that the path to becoming a Head of Finance, and eventually CFO can vary, with individuals taking different routes based on their unique experiences and career paths.

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