Amidst never-ending pressure to cut costs, increase revenue and sustainably plan for the future, a CFO’s tasks are more complex than ever. It is critical that companies hire financial leaders with the strategic – not just technical – acumen to drive organisational success.
With this in mind, in 2019 we partnered with WWF Kenya to recruit a visionary CFO with the ability to align people and processes to the bigger picture. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth in over 100 countries. In Kenya, WWF has worked with the government, society and private sector organisations for over 55 years to improve the lives of the communities and wildlife that call Kenya home.
As Victor Komu, HR and Administration Manager at WWF Kenya noted, there was a fine line distinguishing the successful hire from the shortlisted candidates. There were three key factors that contributed to their selection:
It is critical that hires for WWF Kenya not only reflect the overall vision and mission of the company but that they also embody and contribute to company values. Hiring for culture fit is essential as this ensures that new hires effectively integrate into the workspace. Speaking on the values which they look for in individuals, Victor said: “We pride ourselves in our core values which are credible, responsive, inspiring, collaborative and innovative.”
In order to attract a great culture fit, it is important that employers invest in their employer brand, meaning the public image of their culture as an employer by former, current and prospective employees. With this in mind, in order for WWF Kenya to attract a credible, responsive and innovative CFO, these values had to be reflected in their employer brand. To achieve this, they ensured that their company values were visible on their company website, articulated in the job advertisement and discussed during the initial interview.
Besides the organisation’s personality (values and beliefs), it is also worth including aspects of the job pace (timing, dress code etc) and organisational structure. Indeed, the increasing value of companies’ employer brand was solidified in our recent survey of 1,200 employees in Kenya, which highlights key insights and recommendations tailored specifically for Kenyan companies.
It is undoubtedly important to hire for skills and experience fit. However, when you hire for culture fit as well, you’re ensuring a better chance of retention and satisfaction.
Technical competency and experience
A CFO should be able to create strong and solid policies, be both hands-on and strategic and be of added value to the senior management team. As Victor explained, the ideal candidate for WWF Kenya was “someone who has a strong grasp of global accounting standards, experience that traverses audits, financial transactions, treasury management and of course is a team leader.”
The emphasis on past experience, and in particular, international experience in this case, was important in ensuring that the ideal candidate had a detailed understanding of a range of functions, stakeholder priorities, market influences and the challenges of global business. Further, it was essential that the ideal candidate demonstrated the ability to be able to lead the accounting and financial decisions of WWF Kenya in a forward-thinking, strategic mindset. This was determined through multiple structured interviews with different stakeholders and functional-area assessments.
For an organisation as large as WWF Kenya, open roles can attract up to 900 applications. The Shortlist platform was particularly beneficial during the assessment stage, which ensured a data-driven vetting and review process. Work sample assessments helped WWF Kenya to determine candidates’ capabilities with a high degree of certainty.
Leadership and influencing capabilities
Leading the financial direction of a global institution demands a candidate with the ability to influence decisions. When you’re hiring a CFO, you’re hiring a leader. A 21st century CFO should be proficient in leveraging the connection between data and people, driving strategies with a strong financial underpinning and can be a trusted authority on data-driven action planning. The suitable candidate for WWF was therefore someone with the ability to positively influence others, push initiatives and ultimately have an impact on executive decision making. Within the team, a great CFO was one who could engage effectively, be responsive to changes within the workplace and encourage the growth of other team members.
The role of the CFO is multifaceted; a financial gatekeeper, a coach for the entire finance team, an outstanding communicator and a judicious visionary. After partnering with WWF Kenya to understand each of these unique requirements, we successfully identified the ideal candidate for their organisation. So far, Mary Kaigera – WWF Kenya’s new CFO and Shortlist placement – has done an excellent job in personifying all these responsibilities!