Is CEO the ultimate evolved form of CFO?
Abstract: "We are the first professional accounting organization in the world to open membership to women"
“We are the first professional accounting organization in the world to open membership to women.”
At the ACCA CFO Summit, Gloria Ai had a conversation with Ms.Gu, current ACCA Global Vice President. This “female president” gave off a domineering vibe with worship from the crowd. Yet, her strong confidence did not come from nowhere; her “charisma” is not unfounded.
Financial and accounting jobs are commonly seen professions. As of June 30, 2017, there were 103,988 CPAs (Practicing Professionals) and 128,070 non-practicing members (including 581 non-practicing members from overseas, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan). However, in the job market before March 2017, since the relatively simple accounting qualification examinations were not cancelled, anyone with the certificate could be employed. Therefore, the competency of ordinary accountants in China was uneven.
The international professional accountants trained by ACCA must meet the highest industry standards. Members need to possess seven traits of CQ (“Career Quotient”), i.e. professional competence, professional ethics, EQ, IQ, vision, creativity and experience. But as Jenny Gu said, "The exam is very difficult."
Founded in London in 1904, ACCA is currently the world's most recognized international professional accounting organization. The authority of ACCA is well known in the industry.
In 1998, Jenny Gu, with a major in Philosophy, passed the ACCA qualification exam and became an ACCA member. Thirty years ago, in her twenties, people remembered her because of her hard work and achievements at such a young age. She could have lived her youthful years.
“ACCA has many female members and employees. We are proud to serve the development of the entire accounting profession, not because we wear flowery skirts, but because we ‘wear glasses’.”
“Executives who can’t manage account books are not qualified presidents”
Jenny Gu's resume is very impressive. In 2001, she served as Financial Planning Director of Nike Asia Pacific. Eight years later, she was promoted to General Manager of North China Region, Nike Greater China. In 2015, she became General Manager of PPG. Currently, Jenny Gu serves as Vice President of ACCA Global, and Chief Operating Officer of Richemont China.
Gloria Ai: As far as I know, you are also serving as Chief Operating Officer of Richemont China, a giant in the luxury goods industry. Why did you decide to hold an concurrent important position at ACCA?
Jenny Gu: This is actually complementary. First of all, my full-time job is to help Richemont Group in China to succeed in luxury operation and brand promotion. For me, the global vision is very important, and the grasp of the latest information and trends is equally vital.
Secondly, ACCA is a global organization. We have members and trainees in 179 countries. We also try to continuously communicate with high-end financial and accounting staff around the world. Although it doesn’t seem directly related to the China business of Richemont Group, it will imperceptibly affect the way we promote our business in China.
At a personal level, having some knowledge in Finance is apparently more helpful in management than otherwise. It also helps make better decisions in investments. At the enterprise level, whether you work in the finance department or not, if you can read, interpret and understand the data, it will help you better adjust your business decisions. The financial knowledge is very broad and fundamental. It can help people of different functions and title ranks to make better business decisions.
She’s labeled with several titles: COO, Accountant, and Vice President. These job responsibilities are complementary, and it is these identities that have made who Jenny Gu is today. “Executives who can’t manage account books are not qualified presidents.” As Jenny Gu said, finance is very broad and fundamental. This “skill” is not only an essential element for financial professionals, but also makes one’s life better and even help them “accomplish” to some extent.
Is CEO the ultimate evolved form of CFO?
Jenny Gu: For the managers of enterprises, financial knowledge itself is very important, as it can help managers develop and implement strategic planning. At the same time, all the results after the implementation of the strategic plan are actually demonstrated by numbers. You don't have to learn all the accounting standards, but you have to be able to interpret the financial statements, and utilize the results reflected by numbers to adjust the future planning. In this way, the company can develop in an orderly and sustainable manner.
Gloria Ai: In the sector of entrepreneurship and investment, there is an interesting phenomenon, that is, more and more CFOs have transformed into CEOs, such as Alibaba CEO Yong Zhang, Ant Financial President Xiandong Jing, and Sina President Guowei Cao. Does that mean becoming an accountant, a financial talent, or a CFO is a growth path for the top talents nowadays?
Jenny Gu: At the CFO level, they’re not only dedicated to figures and execution, but also strategy. Therefore, in fact, CFOs enjoy an competitive edge on the overall grasp of the big picture, as they can be involved in strategy execution by CEO more swiftly and insightfully to lead the enterprise.
Numbers can reflect a lot of economic information. For investors or entrepreneurs who work hard in this circle, understanding numbers and mastering information is the prerequisite for every successful step. Yong Zhang from Alibaba, a successful example of transforming from CFO to CEO, once said: "We need a digital enterprise brain." In this regard, financial practitioners are much more sensitive at capturing numbers than ordinary people. As Jenny Gu put it, this is the CFO’s "unique advantages." Maybe you don't need too much "ambition", but after accumulating your experience, you will be able to trigger the “fundamental change”.
Finance is a great skill. Accountants are very “promising”. As long as they are "skilled", they are very likely to become top business talents, which echoes with the “promising future” of the industry Jenny Gu has always emphasized.
Although there are always individual “financial speculators” in the complex business community, “skills triggering fundamental changes” can only happen to a few extraordinary talents. In addition, the professional ethics of most financial practitioners are deeply rooted. This is the most valuable "wealth" Jenny Gu and ACCA are committed to bringing to their trainees.
In front of the computer, the financial professionals are checking the numbers on the financial statements. There is no overtime pay, but they are concerned about the hundreds of millions of RMB. “Decimal points can be tiny, but a mistake in decimal points can result in a gigantic mess.” The tea at the table is no longer hot, but they are still sitting there.