The Healthcare CFO Search: Does the Perfect Candidate Exist?

Expectations for healthcare CFOs are drastically evolving and expanding. In the past, organizations looked for executives who could expertly manage the bottom line and support their organizations’ long-term financial health and stability.

Today, a typical healthcare CFO search targets an individual who, while still managerial in many respects, is much more strategic and visionary, says Anne Siders-Robinson, Witt/Kieffer senior associate. “Terms like innovative and strategic are often the leading requirements for a CFO,” Siders-Robinson writes in a recent Healthcare Finance News article, “Wanted: CFO miracle worker”. As the title suggests, expectations for this new healthcare CFO are great.

Anne Siders-Robinson

Anne Siders-Robinson

Siders-Robinson cites language from actual CFO position specifications that illustrate how the role is transforming. Organizations are seeking, for example:

  • “A superb financial and critical thinker, one who understands operations and systems integration, yet takes a strategic business view of the market environment.”
  • “An educated counsel on new business development, joint ventures, acquisition/affiliation of physician practices, mergers and acquisitions and related strategic/operational plans and opportunities.”

These examples emphasize the need for today’s CFO to have a business or managerial background while being strategic and forward-thinking in the majority of his or her responsibilities. The CFO must be analytical as well as flexible and proactive towards the future. These changes in language and requirements mean finance executives must expand their skill sets if they wish to be considered serious candidates in a healthcare CFO search.

Tom Quinn

Tom Quinn

Today’s CFOs must be multidimensional, concurs Tom Quinn, a senior partner in our Boston office. “They must help clinical folks manage bigger and better healthcare groups, keep costs under control, and look for new revenue opportunities,” he told Healthcare Finance News’ David Weldon recently. The title of Weldon’s article, “Finding the perfect hospital CFO,” is also very telling. Weldon writes: “Think of the role as no longer just running the treasury, but helping to run the business. The hospital CFO needs to be a true strategic business partner.”

Clearly, as the role of the healthcare CFO expands, few “perfect” candidates will be available for given CFO searches. It is incumbent upon current or aspiring CFOs to broaden their skill sets and willingly take on new roles. In addition, however, organizations that have relied upon their financial executives to be managers will need to support these individuals as they develop their strategic and innovative sides.

By Kelly Farrell and Paul Thomas

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