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Here’s why you’ll see more CFO turnover before the year’s over

Shannon Fagan—Getty Images

Good morning,

Before this year is over, you can expect the CFO turnover in the S&P 500 to continue.

CFO turnover was 14% from Q1 through Q3, slightly lower than 16% the same period last year, which was powered by heavy recruiting, according to Russell Reynolds, an executive search and leadership advisory firm. But as Q4 continues, the firm is seeing higher turnover compared to last quarter, especially post Q3 earnings announcements, says Linda Barham, who leads the firm’s financial officers practice for the Americas region.

Barham shares several reasons why this taking place:

Toward the year's end, there is typically increased scrutiny on not only the company’s overall performance, which has been impacted by market volatility this year but the CFO’s 'in the chair' job performance.

—Organizationally, there is a focus on what the required skill sets are needed going forward at the executive level. As we head into 2023 those skill sets might be slightly shifted in the CFO chair, particularly during a recessionary period. (For example, a deep cash flow focus, the liquidity needs of the business, access to capital, and expense analysis.)

—CFO retirement rates are on the rise, up for the first time in three years. About 52% of the turnover (versus the prior year of 45%) is a result of retirement.

Some CFOs with relatively short tenures at companies are stepping down. For example, last week, [hotlink]Foot Locker[/hotlink] CFO Andrew Page resigned after less than two years to “pursue other opportunities,” the company announced. Page will leave after the fourth quarter 2022 earnings report. For Q3, Foot Locker reported net income of $96 million, a decrease from $158 million at the same time last year. The company is working with an executive recruiting firm to identify Page’s successor.

Then there were CFOs promoted to CEOs, like Ozan Dokmecioglu. He served as CFO at the coffee and soft drinks company [hotlink]Keurig Dr Pepper[/hotlink] Inc. since 2018, and became CEO on July 29. But Dokmecioglu resigned on Nov. 10, “due to violations of the company’s code of conduct that were unrelated to strategy, operations, or financial reporting,” the company said in a statement last month, without explaining the code violations or offering further comment.

Barham says the research on CFO turnover found that of the 48% of CFOs not retiring, 75% took non-finance roles within their current organizations like president, CEO, and divisional president.

Executive search firm Crist Kolder Associates’s recent volatility report is based on data from 681 companies in the Fortune 500 and S&P 500. In the first half of 2022, 8.1% of CFOs at those companies were promoted to CEOs. In 2012, just 5.6% of finance chiefs were promoted to CEOs, according to the firm’s data.

Anecdotally, Barham also tells me that “experienced CFOs are sharing personal levels of fatigue around clearing COVID and now bracing to weather a recessionary period.”

Nordstrom CFO Anne Bramman stepped down from her role after guiding the company through the pandemic. Bramman’s last day was Dec. 2. After more than five years as CFO at the company, Bramman told me in October: “I’m ready to do something different with my career.” She’s taking a quick sabbatical first.  “I’ve never had the holidays off, so I’m really excited by that,” Bramman said.

I asked Clem Johnson, president of Crist Kolder Associates, for insight on what CFO turnover in early 2023 might look like.

"We have seen a pronounced spike in new searches in the past month, suggesting a number of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies are starting a search process now in anticipation of replacing the incumbent after the 2022 financials are filed in early 2023," Johnson tells me. "The most sought-after skills now revolve around capital markets and balance sheet management. And, depending on the industry, operating cashflow optimization and being able to transform data into actionable, real-time insights." He added: "Proven experience implementing business intelligence tools is now table stakes."

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

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This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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