CFO Turnover in 2022 Slows, But Don’t Expect it to Stay

Linda Barham leads the Americas Financial Officers Practice; Jim Lawson co-leads the Global Financial Officers Practice; and Catherine Schroeder is a member of the Financial Officers Practice Knowledge team at Russell Reynolds Associates. This post is based on their Russell Reynolds memorandum.

Halfway through 2022, there have been 51 CFO transitions within the S&P 500, bringing turnover to 10% year to date. This number is slightly down from 12% at this time last year (Figure 1), likely due to CFOs favoring the job security of their current role as the market slows.

However, this slowing turnover may paint a misleading picture. Russell Reynolds Associates analyzed CFOs from the S&P 500 from 2019 to 2022 (N = 500) to compare turnover rates at the half-year (HY) mark and gain insight into the latest hiring trends such as gender diversity, internal versus external promotions, first-time in the role and CFO exits. We found that, while turnover was indeed down in the first half of 2022, multiple trends are suggesting that turnover will be on the rise in the second half of the year.

  1. Due to the expected increase in market volatility, CFOs should expect more scrutiny of their job performances from the CEO and Board, therefore increasing the potential for increased turnover.
  2. Better succession planning is leading to more internal and first-time CFO appointments, resulting in the fight for women CFO talent to carry on, with the percentage of newly appointed women CFOs continuing to outpace the broader S&P 500, although slightly down since last year.
  3. Finally, CFO retirement rates increased for the first time in three years, indicating that more turnover is likely on the horizon.

Figure 1. Trending CFO Turnover

Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of June 2022, N= 500
Note: 3 of the new CFOs are interim

Better succession planning is creating more ready-now women CFOs

Succession planning continues to pay off for S&P 500 companies, with 61% of newly appointed CFOs being promoted internally. Coming off a tight CFO talent market in 2021 with a record number of IPOs, even those looking externally for CFO talent are having to get creative. 46% of external hires being first-time in role, bringing the total percent of newly appointed CFOs first-time in role to 79%, both record highs for the past several years (Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Trending Interval versus External Appointments

Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of June 2022, n= 189
Note: 3 of the new CFOs are interim

Succession planning has been successful in improving CFO gender diversity, as a result, this talent is starting to be open to external roles, as public companies become more open to first-time CFOs (Figure 3.) This will likely lead to increased turnover, especially given the demand for women CFOs. As the fight for talent rages on, companies need to ensure they are engaging with women CFOs and CFO succession candidates, or risk losing them.

Figure 3. Trending Internal vs External Women CFO Appointments

Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of June 2022, n= 39
Note: 3 of the new CFOs are interim

Increased rates of retirement for the first time in years

For the first time in three years, CFO retirement rates have increased (Figure 4.) With 58% of CFOs departing their roles to retire since January 2022, whether increased retirement rates continue through the end of the year raises the question: Will public company CFOs postpone retirement and wait for their equity to bounce back, or will CFOs who already postponed retirement for the pandemic be keen to retire with stronger headwinds ahead?

Figure 4. Trending CFO Departures

Source: RRA analysis of S&P500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of June 2022, n= 189

Of the CFOs who left their roles and did not retire, the majority took non-CFO roles (Figure 5) with 76% of those doing so at their current organization (Figure 6). As we suggested in our previous report on CFO turnover, [1]  one way to retain and engage CFO talent is by broadening their responsibilities. For example, as of June 2022, 6% of S&P 500 CFOs hold additional operational or presidential responsibilities, compared to only 1.4% in 2020. [2] By broadening CFOs’ roles, many CFOs are inspired to take a non-CFO position in their next move, while remaining loyal to their current company.

Figure 5. Number of Departing CFOs Per New Role

Source: RRA analysis of S&P 500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of June 2022, n= 51

Figure 6. 2022 CFO Exists

Source: RRA analysis of S&P 500 CFOs from 2019 to the end of June 2022, n= 51

While current market conditions may dampen CFOs’ willingness to move companies, the fight for women CFOs, an aging population, and how companies fare during economic uncertainty all suggest that there is still turnover yet to come. To address this risk, we recommend continuing to engage with CFO and succession candidates through career development, enhanced scope of the role, and retention efforts. For those not lucky enough to have the bench strength to backfill potential transitions, next-generation is here and first-time CFOs are ready for the challenge.

Endnotes

1RRA ‘2021: The year of CFO turnover and strides in gender diversity’, 2021(go back)

2RRA analysis of S&P 500 CFO titles as of June 2022(go back)

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